It is interesting to note how some alternative sports like ultimate Frisbee and dodgeball can take off after the release of a movie.
In the case of dodgeball it was the Hollywood film – Dodgeball: The True Underdog Story starring comedian Ben Stiller that seemed to do the trick in 2004.
Yeo Wai Tat, seen by many as the de facto founder of the sport in Malaysia and the current general- secretary of the Malaysian Association of Dodgeball (MAD), sees it as a fast-paced, edgy game that appeals to many young people.
“It’s a game like chopping or poison ball where you try to stay alive and eliminate your opponent. And you always work with your teammates,” said Yeo, who took up the sport 32 years ago.
“It is a great stress-reliever because it’s about ‘killing’ your opponents with your teammates and with no body contact,” he added.
2009 was a key year for the sport when the first dodgeball tournament in the country was held at 1Utama where 16 teams, mostly from universities and colleges, took part. In the same period, MAD was formed and registered with the Sports Commissioner.
Since then 110 clubs have been formed throughout the country with the majority indulging in casual and fun play while a few have become competitive.
“Mostly clubs in Klang Valley have more competitive players but there are also a few in Penang,” said Yeo.
He is not sure of the number of people playing the sport as a headcount has yet to be done, citing as example Taylors University which has 300 to 400 dodgeball players.
“Most of the players belong to sports clubs within the universities. It is also very active in Sabah and Sarawak and MAD has even helped Brunei organise the sport there,” said MAD deputy president Ramona Yuen.
There are eight highly competitive outfits known as championship clubs, and 50-odd social and rookie clubs that are competing to move to championship clubs status,added Yeo.
He said part of MAD’s five-year development plan is to get dodgeball recognised and included in schools, universities and colleges.
They are also trying to get dodgeball into the Malaysia Games (Sukma) through their state affiliates.
In 2012, MAD organised the first World Dodgeball Championship but the biggest coup came last year when the women dodgeballers beat Canada 6-5 to win the world title in Melbourne, Australia. The men’s team won a silver at the same event.
Preparations are afoot to send teams to compete in the 2017 World Dodgeball Championship in Ontario, Canada from Oct 18to 21.
“Sixty (30 male and 30 female) players were selected from the national dodgeball championship from the previous year. This gave us ample time to train and develop our players. Training has already started in January for Canada,” said Yeo.
“Only 12 male and female players will be selected. The elimination process begins with internal assessment of strength/power, speed/agility, endurance/stamina, and skills/results.
“These players shall be sent for further assessment with Institut Sukan Negara (ISN), starting with medical test and physical assessment,” he added.
On playing the game, Yeo said the objective of the sport is to eliminate all your opponents.
You score a point when whole team is eliminated while the game will restart and played until time expires.
Dodgeball is played with six seven-inch foam balls.
“A team is made up of six active players and four substitutes or ball retrievers. In total there are 10 players,” he confirmed.
Though the sport is not on the SEA Games roster, steps are being taken to put it on a stronger regional footing.
“There are eight members in Asia Pacific, including three from Asean- Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan and Pacific Island,” said Yeo.