Hamilton kids' dodgeball league is safe, fun and everything we wanted as youngsters

 

Those times in school when the gym teacher would pull out the dodgeball balls(or prison ball as we called it at my East Hamilton school), you knew it was a good day.

Nowadays, dodgeball isn’t just played in school gyms: kids have the opportunity to play in leagues. One such league in Hamilton is the Ultimate Dodgeball League - The UDL.

The co-ed program, created and organized by two Hamilton teachers, invites children in grades 2 to 7 to play Friday nights several weeks throughout the year.

“It’s a great way for kids of all skill levels to be active and get away from phones, screens and other distractions,” said the League’s co-founder Stefano Giovannangeli.

Giovannangeli said that a sport like dodgeball can switch things up for kids who participate year-round in house and rep league sports, “You can escape the pressures of rep games and practices etc… and just have fun!”

“It changes things up a little,” he said. “And we only run for a short time in the year so that it doesn’t interfere much with their other activities.

“It’s also a great activity for kids who do not participate in rep sports, gets them on a team, meeting new people, getting active and having fun.”

The idea for the dodgeball league was borne out of Giovannangeli’s, and his friend and co-founder Mark Susi’s, Ultimate Sports and Activities Camp.

The best friends from high school had an idea 20 years ago for a March Break camp to help keep the kids they were teaching busy for the week.

“Mark had an idea for a math camp,” Giovannangeli recalls. “And I came up with the idea to add basketball because the kids might go crazy just doing math all day long.”

And so, Mathsketball Camp was born.

Since then, the camp has grown to include a variety of sports and games. They’ve also added summer camps and changes the name to The Ultimate Sports and Activity Camp.

“We get so much fulfilment from organizing the camps,” Giovannangeli said. “We love keeping them busy and active and having fun!”

Their own children have gone through their camps and have also become counsellors.

“Our kids have been a big part of all of this and still are,” he said.

Three years ago, Giovannangeli and Susi decided to create The UDL dodgeball league because they saw that was what kids wanted.

“When we would ask the kids what they want to play they would always yell out ‘dodgeball!’” he said.

The league has proven incredibly popular and has grown. It started out as a Spring league in Ancaster and since has added fall leagues and this year they organized a new winter league in Stoney Creek.

“Our Ancaster League is packed every week,” Giovannangeli said.

For safety’s sake, the league uses soft spongy balls — not the rubbery kind used in adult leagues — and participants are taught the rules and to not throw high before play gets underway. Trained referees also preside over the games.

“To watch these kids playing is really exciting too,” Giovannangeli said. “The way they dive and duck and dodge the ball is incredible…they’re just amazing.”

And while the league’s overall mandate is to keep kids active and having fun, there is a competitive element as scores are recorded and tallied at the end of the season. There’s even a team trophy for the championship team at the end of the season.

The registration fee for the league is $120 for six weeks and that includes a t-shirt. Giovannangeli said they will also waive or reduce registration fees for some children who require financial assistance.

There are two divisions (so far): junior for kids in grade 2 to 4 and senior for kids in grade 5 to 7.

The Stoney Creek league wraps up in a couple of weeks but registration for the Ancaster one — which plays out of Immaculate Conception Elementary at 470 Kitty Murray Lane — is open now and that league starts Friday, April 17.

For more information about camps, leagues and registration, visit the Ultimate Sports and Activities Camp’s website - www.ultimatecamp.ca

Photo courtesy the Ultimate Dodgeball League Facebook page

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