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We help lead a youth group at church which includes kids from grades 6-8 (ages 11-14)

I'm trying to figure out a way to make dodgeball fun for everyone. My problem is some of the girls don't like it b/c the guys throw too hard. I can't totally nix dodgeball as an activity because we ask the kids to help lead/pick games and this is one of the more popular games.

What ways are there to even things out? I thought about making guys throw standing on one leg or throw from their knees or throw with their off hand but still wondering if there are other things we can do that doesn't "dumb down" the game but still makes everyone feel included?

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    This is only a suggestion. Have you thought about spongy balls like these? The ball wouldn't fly through the air as well, but it would bring the game closer (which introduces risk...since longer throwers would be forced to throw from a shorter distance). Since these balls are easier to catch, perhaps drop the rule (if this is a rule for your dodgeball games) of "if the ball is caught, the person who threw it is out" and emphasize that any contact from a thrown ball is out. – user527 Mar 30 '15 at 21:19
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    On a more social level, I think the "standing on one leg/throw from knees/off hand" would create inequality among youth this age, which would exacerbate the problem of everyone feeling included (those skilled would not be interested because they are dominating and those less skilled would not be interested because they are being dominated), in my opinion. – user527 Mar 30 '15 at 21:23
  • Is there that much of a difference at 11-14 in terms of physical ability to throw, or is this mental approach? My kids are much younger and it's been a long time since I was that age, but I thought boys didn't generally get their strength boost until 14 or so (high school). – Joe Mar 30 '15 at 21:57
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    Ahh, pickup football in college. Fond memories. One of my friends was so fast, that once he caught the ball, we ruled him down at the spot he caught it...and he didn't like it because he wanted to run and play like everyone else. However, at age 20 or so, the maturity level is different. For those 10 years younger, they don't want to be left out. I am challenged every summer as a youth camp counselor (for kids around your age group) on how to get everyone involved, yet make things as even as possible. At the end of the day, you cannot please everyone, so keep that in mind. – user527 Mar 31 '15 at 13:34
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    @edmastermind29, thanks for the reminder that we can't please everyone. Just trying to do our best to get everyone involved and engaged and having fun. We'll try it out and see how it turns out. Hopefully everyone will still have fun. Just an off note, when we played mixed flag football, one of the players was a pregnant girl (one of our advisers). A couple of the guys kept reminding all of us not to take the game seriously and to surround the pregnant girl if she's going for a pass and make sure she falls back and not fwd. ah, crazy college days :) – Classified Mar 31 '15 at 18:07
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Make the stronger kids throw with their weaker hand. You could give all the stronger kids a bright armband for their throwing hand (or non-throwing hand?), so it is obvious if anyone is cheating.

I've never tried this, but for me the handicap would be very effective. I can still throw with my left arm, but lose a lot of power and a bit of accuracy.

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  • In my opinion: I don't necessarily disagree with the approach more so than I am concerned about the social inequality this may potentially cause with youth this age. That said, I do agree that I don't throw as hard with my off-hand and this may be implemented by having all the guys throw off-hand (because giving special privileges to some guys who throw stronger may cause disinterest for said guys). – user527 Mar 31 '15 at 13:40
  • @edmastermind29 I can see why that could be a problem, but it is a trade-off with trying to get the game to work with mixed kids of different ages, that wouldn't usually do sports together in a school/sports club. Reading your comment, I noticed that throwing "off hand" was a suggestion in the quesion, but disregarded as "dumbing down" the game, so I might have to downvote my answer as being not useful. – Fillet Mar 31 '15 at 14:13
  • @Fillet, thx for the input. At least I now know this idea is not as far fetched as I initially thought. I was just fishing for other ideas to see how other people made the more athletic guys not as overpowering and trying to make the less interested girls not as scared and more involved. – Classified Mar 31 '15 at 18:10
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Please don't penalize the boys that throw hard by having to do something goofy like standing on one leg or throwing with your off-hand. This just furthers the terrible trend in our society that everyone should be the same and everyone should get trophies. If someone is great make them suffer, if they are poor then it isn't fair.

Instead just make some common sense changes. I run dodgeball at my basketball practices. And god yes we play with basketballs. I don't suggest this for you but will go on with our rules/strategy.

  • basketballs can't really be thrown that hard. So first of all getting the right balls is probably the most important thing. To me nerf soccer balls are probably the best of both worlds. Only adults could grip these and wail them hard enough to be uncatchable.

  • the boys know the girls aren't as good. They see this. But don't penalize the boys. Incentivize the girls. When the moms play with the boys in dodgeball they get double everything. If they catch a ball they knock out the boy that threw it plus one boy of their choice. Same if they make a hit. This rule is only needed if there is a wide wide gap between the genders. We do it at practices because the moms like to win (and they do - the boys are out in less than a minute).

  • the main suggestion I would have given that you get some good balls that can be thrown but not really hard and can be caught easily (like nerf soccerballs) is that you stress good strategy and make remarks about how to win. A good dodgeball team is more focused on catching than throwing. Have the boys protect the girls by catching the ball. Make sure the girls are towards the back if they aren't attacking. If you have "soft" balls tell players to use their heads - we always play that a head shot is the same as a catch (this is the funniest part of basketball dodgeball - watching 13 year old kids lay out like a soccer goalie trying to get pegged in the head).

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