Dodgeball Tournament: Humboldt State grad gives back to community recreation

Rick Macey
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – Unless your name is Loni Carrera or you were one of the participants, chances are you did not see the Dodgeball Tournament Saturday, July 15 at the McKinleyville Activity Center.

A handful of spectators joined Carrera in the stands as the games progressed, but what you almost certainly missed was the sight of adults acting like kids, throwing small balls of different colors at each other, chest bumping and dishing out high fives.

There were three teams. The winning squad was called The Duck & Ducks, which defeated NHS Blazers and Not In The Face to take home the trophy in what organizer Audrey Cole hopes is the first of many annual summer dodgeball tournaments.

The tournament was more than Cole’s internship project, which the recent Humboldt State University recreation administration graduate was required to do. And it was more than a local revival of a playground – and gym class – game that was played throughout the United States for generations before it gradually fell out of favor and over time was banned in many school districts and recreation centers.

Dodgeball is making a comeback of sorts, in part because of the success of the goofy movie of the same name, but that’s not the whole story. Or more accurately, it’s not this story.

This is about how a dodgeball tournament provides a window into HSU’s recreation curriculum, about an effort to raise funds for the teen center’s music room, and about how recreation is one of the largest segments of the American economy.

This story begins with the tournament director.

An intern’s idea

Team members of Not In The Face, Genevieve Marchand and Jayne McGuire, are HSU professors who came out in support of their student. Audrey Cole is an outstanding student, a “rock star” who “set the high bar for other students,” they said.

As an excellent student, Cole could have interned in many places throughout the country, but she chose to stay for several reasons. “It was kind of a no-brainer,” she said.

She was still taking classes, and she plans on remaining in the area for at least another year. And she saw an opportunity.

“McKinleyville is a smaller unincorporated city, so I felt I could get exposure to all the different types of programs,” she said. “Kirsten Messmer is my supervisor and she puts on a lot of different programs for adults and children, so I knew I could work with almost everything.”

Cole said she knew that McKinleyville once had competitive dodgeball leagues. “There’s been a lot of demand in the community to play more dodgeball. So if we can’t put on a league, let’s put on a tournament.”

She wanted to start an annual summer dodgeball competition. That idea garnered the support of her boss. They recruited a sponsor – Northcoast Horticulture Supply – and put out the word.

Cole hoped there would be more teams. She pointed out that it’s a slow time of the year at the community center, with many families traveling and on vacation.

“I’m happy that we had enough teams to put the tournament on,” she said. “I’m having a great time and it looks like the players are having a great time.”

As Cole delivered the pre-match instructions, she included the good-natured admonition, “Be on your best behavior.” Everybody was.

The Duck & Ducks, an all-female team, had young athletes from a variety of sports, including rugby, roller derby and ultimate frisbee. It didn’t take long to see that the Ducks were the ones to beat. And they had the fan on their side, Carrera, who had “Quack Attack” on the back of her white T-shirt.

Not In Your Face had slightly older participants, including McGuire and Marchand, and were not quite on the same level as the Ducks. The main competition for the Ducks came from the Blazers of NHS.

Enthusiasm was not lacking. “I love how amped up they are,” said recreation coordinator Kirsten Messmer.

A good career path

According to Cole’s two professors, Marchand and McGuire, who added to – and sometimes finished – each other’s thoughts, graduating seniors are required to do an internship as part of their degree.

HSU grads have served as far away as Alaska, Minnesota, North Carolina, Florida – name the state, there’s probably been an HSU recreation administration graduate who interned there.

“We ask them to do a unique project or to make a unique contribution to the organization they’re working for,” Marchand said. “Some people choose to do tournaments, other students might do research. For example, we’ve had students revamp policies and procedures - ”

McGuire jumped in – “Or create a promotional video, or an environmental educational program. It’s varied. We want them to pick something they’re excited about and something that gives back to the organization.”

Up to half of HSU recreation grads end up securing their first jobs with the organizations they intern for. And it’s a large market segment that continually demands talent.

According to Marchand, outdoor recreation is the third largest industry in the country with more than $600 billion in annual revenue. “The reality is that there is so much work, we don’t have enough students to fill the job offers that come our way,” she said.

McGuire made another interesting point. “Students who come through our program to receive their recreation administration degree are really well suited for almost any industry that’s out there, because not only do they have a background in leadership but they also come away with some business background. Many of our students end up with a minor in business.”

Face the music

There are less enjoyable ways to begin a career than by creating a dodgeball tournament, and Cole did a good job with this one. Naturally, it helped to get participation from classmates, her professors, and the sponsors.

Before the action, Marchand said she just hoped opposing players would be nice. She said dodgeball was not something she played as a kid. “No, I ran away,” she laughed. “I’m not here to win, but I’ll take the fun.”

McGuire said her old stomping grounds in Chicago embraced the sport, with communities operating leagues, and sponsoring championships between localities.

She did play the game as a child, but she didn’t care for it. “I didn’t like the elimination concept. I’m all about keeping people in the game.”

“Yup,” Marchand said, as both women giggled.

When asked who thought of the team name Not In The Face, both were not quite sure. “Just say that it just magically appeared on our Facebook feed,” Marchand said.

If it sounds like this event was as about as unserious as you get, it was. The goal was not.

The funds raised are going to the Teen and Community Center, which opened a year ago. “It has a music room in there and the kids want to start recording their own music. They have a drum set and a piano, and I’d like to use this money to help get more equipment,” Cole said.

As the Ducks walked away with the championship trophy, the nifty good feelings lingered. Perhaps dodgeball is on its way back in McKinleyville.


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