Youngsters dodge winter blues
NISKAYUNA If there’s not enough snow for a snowball fight, dodgeball may be the next best thing.
And that’s just what went on at the Schenectady Jewish Community Center Sunday. Middle-schoolers were invited to come throw and dodge small, soft balls in an effort to banish the winter blues.
Attendance was sparse. In fact, at starting time, only one team of five had shown up, but they didn’t let that stop the fun. The kids split themselves into two teams, with an extra player recruited from the JCC’s staff, and proceeded to make a game of it.
Dodgeball works a lot like a snowball fight, except the projectiles are larger and softer, the venue is warmer and there are a few rules.
Players are divided into two teams that are kept separated by the gym’s half-court line.
On Sunday, the teams were three-on-three, and the spread-out players made tough targets.
Justin Martinez, 13, of Burnt Hills, was there with his buddy Dalton Leach, 12, also of Burnt Hills.
“I’ve got the power and he’s got the speed. I’ve got some agility, but he’s a smaller target I guess,” Dalton said, gesturing at Justin, who was indeed a bit slighter in build.
“Thanks,” his friend said sarcastically, giving him a good natured shove.
“I’m a breakdancer, so a lot of that could help,” Dalton said. He demonstrated — spinning, flipping and moonwalking impressively across the gym.
Hannah Macaulay, 11, and Tara Hoffman, 12, both of Burnt Hills, were the group’s only girls.
They played dodgeball in elementary school, but said it’s not part of their middle school’s physical education curriculum.
“We’re not supposed to be playing it at school. It’s considered violent,” Tara said, emphasizing the final word with quotation marks made in the air with her fingers.
Both girls are cheerleaders and Hannah said being physically active gave them an advantage in dodgeball.
“If you’re athletic, you can move around faster,” she reasoned.
The group was rounded out by Javon Manners, 13, of Burnt Hills, who said his main game strategy was to have fun.
Five Gator Skin Dodgeballs were lined up on the gym’s half court line. About the size of a cannon ball, they feel like they’re made of soft foam, encased in a leathery skin.
The teams eyed the balls and waited for the whistle to blow.
The rules of the game are simple: players hurl balls at the opposing team without crossing the half court line. If you hit an opponent with your throw before the ball bounces, that player is out and must wait on the sideline. If an opponent catches the ball you throw before it bounces, you’re out and one of the opposing team’s sidelined members rejoins the game.
A team is victorious once all of the players on the opposing one have been sidelined.
At a few minutes after noon, Andrew Katz, director of school-age youth at the JCC, blew the whistle and the two teams rushed for the balls waiting at half court line. Tara pelted opponent Javon with one right off the bat and he went and stood on the sideline.
Despite his impressive breakdancing moves, Dalton wound up spending a lot of time there as well.
The game came down to JCC employee Budhan Ramcharan against a much smaller Justin, who held a ball in each hand, hopping and dodging the balls Ramcharan rifled at him. He threw one back, aiming with such concentration that his tongue was sticking out, but Ramcharan caught it and the game was over.
They played again. The team made up of the girls and Javon hung back against the wall and didn’t run for the balls when the starting whistle blew, leaving their opponents to grab them all and send them sailing toward their far-flung targets.
After a few minutes of play, it came down to Hannah versus all three players on the opposing team. They advanced. She edged closer to the back wall. Dalton threw a ball her way and she jumped aside. With two balls in her hands, she ran forward and pitched one at Justin. It hit home, and he retreated to the sideline. Buoyed by her success, she tried the same move on Dalton, who caught the ball in mid air, ending the game.
A few minutes later, it was on to game three, with the kids acting like they’d be happy to play for the rest of the day.
From cupcake wars to events where duct tape sandals and purses are created, the JCC plans a variety of activities to keep kids entertained during the winter months, said Assistant Youth Director Tiffany Smith.
Next Sunday, the center will hold a Mid-Winter Summer Blowout that will feature activities including arts and crafts, a barbecue, party games, interactive gaming and an open swim.