Canada’s top dodgeball players will head to Winnipeg next year. In January, the city won the bid to host the third annual Canadian National Dodgeball Championship Tournament in April 2018, a move event director Mat Klachefsky calls a “huge win” for the local dodgeball community.
The two-day tournament, held at the University of Winnipeg Duckworth Centre, will serve as a tryout for Team Canada for the 2018 World Dodgeball Federation Championship. Klachefsky says he hopes the event will also help people realize that dodgeball can be a competitive sport.
“Once you get to a certain level, it can be competitive,” he says. “There’s a reason your gym teacher got you playing once a week.”
Dodgeball Winnipeg, with Mayor Brian Bowman’s support, helped bring the tournament to Manitoba for the first time, but local interest in the sport has been growing for the last decade.
The Winnipeg Rec League (WRL) first offered dodgeball in fall 2006, general manager Jeff Turenne says. In 10 years, the league grew from four teams to around 100. This year, the WRL hosts 70 dodgeball teams.
At the time, the WRL was just looking for new program options, and dodgeball took off.
“We were just looking to introduce a variety of leagues – somewhere you could play for fun, somewhere for people who wanted to meet people,” Turenne says.
“It’s not a sport you grew up playing. Players who play volleyball grow up playing. It’s a specific skillset you learn … no one grew up playing minor dodgeball. It’s something new everyone feels comfortable trying.”
But some players wanted something more. In 2015, they founded Dodgeball Winnipeg, a more competitive league that subscribed to international rules instead of the WRL’s more flexible regional rules.
“(The international rules) treat it as a sport rather than a game,” Klachefsky says. “The ‘prairie rules’ we were playing with focused on fun … (and) almost discouraged strategic attack plans. It’s just a different style of play.”
He says the movie Dodgeball helped “kickstart everything” and raise awareness about the sport, but he’d still like to see the sport taken more seriously. Klachefsky, who now plays three times a week, says he realized Winnipeg’s competitive potential after he put together a team and won a small tournament in Las Vegas.
“We got that competitive glimpse where we wanted to practice and have Manitoba excel as a dodgeball mecca,” he says, noting the sport is still growing. In November 2015, Dodgeball Winnipeg had eight teams. Just over a year later, the league hosts 80 teams made up of 577 players. Manitoba will send teams to the national tournament for the first time in 2017.
He encourages people to join Dodgeball Winnipeg, which hosts drop-in sessions on Tuesdays. Pre-register at dodgeballwinnipeg.com.