SINGAPORE – As a forward in football and a netball defender, Sasha Priya Krishnan was always sniffing out the ball in search of scoring opportunities on the pitch or to intercept play on the netball court.

But that changed four years ago when she picked up dodgeball, a team sport in which players on two teams try to throw balls and hit opponents, while avoiding being hit themselves. It was almost the reverse of any other sport she had played and that got Krishnan hooked to the game.

The 21-year-old, a sports coach for pre-schoolers, said: “In other sports, you usually go towards the ball but in dodgeball you go away from the ball which makes it unique and different.”

In dodgeball, the objective of each team is to eliminate all members of the opposing team. This can be done by hitting them with thrown balls, catching a ball thrown by an opponent, or making an opponent commit a violation such as stepping outside the court.

It is typically played with six players on each side on a court that is similar in size to a volleyball or basketball court. The ball, which has a diameter of about 21cm, is usually made of foam or fabric.

Krishnan, who is now a national player, is among over 500 people who play dodgeball in Singapore.

Since the Dodgeball Association of Singapore (DAS) was founded in 2010, it has grown from a mere 60 to 70 players. While the local dodgeball scene is relatively small, the sport is popular at the varsity level.

When Man Yong Le entered the National University of Singapore (NUS) three years ago, the communications and new media undergraduate decided to give the sport a go with Tembusu College as he wanted to try something new.

Up till 2018, his only knowledge of the sport came from watching Ben Stiller’s comedy flick titled Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. While the movie’s unorthodox training methods of throwing wrenches at the team and forcing players to dodge oncoming cars were not part of Man’s dodgeball experience, other aspects like playing in a full hall of supporters were.

He represented Tembusu College in NUS’ Inter College Games, with the team making a surprise run to the final in 2019.

Dodgeball player Man Yong Le playing for Tembusu College in the National University of Singapore’s Inter College Games in 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MUHD AZAMUDDIN

Dodgeball player Man Yong Le (second row, fifth from left) with his teammates from Tembusu College. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MUHD AZAMUDDIN

The 23-year-old said: “The best part is that every single college is competitive, which is rare to see… The scene going on in the hall is crazy, there are at least 50 to 60 people.

“The first year was unforgettable. We made it to the final, which was played in Tembusu hall and all our friends came to support us and filled the entire hall. I’d never been part of that kind of atmosphere before.”

Serious enthusiasts have joined the national team, who qualified for the 2018 and 2020 Dodgeball World Cups, but even they admit that dodgeball athletes often get quizzical looks when they say they play the sport.

National player Nurul Nasuha Mohamad Farek, 21, noted that people mistakenly view the sport as violent because it involves hitting someone else with the ball.

She said: “We are not always seen as a proper sport, it has a bad reputation that’s (associated with) bullying people.

“But we have 10-year-old kids who play and their parents play with them too. They enjoy it very much so it’s not a violent and dangerous game.”

As DAS is not a national sport association, it does not qualify for the sports science and funding offered by national agency Sport Singapore. This means that the cost of training and competing often falls back on the players.

Nasuha recalls having to fork out over $1,000 to compete at the Asian Dodgeball Championship in Hong Kong two years ago.

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Another challenge is securing local venues to play in as facility owners sometimes have concerns over property damage. National training sessions were held at the indoor courts at the Anchorvale Community Centre before the latest Covid-19 measures took effect.

With misconceptions about the sport hampering its growth, DAS is looking to take a different approach when introducing the sport to younger players, especially those in primary schools. Instead of immediately going into gameplay, DAS president Michael Joseph said the association is planning to focus more on the fundamentals like footwork for players of this age group, which will help ease them into the game and allay concerns about injury.

He said: “We need to reframe ourselves. Dodgeball is an all-encompassing game. It’s fast-paced, a very good cardio workout and trains you to have flexibility, spatial awareness and quick reflexes.

“If you reframe it for the young and develop their fundamental movement first, so by the time they’re about to go into secondary school, then you start honing them into the game. Then maybe this perception that it’s dangerous will no longer exist because parents see that you’re taking care of their kid.”

National player Nurul Nasuha Mohamad Farek competing in the 4v4 Street Dodgeball Tournament at Our Tampines Hub last year. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAMPINES WEST CSC

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has put a dampener on DAS’ plans, it has been working on ways to grow the sport, which include forming an annual national league and engaging foreign players who are living in Singapore to introduce different styles of play.

One of DAS’ founding members Danny Wang, a dodgeball coach, hopes that the sport will eventually become one that is played by the masses.

He said: “I would like to see members of all ages playing. At the end of the day, it’s about promoting the sport. My goal is to chat with the community and spread my passion for dodgeball to our Singapore community.”

If you want to take up dodgeball

Who: Dodgeball Association of Singapore (DAS). Reach out to DAS on Facebook to sign up for its introductory package. *All sessions have stopped temporarily owing to current Covid-19 measures.

Where: Bukit Merah or Yishun. These are tentative venues. It also depends on availability of suitable courts.

Cost: $2 per session (Fee charged to offset venue rental charges). Each session is between 60 and 90 minutes.

Activities: Learn the fundamentals of the sport, basic footwork, basic skills like how to throw and catch the ball, play the game.

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