Put The Fun In Fundraising!

Step back in time, picture the dandelion-covered field next to the old school, and remember all the dodgeball games that were played. On the surface it was just a game; however, scores were settled on that field, reputations were made or lost, and many of life’s lessons were learned. In spite of it all, it was still good, sweaty fun!

Fast forward to 2007, and you may be surprised to learn dodgeball is a rapidly growing sport for kids and adults alike. Dodgeball teams are sprouting up everywhere, and tournaments have become a staple for organizations looking for an entertaining and profitable fundraiser. According to the International Dodgeball Federation, there are close to 300,000 sanctioned players--with the fastest growing segment in ages 25 to 35.

Recently, 27 teams gathered in Bexley, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, for the third annual Charity Dodgeball Tournament. The tournament has become a much-anticipated event held to raise funds for the Oak Stone Academy, a local school for autistic children.

Many of the teams are working toward the championship games held by the National Dodgeball League (NDL), but just as many are on the field having a good time and enjoying the camaraderie of a team sport. Recently, Mike Price of the Bexley Recreation Department shared some of his secrets for creating a successful tournament.

Laying The Groundwork

In 2000, Price was employed by the department as a camp counselor. While investigating team-building activities for the counselors, he came across a dodgeball tournament being held in Chicago. Knowing that almost everybody has played dodgeball -- it was one of the activities played with the campers -- he figured it should be easy for the counselors to form a winning team.

Price never imagined the team would win both the indoor and the outdoor championships. With all the local publicity the team received, interest in dodgeball suddenly spiked. Leagues were started, teams were formed, and people could not get enough of the sport. Price saw the public’s interest in the sport and set the groundwork for the first charity tournament, held in 2004.

Promoting Good Sportsmanship

Price believes one secret to the tournament’s success was his endorsement of a “family-oriented” event. Keeping the fun in the game, welcoming all age groups and creating a festival-type atmosphere have made this a much-anticipated event with a culture of sportsmanship. A particularly proud moment for Price came this year when the winners offered to share their prize -- a year’s worth of Chipotle burritos -- with the losing team. He knew he had accomplished his goal.

Creating A Game Plan

Sponsorships, advertisements, etc., need to be planned around the target participants and audience. Price also suggests starting early--putting all the pieces together takes time and delays are possible. Another important element is determining the size of the event. This year, the Bexley tournament had 27 teams, ranging from fourth graders to adults. The number of teams will help determine the entry fee.

Next year, Price hopes to draw teams from area school sports departments, student councils, fraternities, sororities and community-minded civic groups. It takes time to present the event, create the flyers, and distribute the information.

Getting the local media and community leaders involved is another plus in attracting teams, sponsors and attendees. Adding a snack bar, T-shirt giveaways and raffles not only bring in more dollars, but contribute to the festival-like atmosphere.

Remember that in-kind donations are just as important as monetary gifts, for example, providing volunteers for refereeing, manning the parking lot and working the snack bar. Proper acknowledgement is important in getting a commitment to help year after year.

Using Available Resources

Once the atmosphere has been established, settle on the number of teams that will participate. Obtaining the necessary equipment to hold the tournament is next.

The International Dodgeball Federation and the National Amateur Dodgeball Association are resources for information, including equipment, rules of play, advice for officials and field regulations.

Forming A Team

The Destroyers’ Adam Lefler, a three-time participant in the Bexley tournament, shares how his team originated: “We just got a bunch of high school buddies together -- mostly everyone enjoys the sport on some level -- so I am sure you can find six people who want to play.”

Lefler has seen his team go from an informal group that “whoever shows up plays” to one that competes in 12 tournaments a year. This year, the team has earned six wins and placed in the top five in the rest.

Lefler considers all year as dodgeball season, which is another great aspect of the sport--it can be played inside or outside--so a team is not locked into a certain season. Many recreation teams have ongoing sessions, so if one session does not fit a team’s schedule, it can easily work into the next session.

Growing In Popularity

Many adults find dodgeball to be the perfect blend of exercise and enjoyment. Players emphasize how important it is to work on speed and flexibility, and all those hours of cardio exercise will pay off. Adults love the competitive nature of the game and with a little conditioning, a pair of tennis shoes and a ball, anyone can play.

As the popularity of the sport grows, many recreation centers are finding it a great option for its members. Personal trainers say the key to sticking with a fitness plan is to find a workout or a sport you enjoy. Judging by the growing numbers, that includes dodgeball.

Pam Kutsick is a freelance writer and contributor to Parks & Rec Business magazine. She can be reached via e-mail at pkutsick@zoominternet.net.