Dodgeball reminds most people of grade-school days, but there is a professional version of the sport that’s anything but child’s play.
The sports top athletes are set to compete this weekend in the two-day Dodgeball World Cup in New York City. The event begins Friday at Basketball City and concludes Saturday at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“People associate the sport with gym class and think anybody can come out and dominate,” said Ed Prentiss, president of USA Dodgeball. “But these are real athletes. The top players train year-round, and they are very skilled.”
According to Prentiss, the World Cup is actually a “reboot” of the Dodgeball World Championships, which were held annually in Las Vegas from 2004 — the year the Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller comedy “Dodgeball” released — through 2016. The new event will be staged every other year under the direction of the World Dodgeball Association (WDA), which represents 62 national federations and nearly 70 million dodgeball players worldwide.
This weekend’s competition features the top teams from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, battling in men’s, women’s and mixed (three men and three women) divisions. England, the reigning world men’s and mixed champions, and women’s champs Australia are the favorites. Team USA is hosting for the first time.
Fans in attendance won’t see a schoolyard game. World Cup games are played on a court measuring roughly 60-feet by 30-feet, and each team consists of six players (with four substitutes), wearing protective gear.
A lifelong player and founder of the National Dodgeball League (NDL), Prentiss represented the United States in competitions until 2017, when a knee injury forced his retirement. Now, he’s focused on growing the game.
“My involvement with the national team and the WDA is a way I can stay in the game,” said Prentiss, who founded the NDL in 2003 and describes himself as a lifelong player. “When we started 15 years ago, the sport was almost underground, and now we’re playing at Madison Square Garden. We’re hoping to build on that. One day, we’d like to see dodgeball as an Olympic sport.”
Tickets for the 2018 Dodgeball World Cup start at $25 and can be purchased at the MSG Box Office or via Ticketmaster.