Yellow, green, blue and orange balls were flying at the Siegel Center this weekend. Starting at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 23, the wooden parquet was occupied by those yearning to smash a ball in their opponents’ faces. The sixth annual Chick-fil-A Charity Dodgeball Tournament featured over 11 courts of simultaneous dodgeball play.
The tournament benefitted Special Olympics Virginia Area 6 and The Schools for Niger, Africa Fund. The event was divided into three tournaments and five divisions. Participants could play in the adult, youth or college tournament and adults and youth could play under the amateur or pro classifications. Prizes awarded included a year’s worth of free Chick-fil-A food and cash prizes up to $1,000.
Once teams were assembled and present at the Siegel Center, six to eight teams were assigned to a court and then played each other round-robin style. The top two teams from each court entered a bracket-style tournament, eliminated one by one until the championship.
While it was the first time the competition was held at the Siegel Center, it was a repeat performance for many of the players.
Jordan Rush, a student at Liberty University, has participated in the tournament for the last five years. Rush’s team, the Dodgers, did not only stand out during on-court rivalries, but their dress was another topic of conversation. Each team member was decked out in light pink apparel.
“It was kind of a joint idea; we just wanted to go for something different,” Rush said. “We saw a team the first year we played here that was wearing silk boxers. We kind of stole the idea from them. We just wanted to support breast cancer by wearing pink.”
In a previous year, Rush’s team placed fourth overall. This was their first time in the college division.
Rush said he believes the game is a great way for players to remain active for their own personal health, as well as help the community and those who need it.
“A lot of times we take things for granted, and there’s people in this country that have a lot less than we do, and it’s definitely a wakeup call,” Rush said. “I went to Haiti over the summer, and it’s a lot different than here.”
Tiffany Byrd, a VCU sophomore, played on a team of VCU students for the first time and was one of the visibly few girls involved in the college-aged game play. She said she thinks her sex worked to her disadvantage at times.
“It was hard because guys are automatically trying to kind of hit you because you’re a girl,” Byrd said. “I got hit in the face twice already, and we’ve only played one round. It’s been interesting. It’s fun though; I don’t mind.”
Byrd’s favorite part of the day was seeing the obscure homemade uniforms various teams sported. Matching apparel did not stay down on the court; it spread to the fans. Fans of the Thundercats wore spirited shirts to show their team support.
Maragret Burnette, a Richmond resident and student at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, said the team’s name was inspired by a nickname the group was given.
“In high school we had our little group of friends, and we were all just called the Thundercats, and we would yell it out at different events and parties,” Burnette said.
It was the Thundercats’ first year participating. Burnette said she thought the fan section helped the performance of the dodgeballers throughout the day.
However, even with all the other attractions and components of the game, the instinctual game play was by far the stand out. For Rush the day came down to one thing and one thing only.
“Drilling kids in the face with a dodgeball,” Rush said.