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The death of dodgeball in Western Springs?

Competitors reach for dodgeballs. | File photo

Competitors reach for dodgeballs. | File photo

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Dodge details

Games: Every Friday

Where: Recreation Center, 1500 Walker St.

Times: 5:30-7 p.m. for third- through fifth-graders; 7-8:30 p.m for sixth- through eighth-graders; 8:30-10 p.m. for high school/college

Cost: $3

Information: Call (708) 246-9070

Updated: May 12, 2013 6:03AM

WESTERN SPRINGS — Bonded together by a mutual enjoyment of nailing people with foam balls, a loyal following of dodgeball-lovers flocked to the Western Springs.

While schools across the country have struck dodgeball from physical education curriculum over concerns of bullying and injuries, but the vintage human target game remained a steady presence for more than a decade at the Western Springs Recreation Department, which has held weekly games sessions each Friday for the past 15 years.

The risk of suffering an injury during a dodgeball game is minimal, said Recreation Department Director Tracy Alden. That’s because the rubber balls once used to pelt members of opposing teams have been replaced with lightweight balls made of a foamy material.

“They’re like nerf balls, so even if you’re hit in the face it doesn’t really hurt,” Alden said. “Sometimes we see minor injuries from collisions or from players diving down on the ground to avoid getting hit, but that happens with any sport.”

The game is played with up to 10 players on each team, with four to six players on the court at any given time. Players attempt to strike opponents with the ball, and once a player is hit they’re out for the remainder of the game. The team with the last player standing wins.

“It actually takes a lot of skill, and it’s great for kids because they get a good workout and there’s a lot of athleticism and strategy involved,” Alden said.

Western Springs’ dodgeball program was born in 1998 when a group of high school students suggested it to Alden.

Back then, games were open to sixth-graders through college, but the program recently expanded to include players in third through fifth grades, Alden said.

A die-hard group of about 30-50 players once showed up to play in one of three game sessions divided by age group, but the number of participants has been declining. For the past couple weeks not enough came out to even put together a game.

“I don’t know if there’s something else to do on Fridays now or what,” Alden said.

Brian Hass, a 22-year-old dodgeball player, has been a regular for two years.

“It’s a great and challenging game because it’s all about speed, agility, quickness and throwing accuracy,” Hass said. “I really love how unique it is in that it’s a team sport while also being an individual sport.”

Hass, who supervises the games for the younger children, said people his age tend to move to the city or head off to college.

In an attempt to rekindle the dwindling dodgeball spirit, Hass attempted to organize what he called a “dodgeball reunion” over spring break in hopes some of his friends back from college would show up.

“It’s really sad because I feel like promoting a dodgeball game is the only way to get people to come back to Western Springs,” Hass said.

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