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Competitive dodgeball revs up in Yuba-Sutter
With the tweet of a whistle, players dart toward the balls set in the middle of the court.
Amid familiar sights like batting cages, a weightroom and a basketball court, a competitive dodgeball game stuck out and was under way on Thursday night at Elite Fitness in Yuba City.
With admitted credit to the Ben Stiller sports comedy, facility owner/operator Greg Howard hatched the co-ed league. The first three matches of the season were played after Thursday's grand opening event at 851 Gray Avenue.
"This is going to evolve into something great," Howard said, hustling to greet players, set up the court and assure some unsure competitors that no headshots are allowed.
So far, six teams have signed up for the monthlong league — 10 players on each, split by gender.
Jerry Santiago and his Yuba City roommates — all former Marines — weren't quite sure what to expect on Thursday night. He heard about the dodgeball league from one of them, and described their squad as "a team of friends."
Also a big fan of the 2004 film, Santiago said he researched "professional" dodgeball via some YouTube clips, only to discover it's a sport that is sweeping the nation.
"People take it hardcore, let's see what kind of competition we have tonight," he said.
With the rules explained, although needing clarification early on, Santiago and teammates like Briana Nava were soon dodging, dipping, faking and sweating.
The strenuous pace caught some players off guard, but Nava was easing into the action for a slightly different reason. An avid soccer player and Yuba College student, Nava had surgery on a torn ACL just four months ago.
"This is just going to help me get going, and get tough," she said, adding that she hopes to complete rehab and eyes a spot on the 49ers soccer roster next year.
Midway through the first game — the team's play to best of five — Nava slowed up, looked toward her knee and said she thought she heard a "pop." After getting hit, she came to the bench, found she felt OK, strapped on a knee brace and was back on the court in no time.
But the first victory in league history went the way of a band calling themselves "The Misfits."
Team member Vangie Flores of Yuba City called the game a blast, mingling and meeting teammates after high-fiving the opponent.
"We can feel like we're kids out there, playing dodgeball," she said.
The enthusiastic Howard is the first to admit the league is in its infancy, with a few kinks to work out and loose ends to tie up.
But he said he's confident that word-of-mouth advertising and interest in the oddball professional style of dodgeball will help gain traction.
A kids league is in the works for December, he added. Live match announcers and game music might even be in the works by then.
People interested in playing can still sign up for the first month this week.