Updated: Sep 12, 2019
It was nearly midnight at the Johnson Center, and Evan Kaschelhoffer was on top of his game.
Kaschelhoffer, the stocky senior captain of UK’s club dodgeball team, was launching screaming rubber dodgeballs at packs of his teammates. During a scrimmage-practice on a night before spring break, he was taking no prisoners.
“That one hurt my marble sack,” one of his teammates bellowed in pain after one of Kascheloffer’s 50-mile-per-hour missiles found its mark below the belt, sending him tumbling to the hardwood gym floor. Competitiveness mixed with levity at the late-night practice. The teammates were obviously friends who were very serious about their game.
Kaschelhoffer, a civil engineering major, has played club dodgeball for three years. UK’s team is usually among the nation’s best. They spend much of the year traveling to various tournaments around the country, and they’ve made the national tournament’s Elite Eight for six years running.
Kaschelhoffer said he could only really describe the team’s atmosphere with one word: “Family.”
“You end up spending weekends together at tournaments,” Kaschelhoffer said. “You do eight-, six-, five-hour car rides. You bond.”
Justin Conti, a freshman journalism major who joined the team in 2018, called the team “very homey.” He added that the sport is an excellent stress reliever after classes, exams or rough weeks.
“I just lost my wallet,” Conti said with a smile. “So I’m relieving some stress.”
Conti said that as a first-semester freshman he became interested in the team in part because dodgeball was banned at his high school in New York. Freshmen showing up to college have a multitude of club sport options like basketball or volleyball, he said.
“But club dodgeball is so different, you know?” Conti said. “It’s very unique.”
The sport’s technique is unique, for sure. The perfect dodgeball throw, Conti said, requires getting the perfect grip.
“You would think you would palm it,” Conti said. Instead, a would-be dodgeball thrower should pinch the rubber ball around the air hole with their whole hand, tightly placing the thumb below the air hole and gripping above the hole with the other four fingers. This grip causes the ball to spin after it’s released. The generated spin causes the ball to fly faster.
Daniel Lajuenesse, a junior agriculture economics major and assistant captain, said that one now-graduated teammate regularly tossed the ball at speeds ranging above 70 mph He said that Kaschelhoffer is the team’s current hardest thrower as his darts top out in the low 60s.
Lajuenesse said that getting hit by the ball will leave a light sting for about 10 seconds, but there is rarely any bruising. Like his captain, Lajuenesse described the team as a family, adding that he’d made some real, long-lasting friendships through the team.
“They’re some of my best friends now,” Lajuenesse said. “Most of the guys I hang out with, most of my friends, have been made from dodgeball.”
The team is currently running low on players. Conti said that next year, there will be a big push to get new players and added that they’ll be looking “to haul in as many freshman as we can.”
“It feels like a varsity sport,” Conti said. “Every dodgeball team is like a connected family. They’re all friendly with each other and at the end of the day they’re all playing dodgeball.”
Story Written by Rick Childress
Photos by Michael Clubb