Dodgeball Strategy Tips
How to Win in Dodgeball
Dodgeball is the same as any other sport: If you want to be successful, you need teamwork, communication, fitness, and strategy. You can possibly win just by going all out as a group of individuals, but over time, this will prove to be a highly suicidal strategy.
To win over a sustained period of time in dodgeball, you need to practice and play both individually and as a team. The more you play together, the more in-sync you will be, and the harder you will be to hit. The tips below will help polish your game from novice to expert. Remember, no matter how good you are at these strategies, they are no substitute for practice, teamwork, and communication.
The easiest way to eliminate an opponent is to hit them with a ball. But it is not that simple. Here are some strategies to maximise your throwing effectiveness.
- If in doubt, don’t throw at an opponent. If you are being counted out and you still have no viable target (e.g., you have several balls, but one is at the back of the court, or you are off-balance) throw hard at the wall, well away from any players. Having a ball caught is the worst thing that can happen in dodgeball.
- Aim at a single target. Players are usually numbered 1–6 from left to right as you look at them—the player on your team that stands on the far left calls out the target. Then countdown from 3 in your head before releasing.
- Throw together. The telltale sign of an inexperienced team is teammates throwing in isolation. Three balls thrown at once are much harder to dodge or catch than single shots which can be spotted from range. The best teams are the most coordinated.
- Spread out. If all the balls are coming from the same part of the court, they are easier to dodge because all throwers are in your eye line. By spreading out on the court and throwing at the same person from different angles, the target may be blindsided and unable to dodge.
- Get close. Throw as close to the dead zone as possible. This makes your throw much harder to catch or dodge.
- Aim low. It is not the hardest throw that takes someone out, but the smartest. Aim at the chest at your peril. Get your shots in low and together. Aim your hits between the thigh and shin. If you miss, at least you won’t get caught. Remember—catches win matches.
- Throw at the strongest players first. This may seem counter-intuitive, but when the court is more crowded, players have less room to dodge. They also haven’t had time to get their eye in. Whilst it may be tempting to take out weaker players, this will hurt you in the long run; the longer a decent player stays in, the more time they have to hit you with a good throw or catch.
- Use the court. Hitting a player is just one way to get an elimination. Several balls thrown together at the inside shoulder of a player on the edges of the court can cause them to step out of bounds and out of the game.
Catches win matches, but a missed catch is usually an elimination. Here are some tips to improve your catching, as well as your decision making.
- Catches win matches! But don’t be stupid. Four seconds into your first game is not the time to make a tricky catch. Don’t bother if you are 6-1 up with 30 seconds left; focus on your throws not getting caught. Pick the time for a catch, and don’t celebrate!
- Catch with your hands. Do not use your fingertips.
- Don’t reach for it. Reaching out and plucking a ball from the air may look spectacular, but it is much more likely to result in a glancing blow and your elimination. If the ball isn’t coming down your throat, leave it.
- Into the breadbasket. The best way to make a catch is to absorb it into your mid-section. Remove as much of the pace as possible by folding yourself around the ball. Don’t take too long, though; more balls may be arriving shortly.
- Deflect up. This may work one-on-one. Deflect the ball into the air to catch it a second time. Remember, if the ball hits the wall, another player, or another ball before you catch it, you are eliminated.
- Drop-Catch. Holding onto a ball when the opposition has several usually makes you a target. After all, you don’t have your hands free, and if they dislodge your ball, you are eliminated. Use this to your advantage. Hold the ball in front of you, inviting incoming balls. Then drop your ball and catch the incoming one. If the incoming balls don’t look catchable, keep hold of your ball and deflect them safely.
Dodging is the name of the game—but this is easier said than done in a sport where several balls are launched at your face from different angles at upwards of 60mph!
- Spread out, stay back. Under no circumstances should you stand behind a teammate. If they dodge a ball, you won’t see it coming and will be eliminated. If you see two opponents standing one behind the other, whip a ball at them. You must also maximise your distance from your opponents. Don’t stand back to the wall, or failed catches will end up eliminating you when they hit the wall—aim for a few feet of space behind you.
- Jump! Split jumps or jumps with high legs are your best bet. Most players are aiming between thighs and shins, so a high jump will clear this safely. Only as a last resort should you hit the deck—this leaves you a sitting duck and should only be attempted in countering one-on-one situations.
- Watch the court. Don’t stray too close to the boundaries. Make sure you have room to dodge on both sides, and behind you.
- Spread out. As the numbers on your team dwindle, keep equally spaced out. Don’t clump together; your team will just be a larger, easier, less mobile target.
Dodgeball is played at a quick pace, with countering being one of the most exciting and thrilling aspects of the game, both to watch and to play. These tips will improve your countering.
- One ball. Only counter if you have only a single ball on your side. In almost all other scenarios, it is better to throw multiple balls together at a single target.
- Speed. You must be quick. The element of surprise is your friend.
- Surprise! An underarm throw is not to be underestimated. Your opponent won't be expecting it, and it doesn't leave you exposed to a hit whilst you are winding up your throw.
- Counters work great just after an elimination. This goes for either side. If you just had a teammate eliminated, the other team may be celebrating—a perfect target. If you have just eliminated an opponent, others may be watching them leave and not watching the ball speeding towards their face.
- Try faking a throw. This will put doubt into the minds of your opposition. This can be used to get them to leap (nail them in midair when they can't jump), to recover formation in your team, or to run down the clock. Fakes can give you loads of information about your opponents.
- If you aren't the target, gather up the balls. You can't counter without any balls. If all the balls have been fired at your team, but not at you, try to recover some of the balls. With all the balls thrown, you won't be a target and may secure all the balls for your team.
All-on-One (You as the One)
If you play dodgeball for any length of time, you will find yourself on the wrong end of an all-on-one. All is not lost; however, check out these tips to give you the best chance of transforming yourself into an all-on-one legend.
- Don’t panic. Five of your teammates were eliminated first. You have done well to last this long. The only thing you have ahead of you is hero-dom. No one can blame you if you get eliminated. Treat a 6v1 as 6 1v1s and stay cool.
- Pick your catch. Don’t try the spectacular; the trick is to guarantee the catch, rather than your elimination. Pick out an easier ball (chest high/slower/ single shot incoming/shot from the back of the court) to catch and then get your body behind it. Once caught, get low with your caught ball as a shield until your teammate rejoins you
- Return extra balls…but not all of them! Under UKDBA rules, leading teams must throw their ball within 5 seconds if they have 2 or 3 balls. By returning balls, you are forcing your opposition to give you catching opportunities (they are not allowed just to roll them back!) But don’t give them all the balls. Two balls are easier to dodge/catch than three balls!
- Get low! This makes you a much smaller target and a more stable target. This makes it easier to catch balls, but harder to dodge. To compensate, you can use a ball as a shield to deflect harder shots.
- Stay back. Unless countering, stay in the back third of the court. Don’t make yourself an easy target by standing in point-blank range!
- Pick your target, shorten the distance, get in front of them. If you have all the balls on your side (not recommended but still possible), you can shorten the distance right down with no fear of a counter ball coming in. Whip as hard as possible to minimise the chances of a catch.
- Use the court. As mentioned above, but just as useful here. You don’t need a hit for an elimination.
All-on-One (You as the All)
Hopefully, the longer you play dodgeball, the more often you find yourself on the right side of an all-on-one. There are still things to keep in mind.
- Don't get cocky. The game isn't won yet. So many teams relax at this point only to be beaten in the final few seconds.
- Don't forget the countdown. You have five seconds to throw if you have multiple balls and are in the lead. Don't forget this.
- If in doubt, don't let them catch. You can't just roll balls back (in UKDBA rules) if you are in the lead, but this doesn't mean you give them catching attempts. If you are up against a solid catcher and time is ticking away, throw balls hard, fast, and low away from your opponent. Two catches and suddenly, the whole dynamic of the game has changed… for the worse!
- Throw together. Just because you are winning doesn't mean basic principles go out the door. Throw low, throw together, throw from the centre line.
- Don't "suicide." Yes, it looks impressive, but only when it comes off. When it doesn't, you look like a fool. You are more valuable to your team on the court, not flying across it.
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© 2012 Rhys Baker