Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 5.53.52 PM“Quick, come here,” my husband said. I thought there was an emergency.

“They’re banning dodgeball.”

“That’s not new,” I replied. “A school in Massachusetts did it last year or the year before. ‘Hurts self-esteem.'”

“No, they say it’s because of bullying,” he said.  I am struggling with this. I’m struggling with the resurgence of the attacks on dodgeball under the guise of bullying. We are going too far.

I struggle with banning dodgeball because I, myself, was bullied playing basketball. There were a couple of girls in particular who were very mean–always told me to get the water, advised me that I’d never get off the bench, and never ceased to find an opportunity to make me look bad in front of the team. No one has ever banned basketball. My self-esteem was deeply wounded, but I plugged on, learning valuable skills like dedication, team building, strategy, and empathy. My skills in coaching–and even teaching, I suspect–trace back to these episodes. I learned to keep moving forward in spite of obstacles, and I learned that it wasn’t the talent or the prodigy I wanted on my team or in my classroom–it was the plugger. The one who would do anything to succeed.

Maybe that approach was wrong. In retrospect, I should have started a campaign to ban basketball–being picked last, having to endure bullies, and having to get the water–all hurtful. And yet I played.

Better than banning basketball and dodgeball, I’m wondering if it might be more feasible to ban all situations where bullies lurk.

First off, I’d like to ban work. I’ve worked in several jobs in three careers and only one where there was no bully. In fact, adults in the world of work are some of the most vicious bullies around. The world of education is not excluded.

After we ban work, let’s ban all competitions where someone has the potential to be picked last or lose. The nerd always gets picked last, and that’s psychological bullying. Losing repetitively at athletics–that’s no good either. I’m not going to watch the beginning of The Bad News Bears anymore. All high school and college sports with cuts will be on my list have banned…anyone who has ever been cut from a team has felt the deep pain of cuts. Sometimes, they never recover.

If if the issue isn’t bullying but “unsafe sports” or “sports with human targets” we should eliminate baseball, most definitely. I’m trying to mentally count the number of balls and bats with which I’ve been hit as a batter and a catcher. If we ban sports where there is risk of injury, lets add on all martial arts, football, basketball, and soccer, too.. If we ban games that aren’t politically correct or hurt self-esteem, add chess to that list–how can we allow people to lose constantly while they are having their men killed? We have a zero-tolerance for violence–heck, my friend’s son got the Army men confiscated from his birthday cupcakes at school just the other day.

While we’re on the subject, I think dating should go–every second someone cooler than you is getting the girl or guy, and getting dumped hurts. It really affects self-esteem.

The bottom line?

Why this singling out of dodgeball under parameters that would ban most life activities were they applied equitably across the board?

I never stand for bullying, but if we ban every location and situation where we might be bullied the nation would shut down. If we really think this through, we’ll find that it’s our views on education, creating a positive climate, and encouraging a healthy competitive environment that must evolve. Banning things never teaches the true lessons that need to be taught. It’s the easy way out.

Let’s rethink–not only dodgeball–but how we approach creating a positive climate for ourselves, our students, and our communities. Let’s stop indicting our schools, because schools are not where the majority of bullies lie. They lie in life. If we ban everything, the bullies win. Let’s start with our own inner circles–work, families, communities, churches, and get rid of the word “bullying,” replacing it with “creating a positive climate.” If we do, I’ll bet we won’t need to ban dodgeball, basketball, chess, work, or any activity. We will be too focused on making the world a better place.


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