Get in to Dodge

Submitted photoMembers of the first place team from the BCMC Adult Dodgeball Tournament that took place in Princeton, Ill., on March 9 from left to right are Michael Brown, Dustin Downing, Shawn Einspahr, Anthony Rush and Zach Smith.

Adult dodgeball: intense, right?

That’s what Anthony Rush and the rest of the Clinton-based dodgeball team keep it: intense. That’s led them to win three out of the last four dodgeball tournaments they’ve participated in throughout the last year. The most recent was just this month when they won’t the BCMC Adult Dodgeball

“When you go to a big tournament, compared to just playing dodgeball in a club, there’s a huge pressure difference,” Team MORBID captain Rush said. “There’s more people, more eyes on you, more people depending on you. It’s all in fun, though. When we play, we’re having fun but people watching us probably say ‘They didn’t come to have fun, they came to play.’’’

In fact, in those four tournaments in the last year MORBID has only lost one game.

Team MORBID is no stranger to the game, though. In fact, it all goes back to Washington Middle School. Nancy Witt began the group “Teen Club”, which is where many of the now-adults got their start on the court.

“It’s just kids looking for a place to fit in and stay out of trouble,” Rush said. “Everyone gets along, we let off some steam and play dodgeball on the side.”

It’s a sports club that really has had an impact on Clinton kids. In fact, if you look back to Arizona Cardinals’ running back David Johnson’s Sports Illustrated interview, he mentions being referred to as “Glue Hands” while participating in Teen Club himself. If an NFL star still remembers his middle school dodgeball team, you know it’s bigger than a game.

Part of that impact comes with what happens off the court: a big part of Teen Club and Team MORBID is doing service projects in our own Clinton community.

“It became an addiction,” Rush said. “We’re not only helping people out and doing good in the community, but we got really good at dodgeball. There’s quite a few of us from back in middle school who still go and we’re trying to be role models for a younger generation.”

This could include anything from painting to picking garbage on the riverfront to serving food. This Saturday the group is going to take the money they won in a previous tournament and serve breakfast at the Victory Center. Rush says that without a lot of funds, they try to do a lot of hands-on service around town.

“Whatever winnings we get, we just put it back in the community,” Rush said. “Plus, if there’s anything we can do that doesn’t involve money we try to get our hands on right away.

“It’s not work because it’s fun. Everybody gets along, everybody fits in and everyone is welcome. We just kind of put that image out to the world about what kind of person you are and it really starts to build the group. People that you expect to come to do a service project, you wouldn’t expect to play dodgeball, too.”

Sports and service just seem to fit for this group.

“If Nancy Witt needed a hand moving furniture or something like that, I would just post it on our page and you’ll be surprised at the people who show up because Nancy or the group has impacted their lives in a way you can’t imagine it would,” Rush said.

After Witt’s retirement and an aging group of players, the group went through some struggles to find facilities and funds. Finally, they found Elijah Buell Elementary School. The group pays a small amount to use the facility for a few hours each Sunday, which has spurred their recent string of tournaments.

After being a part of Teen Club for 14 years, Rush hopes that it continues.

“We want to impact that younger generation like Nancy Witt did with us,” Rush said. “She molded us, boosted our morale and kind of steered us in the right direction. It all really started from her.”

That’s why they kept the name “Teen Club” after finding a new gymnasium.

“I said we should just keep it the same because that’s the crowd we want to impact and we can hope that they come in and take our spot in the future and still pay it forward,” he said.

Every Sunday they welcome people to come play dodgeball. They ask a mere $2 from everyone who comes in. Any extra money they have after paying for the use of the gym is set aside for future service projects. They hope with more tournaments, more wins, more service projects and more dodgeball they’ll attract more people to join the club and join the movement.

“I honestly just want to see a younger crowd come in more,” Rush said. “If our group’s name got out there a little more I think it could grow and we could do more service projects. I want the community to see what we do. I’d love to see it grow bigger, because you can do great things with numbers.”