Bombardment

I went to a private school in grades 1-8. (Lest you immediately get the idea that it was a hoity toity place, let me be clear that if anything, the school was out of date, backward, and cheap in many, if not most respects. Said attributes may or may not be relevant to this story.)

We had regular gym class but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what sort of qualifications any of the adult instructors over the years had. Two frequent teachers were school mothers. Were they paid? Volunteers? Educated in physical fitness? Possessed by demons? I don’t know.

The boys & girls were routinely thrown together for activities all the way through eighth grade. This meant that 12, 13, and 14 year old boys were pitted against the same-age girls. One “game” where the genders were routinely mixed was Bombardment, a moniker which is both funny and more than a little twisted.

Bombardment was a little different from the more mainstream dodgeball (which was played in a circle outdoors). Using the school’s auditorium/gym as the venue, the players were divided into two teams. A line on the floor down the middle of the space separated teams during play. If a player stepped over the line, he or she was eliminated from the game ( “out”) and had to sit down on the sidelines.

Three – I think – hard, red rubber balls, about the size of basketballs or perhaps a shade smaller, were used. The object was to hit a player on the other side with a ball. That was the whole game. Hit a player on the other side – anywhere on their body – and they were eliminated. If, however, someone on the other team caught the ball, the person who threw it was out. The win was determined by eliminating everybody on the opposite team. All the balls were in play at the same time. The environment was mayhem.

It was not all all unusual for the teachers to make the game boys-vs-girls so this meant various boys could put all their aggression, hostility, sexual frustration, and what have you, into throwing those balls hard enough to knock some hapless girl nearly off her feet. Head shots were fine. Hitting a kid’s eye glasses was fine. Are we having fun now?!๐Ÿ˜•

Many of us girls, ill-suited to aggressive play and generally coached to be nice, helpful, kind, unassuming, meek – I could go on – sucked at this game. (Several of the boys, I should say, shared these traits. They were typically disdained by other boys, at least the more aggressive ones.) Our goal was primarily not to get hurt. Some people didn’t try at all, more or less allowing themselves to get hit by a ball, either by standing still like the proverbial deer or by not moving around very fast to “dodge” the ball. I guess their plan, if they had one, was to get eliminated quickly, i.e., take the pain up front & spend the remainder of class sitting on the sidelines.

The folks eliminated and relegated to the sidelines did not sit quietly. Oh no, they hurled “encouragement” and insults at their teammates. Why they cared who won I don’t really know.

I was not aggressive, didn’t have ball-throwing skills least of all in a desire to smack someone with one, but I had one asset: I was fast. That was my entire play. Run, run, run. Evade, evade, evade. I stuck close to the back wall and kept moving. Skinny & speedy, I was not an easy target. Which is not to say other kids didn’t try to hit me, they did. But the slow, the fat, and the weak were the first, easy targets (just like in the wild!๐Ÿ˜ฎ).

Sadly, my tactic was only good so far. After many of my teammates were picked off in a given game, the rest of us became the targets. And with less people in play, you were more likely to get hit by a ball. I hated getting hit by a ball. It hurt! Plus, with most of your team gone – and now sitting on the sidelines screamingย  – all the balls were being thrown at you and whoever remained, simultaneously. When they missed, the balls frequently rebounded off the metal grates covering the auditorium’s large windows. I can still hear the sound of the balls slamming into those grates. The ferocity in which the balls blasted into them was the SAME ferocity in which they hit YOU when they made contact.๐Ÿ˜ข

It must have happened more than once, but due my successful running, bobbing, and weaving, I remember being the last player left in a game. Did I ever catch the ball out of sheer dumb luck? I vaguely think I did. But I know I got hit far more often.๐Ÿ˜

20 thoughts on “Bombardment

  1. nrhatch

    We played the same game with a different name.

    Sometimes I played by the rules and tried to avoid getting hit / eliminated.
    Other times, I ran into a “slow lob” on purpose to eliminate myself with no pain. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Ally Bean

    Meh. We played this game in elementary school. I hated it. I wore glasses and without them I was almost blind. I spent the whole stupid game worried that my glasses would be broken and I’d get in trouble at home.

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    1. Colette Post author

      Oh geez Ally, same here about the glasses. Their value was drilled into me. I remember the worst was a face hit to the glasses in volleyball, because of the close range.๐Ÿ˜ข

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  3. mariezhuikov

    At least my public school used mushy large red balls for dodge ball. I think we only used one ball at a time. Even then, the game was traumatic enough. I’m impressed that you actually had a strategy other than shear survival.

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    1. Colette Post author

      ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ve long had a calculating mind! Your version sounds a hair more civilized but the entire concept – especially boys vs girls – is a head-scratcher. I still cringe inwardly when I see those red rubber balls on a playground.

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    1. Colette Post author

      Oh, I was definitely in the close-to-last picked too.๐Ÿ˜ I had athletic potential but little skill/training or confidence. Like you, tennis suited me and I was a decent enough swimmer to be a lifeguard in my teens. No team sports!

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  4. markbialczak

    We also played that exact game, Colette, which should tell us that it was either printed in some physical education manual somewhere, spread by word of mouth from teacher-to-teacher across our wide country, handed down from generation to generation of gym teachers or some wicked combination of them all.
    Oddly, in one school district I attended, yes, it wad called Bombardment. After we moved a county away, the same game was called Poison Ball. Oh, very appropriate.
    I was the stubborn one always, always attempting to catch every ball hurled my way. My percentage was pretty good, and I even won some games using this method. I therefore spent the rest of the day walking around school with red, achy arms.

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    1. Colette Post author

      Oh yes! If you actually caught it the pain wasn’t much improved over merely being hit with it. Poison Ball is a hideous albeit apropos name. Never heard it before.

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  5. Maggie Wilson

    To answer your opening query regarding a PE teacher’s qualifications: Possessed by demons, most certainly.
    Your story makes me anxious, just reading it. I don’t recall playing that sort of game at school, thank goodness! The only time we had co-ed gym class was when we learned square dancing. That was challenging enough!

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    1. Colette Post author

      ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m laughing with you not at you Maggie! Writing it took me back & not in a good way! Perhaps Canada was not so demonic in its “physical fitness?” And what is it about teaching kids square dancing?! I’ve never been to a hoedown.๐Ÿ˜

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