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 (Lest you immediately get the idea that it was a hoity toity place, let me be clear that if anything, the school was out of date, backward, and cheap in many, if not most respects.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?!😕
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!😮).
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 screaming – 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.😢
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.😐