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Get up and go | Watertown

Artful dodgers cite game’s fun, exercise

Jason Tilley takes aim during a coed dodgeball game held by the Boston Ski and Sports Club at Watertown Middle School.

ESSDRAS M SUAREZ/ GLOBE STAFF

Jason Tilley takes aim during a coed dodgeball game held by the Boston Ski and Sports Club at Watertown Middle School.

Fred Gavin, a 34-year-old woodworker from Revere, is serious about dodgeball.

He plays with the Boston Ski and Sports Club in Watertown on Tuesday nights, and in nine years has missed it just twice.

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Once was for a now-former girlfriend’s birthday, and the other time was to see the Pogues, a punk band from London that was in town.

“It’s reliving my elementary school youth and it’s a great way to run around and have fun,” he said.

It’s also a great way to show off his athletic prowess.

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“You need to be as elusive as Rajon Rondo on the basketball court, you need to catch a ball like Randy Moss, and you need to be able to throw like Tom Brady,” Gavin said, only half joking.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday night throughout the year, six-member coed teams play a series of games at Watertown Middle School during two one-hour sessions.

Some of the players are veterans like Gavin who play all year, and some are new to the league.

On a recent Tuesday night, they were all whipping balls across the gymnasium at one another and seemingly having a blast doing it.

“It’s great. I’m a big, goofy, uncoordinated Polish guy and I can excel at this when I don’t really excel at many other sports,” said Niles Zwolak, a Chelmsford resident who has been playing for six years.

The game is the same as what we may remember from elementary school, but gone are the big rubber playground balls and the phys-ed teacher with a whistle. These games are self-refereed on the honor system, and the rubber balls have been replaced by “Gator Skin” foam balls that come in various sizes and shades of bright purple, green, and yellow.

Whether it hurts to get hit depends on who’s doing the throwing, players said.

It can be as much of a workout as you want it to be, according to Marisa Chattman, a microbiologist who plays on a team with her brother, J. Ethan Chattman.  

“You can stand around and just get hit,” she said, in which case you’re out of the game. Or you can really move, remain untouched, and get a great workout.

The Chattmans moved to Massachusetts from Arizona and have been playing dodgeball and other sports through Boston Ski and Sports Club, which they say has been a great way to meet people.

The dodgeball crowd regularly goes out to socialize after games, and several players recently spent Thanksgiving together. But Gavin, who is single, said the matches may not be ideal for finding a potential date.

“I find hitting girls with a dodgeball isn’t the best approach,” he said.

The club’s dodgeball league runs in seven-week sessions, with a playoff round to crown a season champion.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.
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