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Mountain Man tournament takes recess sports to the next level


When Michael Tessier started planning the inaugural Mountain Man Dodgeball Classic, he envisioned an accessible, lighthearted tournament that would attract casual sports enthusiasts and spectators from across the region to spend their time—and money—in Sisters.

"The idea was that we wanted to tap into this idea of sports tourism, drawing people from other areas of the state, having people stay over the weekend," Tessier explains.

The tournament is slated for the final weekend of the month, May 31-June 1. Sisters has played host to a number of successful sporting events, Tessier says, such as the Sisters Shoot Out and the recent Sisters Outlaws Lacrosse tourney, which he says brought about 700 visitors. And though Tessier isn't a dodgeball aficionado, he says he'll play during the tournament.

While most of the sign-ups so far have been from Sisters-based teams—competing sporting events happening this weekend are pulling would-be attendees from Bend and Portland in other directions—there is a growing enthusiasm for childhood sports in general, and dodgeball in particular.

"We would love to participate, we're just all out of town," says Matt Wessels, program director for Cascade Indoor Sports. The recreational athletic facility hosts eight dodgeball teams. "If they do this again we'll be there with balls flying and arms swinging."

On the event's Facebook page, dodgeball players from Portland lament the tournament's timing (it corresponds with Recesstime Sports League's final game and end of season party). So if the event starts small, it won't be for lack of interest.

"There's this kind of renaissance with dodgeball specifically [as well as] casual sports like kickball, softball, things that don't require a great deal of skill," Tessier explains. "Dodgeball is a little quirky and everyone is on a level playing field."

While a former baseball pitcher is certainly an asset for a competitive dodgeball team, the ability to think quickly is more valuable than any particular athletic ability.

"It's brains over brawn," Wessels explains. "It's kind of like a chess game, but more physical."

While dodgeball may seem like one of the simpler childhood games—objective: hit people with balls; dodge to avoid getting hit—Wessels says there's more strategy involved than one would think. For starters, Wessels (like many adult players) insists that the game ought to be called "catch" ball, because grabbing hold of the ball hurtling toward one's chest is an offensive move, and a double play. He's also fond of the "high/low," a tag-team approach that simultaneously targets an opponent's feet and chest, making it difficult to dodge.

The element of surprise can be key, and that's where female players shine, Wessels says. Cascade's teams, as well as those at the Mountain Man tourney, are co-ed, which means each team must have at least two women (or men, on a female-majority team).

"[Women] are kind of the secret weapon, because they get overlooked," Wessels explains. Where girls may have shied away from the sport in middle school, dodgeball now attracts a range of female contenders from moms looking for a social outlet to softball players in search of a little friendly competition.

And modern adult leagues are finding ways to accommodate participants' diverse abilities. The Mountain Man tournament has a division for youth ages 14-18 that uses foam, rather than rubber, balls. This "no sting" option is not just for kids, and is also offered by organizations like Recesstime. At Cascade, teams play with five balls—four standard size and one smaller one just for women.

While dodgeball can certainly be competitive—there's even a professional league; Tessier consulted with pros from Oregon before designing the Mountain Man tournament—most players are just there to have fun.

"I think it's the social aspect of it," Wessels says. "These sports you played in elementary school are sports you grew up playing, everybody knows the rules. I think it's a big attraction to people in Bend because it's fast paced and reminds them of childhood."

And, if one weekend of slinging and ducking isn't enough, Cascade's next indoor league season starts June 2.

Mountain Man Dodgeball Classic

Sat May 31 – Sun June 1

register at

$249 per team.

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