I'm a huge fan of the Asic Gel Volleyball Knee pad. So much in fact that they had been my "go to" for over ten years now. They provide just enough padding to protect my knee when I go for a drop catch instinctively and aren't so bulky or clumsy that they cost my outs. Up until very recently the pair I used had been with me for several years, seasons, tournaments, and on virtually every surface one can think of.
So what changed, you may ask?
Well, a few years ago in an effort to seek out bulk discounts for my league players (and generally, any Dodgeball player out there), I reached out to Asics thinking I'd be successful. It was my hope that like the 661 Kneepads, I'd be able to get a unique deal for Dodgeball players everywhere since saving money is always a concern. After a long series of digging, being forwarded to the right individuals and going back and forth once the right person was found, I came to the following response:
"If you wanted to talk about setting up an account for retail I would need more information, do you have a retail storefront, would it just be kneepads? We do have a minimum $5,000 opening order, that's a lot of kneepads"
Duh. That would indeed be a lot of kneepads. And at the time I had just about everything else lined up (save a physical retail storefront), there was something about that last remark however that turned me off to the entire thing and had me once again facing what we as Dodgeball players all face:
Lack of legitimacy.
Having played Dodgeball for over twelve years, I've received just about everything you can think of when I tell others I play Dodgeball. From the annoying movie quotes, to awkward stares to (and this is a good change), reactions of amazement. Despite it all, it has kept me and scores of others playing, albeit begrudgingly at times. As I am sure many would agree, we all yearn for that day when instead of being asked "oh, you play Dodgeball like Vince Vaughn" it will one day more along the lines of: "oh wow, you play Dodgeball like (insert awesome player we all admire here)?!"
As Dodgeball players, we've learned to live with this. As league owners, and for those that are just a bit more competitive, we chalk it up to the status quo. Its just part of playing the game. So I forgive that Asics rep. However, I can't help but shake the bias of years passed in which the stigma of Dodgeball and its juvenile undertones is felt even despite the progress the game has made over the years.
Still determined, when I started "reverse engineering" what it would take to set up a storefront and be taken seriously from retail account managers, I saw many smaller steps and goals that were very achievable. It had not been too long since I had (sorta) manufactured my own Dodgeballs for my league. I had ordered 500 Tucson Dodgeball branded red rubber 8.5 inch balls...the only problem was that they were misprinted. I was pretty furious as you can imagine, that after months of back and forth with the Baden rep and a lot of money, to have a finished product that looked like it was regarded with as much care as...well...as much care is not even getting the blast label correctly it was another blow to legitimacy and yet one more reason to wish for better days.
Because of that fiasco, I looked into cutting out the middleman and seeing how I could order from Playground Sports (the makers of the beloved PG 8.5. inch ball) in bulk, with my own label and it wasn't too difficult. As I am sure you can imagine, the company was very eager to have my business and short of figuring out how to pass 500 dodgeballs through customs, I learned a lot about the process, however, I did not move forward due to life actually getting in the way...I had an Army Commission to pursue.
The desire however to manufacture my own equipment and Dodgeball products in the name of legitimacy and sparing current and potential players from retail markups, the pains of having to piece together a set of gear from all four corners of a sports department never left.
It wasn't until I was shopping for my second pair of kneepads that I was hit with all of this again. We all know how it goes:
You shop the volleyball section for kneepads.
You check out the baseball section for slider shorts (maybe), arm braces or anything to do with throwing.
You hit up the basketball section for shooter's sleeves.
and if you're hard core, maybe happen upon the apparel for the latest in compression wear because staying dry is vital when we're frolicking in the air doing all kinds of crazy maneuvers.
No matter how much I suppressed the urge to just "suck it up and do it," the fact that there just does not exist a store or place dedicated to our sport still managed to rear its ugly uniformed head constantly and remind me that waiting for something in Dodgeball to come, is doing the sport a complete disservice. It is by the actions of those that have stepped up that we now have amazing organizations such as USA Dodgeball, Elite-Dodgeball and the NCDA (to name but just a few) and the very reason why I am still able to play Dodgeball to this day and part of the very reason why I decided to finally just do it.
Thus, Ballistae Dodgeball Gear and Apparel was not so much born, but recognized with a goal of legitimatizing the sport by focusing solely on the needs of the Dodgeball player and not profit margins, market penetration, or just plain ignorance to the game. Like Elite-Dodgeball's motto: for the player, by the player, so too rings Ballistae's modus operandi, for who better to know and understand the needs of a Dodgeball player other than Dodgeball players?
It is our hope that there will one day be a Dodgeball section at a sporting goods store, or a big name company identifies that the next big sponsorship will be for members of Team USA Dodgeball, and that league owners and event organizers won't be met with "sorry, but our budget of donations for the year has been maxed out already" (yes, I have heard that many times as well).
For that day to come, we must decide that we will get there on our own feet, via our own way and when we arrive, we'll have more than just kneepads to call our own.