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Is Dodgeball Traumatizing Our Kids?

Aired June 18, 2001 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Does dodgeball damage kids?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They hit me in the head, and I had stitches all in my eyes, like, 18 of them, because I got knocked into a cement wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BATTISTA: Also known as killer ball and bombardment, dodgeball is being bombed out of school yards across the country as not only physically dangerous but psychologically destructive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very, very uncoordinated, and I always got out first. So, you know, it's not fun to sit on the sidelines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simply by trying to ban dodgeball, you make us sissies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war against dodgeball is part of a larger war against competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BATTISTA: Does dodgeball belong in the physical education hall of shame?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to TALKBACK LIVE. So did you play dodgeball when you were a kid? What do you remember most about it? The choosing sides, the throwing the ball, getting hit? Just thinking about it recalls the best and the worst of school yard play for a lot of folks. And now, it is on a hit list of games being eliminated from PE classes. What is so bad about dodgeball?

Meet Neil Williams, a PE professor at Eastern Connecticut State University and creator of the Physical Education Hall Of Shame.

Also with us is Rick Hanetho, parks manager and co-director of the National Amateur Dodgeball Association.

I didn't even know there was such a thing. We'll get to that in just a minute, Rick.

But first of all, Neil, what is so bad about dodgeball?

NEIL WILLIAMS, EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY: The game has a lot of negative elements to it. First of all, there's a targeting of other humans as part of the game. It's the primary purpose of the game. You're throwing a rather hard projectile at those people. You have students who are mixed genders in a class. You have differences of size, differences of weight and differences of skill ability that are sometimes as much as four or five years developmentally. So you're putting people at harm's risk in this game.

BATTISTA: If we take some of those elements one by one, though, you can almost say that about just about any competitive sport or anything that's just competitive by nature. I mean, the human target thing, for example, you could say that about football.

WILLIAMS: Actually, I couldn't say that about football because the purpose of football is to take a ball and run with it and run away from people. Other people get knocked over in the process, but...

BATTISTA: Well, they're targeted, though.

WILLIAMS: They are in a way.

BATTISTA: That's the job.

WILLIAMS: But the main difference between dodgeball and football is that football is a sport, an athletic endeavor in which people elect to participate, and they know they're going to be playing against people of equal skill, equal size, and usually the same gender. In dodgeball, it's a physical education activity which students are forced to play in class, and they have no control over the other students in the class -- the size, the weight, the skill differences.

BATTISTA: All right, Rick, tell us the other side of the story. What do you think is so good about dodgeball?

RICK HANETHO, NATIONAL AMATEUR DODGEBALL ASSOCIATION: Well, dodgeball is one of America's oldest playground games and is an incredible amount of fun. And we in our games at the National Amateur Dodgeball Association, we don't pick kids to play, they play by choice, and they want to participate. And it's a lot of fun. We don't use the old playground ball that some of us perhaps have some bad memories about. We use a very soft, pliable rubber ball, and we supervise our games very effectively, and we utilize rules that limit exposure to any kind of risk associated with a lot of other games. So it's an interesting argument when you talk about football not having targets, when the soul purpose of the game is to try and attack the ball carrier, go to the ball.

And when you're in a competitive situation, you don't have a choice of who you're playing against. So the idea of kids with lesser or a higher level of skill in any competitive game, you're playing against someone -- they may have better skills or coordination than you, and that's just part of playing games.

BATTISTA: Well, I'm wondering, Neil, if the game has changed over the last -- I don't know how -- I'm not counting them -- years since I played it. But when I was young and we played it, it was always played as sort of a reward at the end of class, like, you know, if you completed the obstacle course or whatever, then you know, the teacher would say, "I'll save 10 minutes for dodgeball at the end of class." They pick the teams, you know. It was always played with that round little soft, red ball, which didn't sting at all except maybe if you had a wet T-shirt on something.

So, I mean, there were rules. You were kicked out of the game if you hit somebody above the waist, that sort of thing. So, I mean, doesn't -- has it changed a lot over the years that it's become too aggressive or what?

WILLIAMS: I don't think that the game has changed in any way. I think that the game is still an aggressive game, always has been an aggressive game. But as for hitting the students below the waist, there's a lot of damage that can be done there as well, and students don't aim as well to begin with. They also miss occasionally and hit each other in the head when they don't intend to. The red rubber ball that you're talking about hurts no matter where it hits you, and it's not a good thing to use in a game like this.

BATTISTA: OK, let me -- you know what? I have nine million kids in the audience today. Most of them are high school-aged here so they've all played dodgeball at some point during their school years. So let me go to some of the guys in the audience and tell me what you think -- Luke?

LUKE: I feel about dodgeball that dodgeball should be promoted more because anytime anyone ever plays dodgeball, they're always having a lot of fun. And really, anyone who wants to take dodgeball out is just mad because they suck at it.

(LAUGHTER)

BATTISTA: Well...

(APPLAUSE)

BATTISTA: This is a town meeting and we are cable, fortunately. But that is the way a lot of folks do remember the game, Neil, that it was just a lot of fun. Are we maybe over analyzing some of these psychological or physical effects that we think that are there? WILLIAMS: Yes, well, that's possible. I actually enjoyed the game myself when I was young and enjoyed hitting other kids with the ball. But as a teacher, I began to see the downside of it. And the downside of it was that for kids who weren't quite so good at it -- to put it in a little bit more eloquent way, it wasn't a good experience at all. Kids got hurt in my classes early on. A young girl got her glasses broken and her nose broken, and I just decided that when she had to compete against students who were so much bigger and faster and stronger and better, it didn't seem to be the right atmosphere or the right environment or the right game.

BATTISTA: Linda in the audience, you are a teacher, correct?

LINDA: Yes, I'm a teacher. An we try very hard to teach our children to turn away from violence and to use words to solve their problems. So I have to ask myself: Does it make sense to give them a ball and say, "Hit somebody"?

BATTISTA: Well, you know, that's looking at it through a parent's and a teacher's eyes. When I was in fifth grade, I don't remember that as being violent. I don't remember it as being -- it was just fun. So you know what I mean? I don't know if there's an effect there.

Kristen, go ahead.

KRISTEN: Yeah, I teach third and fourth grade, and I think it's really important that you set up rules before you get the kids going on it. And accidents are going to happen no matter, and you have to have good guidelines and set up rules before you play.

(APPLAUSE)

BATTISTA: I want to get Rick back in here in just a few moments, but -- excuse me. There's a lot of construction going on in here and I'm coughing from all of the dust. Neil, you were talking about, you know, you can get hurt if there is not rules to everything. You can get hurt at just about everything.

WILLIAMS: I agree with that.

BATTISTA: Yeah. And you do have on your list, though, -- I mean, you really are against most childhood games that people remember, whether it's musical chairs, red rover, kickball.

WILLIAMS: Right.

BATTISTA: Why do you have a problem with all of these other games as well?

WILLIAMS: I don't have a problem for them as they stand if you do them at birthday parties and you do them recreationally. I have a problem with them in physical education settings, where the goal is to involve as many students as possible in an activity to teach them as many different kind of skills as possible as you can. And those kinds of games eliminate students immediately. Musical chairs, the student is out immediately and then has to watch the rest of the game. The student who needs the help the most gets eliminated first.

There's not a lot of participation. Usually there's only one ball and 25 children. It would be like trying to teach handwriting to a class and giving out one pen. I like to give out 25 pens or 25 balls in a phys ed class and let everybody learn something.

BATTISTA: Rick, how do you think that it's played in a school environment?

HANETHO: Well, I think the most important thing, and having a background in leisure services, is creativity. One of the teachers mentioned it earlier about having appropriate rules, using appropriate equipment, setting up parameters that encourage participation.

And that's something that we at the National Amateur Dodgeball Association in the Schaumburg Park district are very proud is that we've created a game -- not created a game, but formulated our rules that adds some consistency. The kids are absolutely having a ball in the dodgeball that we play. We haven't had any injuries yet. There's no coaches to get in the way as far as not allowing the kids to have fun and stressing winning at all costs. So this is just an opportunity for kids to play.

And for Luke out there, we have the high school national championships coming out July 27th, so perhaps he can get a team and come up at Schaumburg.

BATTISTA: He's in there with you. All right, I've got to take a break here, and I have one e-mail. We had a little virus in our e- mail system earlier. They're kind of backed up, so bear with us, they'll be kind of trickling in. But Cathy in Massachusetts says, "You can have fun, get exercise and develop major motor skills without hitting others. Really, you can."

The question today: Should schools ban dodgeball? Take the TALKBACK LIVE online viewer vote at cnn.com/talk back. AOL key words is CNN. While there, you can check out my note. Send us an e-mail and be a buddy as well. Use the AOL instant messenger. Those of you who have it, put us on your buddy list. Our name is TALKBACK LIVE. And those of you who don't have it, follow the link to our Web site and download the information.

Up next, has competition becoming a dirty word? We'll ask a sports psychologist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Children's magazine, "Kidsday," asked 113 fifth graders about their favorite gym game. Dodgeball ranked at the top followed by crazy ball, soccer and basketball.

BATTISTA: We're back. Let me go quickly to the audience here, because we kind of -- is it Chuck up there? We kind of cut you off. Go ahead.

CHUCK: Again, I think we teach our children to make out-of- context attacks against whatever games or whatever event that they don't like, when actually, we are supposed to be training our kids to understand the nature of competition and understand the enjoyment of winning and the discomfort of losing, since this is the type of environment that they will live in for the rest of their lives, a competitive environment which their parents live in.

BATTISTA: Thank you, Chuck.

Joining us now is Jack Llewellyn, who is a sports psychologist and consultant to the Atlanta Braves. Jack is the author of "Let Them Play, What Parents, Coaches and Kids Need to Know About Youth Baseball."

Jack, thanks very much for joining us. What do you think about all of this? And are we just overanalyzing this whole thing?

JACK LLEWELLYN, SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST: Yeah, yeah, we are. It's amazing to me that it's become such a story. I think that dodgeball and all the other activities you mentioned before, they've been a part of what we've done in physical education for I guess since PE began.

I don't see any problem with it. I think kids learn things in these types of activities that they don't get in the classroom. I think they learn self-discipline. I think they learn to recover from adversity. I think they learn to really enjoy competition. There are tons of good things that kids get. Kids can get -- these young people in the audience could walk up the steps after the show and fall and break a leg, you know. I mean, there are very few things in life that are accident proof. It's just a part of -- it's a part of growing up. I think it's a great activity.

BATTISTA: You know what, Neil -- I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please correct me -- but it seems to me like you are very concerned about the whole idea of humiliation and loss here. And I'm curious as to why you would want to protect -- I know by instinct we want to protect children from those emotions, but at the same time, aren't they necessary?

WILLIAMS: They are. But school represents probably only about 10 percent of a child's life to the age of 18. And in the rest of his or her life, there are so many opportunities for success and for failure and so many things out of control of adult supervision that children learn earlier on how to accept success, how to accept failure, how to deal with it.

Schools should be a community where students understand each other better, learn about each other's differences, respect each other's differences. And rather than being used as targets for a attack by each other, students should learn to cooperate with each other. And schools then can create the kind of society that we want to have in the future. But as long as schools continue to try to echo what goes on outside in society...

BATTISTA: Well, I don't know that that's where -- I don't know that it's echoing, Jack. I mean, don't kids by nature -- just like if they don't play dodgeball and you leave them on the their own on a playground, they're probably going to come up with some sort of competitive game, aren't they?

LLEWELLYN: Yeah, they do. If you throw a ball out in the center of the room here, pretty soon somebody's going to start playing, and they're going to start competing. I mean, it's probably better that it's taught in the schools. At least they have some rules that they might not have outside the school. I totally disagree with that. I think that the school is the place where kids and parents look for their kids to learn, "how to" deal with competition and how to deal with adversity and those kinds of things. That is in fact the school's responsibility.

I taught for 13 years. I would like to think I did some of those things. I mean, if you're going to take all the competition out, you're going to take all the winning and losing out, then why not bring kids into PE class, give them all a computer, let them simulate a game and eat a dozen doughnuts and die when they're 20. So, you know, my point...

(APPLAUSE)

LLEWELLYN: I just -- we're having the same issues right now in youth sport, you know, with T-ball and with all those kinds of things. There's a certain group of people who would like to see them eliminated. It can't -- you just can't eliminate all the things that are going to be averse to kids.

BATTISTA: Let me get the audience back in on those.

Julie on the phone from the Virgin Islands.

JULIE: Hi, hello. Good afternoon.

BATTISTA: Go ahead.

JULIE: What is next? I think that dodgeball is such a good game. I played it when I was young. People get injured all the time. They get injured with playing baseball, basketball, football. I mean, those sports to me are worse than dodgeball. So why ban an easy game, a safe game? Why ban it? It doesn't make any sense. I don't see any round for banning dodgeball. I just don't see it at all.

BATTISTA: OK. And I've got some girls up here and I want to bring up this issue.

Jessica, you don't like it. Why?

JESSICA: I don't like it because it's painful. But I think it's still a game. And there's other games that you can play if people just hate that game and everybody in the class doesn't want to play it. But if people don't mind that much, then we could just play. And the people that don't want to play can sit out.

BATTISTA: You know what? The main reason that the girls in the audience don't like this sport is because the boys are too rough on them.

I'm kind of curious as to, Rick, why any school district would have high school kids playing dodgeball.

HANETHO: Well, we don't have high school kids playing dodgeball in our schools. We offer tournaments and advertisers that kids can by choice play in, and we've had lots and lots of high school teams throughout the Chicago area play in our activities.

BATTISTA: OK, because I -- we didn't play it in high school when I was growing up either. That was really something you did in elementary school and junior high.

Neil is that -- is it played all through the school years in most districts or...

WILLIAMS: Well, most physical education teacher seem to rely on it as a staple. My problem with dodgeball is that we can do so much better in physical education. I agree that we really shouldn't even be talking about it anymore. We should just be moving on to better activities and different activities. I don't think that dodgeball was given to us as one of our inalienable rights. And it is a hundred years old, and education isn't doing anything anymore that they were doing a hundred years ago. Physical education just needs to move away from it.

BATTISTA: Well, you know, a lot of schools, they don't have a recess anymore, though. That's not right either. The kids aren't getting physical education for a number of reasons.

WILLIAMS: That's correct.

BATTISTA: Recess is being eliminated and a lot of these sports and games and stuff are being eliminated.

Jennifer, you're a teacher.

JENNIFER: Yes. Most times at the school that I'm at, we play dodgeball as rewards, and the kids have the choice of whether they want to play or not. Also, these are kids. Who's instilling the competition in them? I mean, look at the way they are with their grades. They're just as competitive with grades as they are with sports.

(APPLAUSE)

BATTISTA: Well, OK.

Jack, it's...

LLEWELLYN: I guess I have a hard time with the argument that it's so old and been around so long that now we need to replace it. I think there's a lot of things that have been around a long time that are probably pretty good. I think it's a great activity, a great physical activity for kids, a lot more so than a lot of other things that are taught in PE. And the fault here may not be dodgeball at all. It may be that teachers look at dodgeball as an easy out so they don't have to teach. And they blow the whistle and roll out the ball. That may be the real issue here. BATTISTA: You know what, Neil? What would you replace it with if it were eliminated?

WILLIAMS: I'd replace it with a series of activities that took place in different parts of the gymnasium. I'd replace it with a variety of sports-related skills, like soccer skills in one corner, basketball in another corner, jump rope in another corner, gymnastics in another corner -- and have the students moving constantly from area to area. I'm not against competition and I think competition is a wonderful part of physical education, as long as it's done on the lower level, than just having one game where everybody gets to compete against everybody else even though they're mismatched.

BATTISTA: So you wouldn't at least reward them with five minutes of dodgeball if they did everything right?

WILLIAMS: I personally would not. It would be a punishment for me.

BATTISTA: All right, I've got to take another break. Rick Hanetho, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate your perspective on this.

HANETHO: Thank you.

BATTISTA: A little bit later, meet a PE teacher who says dodgeball is from the dark ages. He agrees with Neil. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: Do you think that dodgeball should be taken out of schools?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

QUESTION: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's fun and it's really not all that dangerous as long as the kids don't throw the ball too hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In some cases, yes, because it can be dangerous in some cases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think if you take it too seriously, you can end up hurting somebody. But if it's just for fun with your friends, I think it's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the little guy. I always got creamed, but it was fun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BATTISTA: All right. Let me get a phone call quickly. Mike from Kentucky.

Mike, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Bobbie. I'm a teacher and I'm totally against dodgeball. It's probably connected with kids getting angry at school. And also, with dodgeball, the players are a target in the game. In other games like football or baseball, if a kid gets hit, it's by accident. I'd like to know what the professor...

BATTISTA: Wait, wait, wait. When a linebacker goes at the quarterback and sacks him -- did I get the right defensive lineman? He's going that on purpose.

CALLER: Well, but the point is that you're actually target in dodgeball.

BATTISTA: Well, so is the quarterback.

CALLER: But in football, you're not really a target, but that's part -- in other words, the goal is to get the football -- to you know, to go.

BATTISTA: Right. There's other goals, but a part of playing football, you know -- well you know what?

CALLER: But it's just a part of...

BATTISTA: OK, you know what, Mike? You play tag and human beings are targets, and people go too far with that.

CALLER: Bobbie, I've been in gym -- when I went to the school, OK, depending on the type of gym you're in, it could be a small gym, the kid who's throwing the ball could be a gigantic jock, and you could just be like -- I was a nerd, you know, and I was just there, and I was afraid to go to gym. I was always being hit by a ball and these kids could throw those balls real rough.

BATTISTA: Well, you know what? I'm sorry for that experience because that obviously -- you know that's the dodgeball that we're talking about, that's unsupervised. And, you know, it shouldn't be played that way, and you shouldn't be forced to play. I think everyone agrees with that. All right.

Up to John -- is that John? I can't see up that far.

JOHN: Yeah. Just to pick up on the comment of the caller, he said he was a nerd and he was afraid to get hit. And hey, as a jock, I was afraid to go to the computer, OK? I mean, every kid in America is going to have to face their fears today. And this is a competitive society we live in. We're going to compete to get into college. We're going to compete for jobs in corporate America. We're going to compete in a lot of things.

Neil made a statement before, which is absolutely ridiculous, and he said that the we were doing in schools a hundred years ago we don't do today. Why do we do them in sports? Things we did a hundred years ago was read, write, OK? We do these things today in school -- I have five children, and I certainly would rather have my 8-year-old daughter playing dodgeball, being supervised, than have four different people in four corners of the room teaching a dangerous gymnastics move without anybody there supervising, because there's only one teacher for every 25 kids in America today. His argument makes no sense whatsoever. This is what made America great: competition.

BATTISTA: Well, let me pick up on that and ask Jack about the fact that: Isn't it possible though that there are some kids who are not comfortable with the idea of competition, do not feel that they have to, you know, grow up that way? And these are the kids that are having a problem.

LLEWELLYN: Well, I think that everybody likes competition. I think that there's some kids who probably get it in music and you know, or in science or in some other area which is fine. There's -- I'm not saying that they should or should not play dodgeball. I just think that -- what we're talking about now is a teacher issue, not a dodgeball issue. It's a teacher issue.

If kids don't choose to participate or want to, then it's the teacher's responsibility to say, "Fine, then you go do something else." Certainly not gymnastics in a corner for heaven's sakes, but do something else that's going to keep you busy and you know, keep you doing something physically. So I think what we drifted into here is more a teacher issue than really a dodgeball issue.

BATTISTA: What about that issue, Neil -- that it's really more the way it's being taught and used?

WILLIAMS: I think that you're correct about that, that I wouldn't mind seeing dodgeball in some places like Rick's playgrounds. I think that's a good place for it. Competitive dodgeball sounds to me like a good alternative. I think it's just when you get students into a situation where they don't want be participating, aren't as gifted as the other children they are participating with, and are at risk of harm in doing so.

And I would like to clear up something else. When I talk about gymnastics, I am talking about educational gymnastics, which are very low risk and very low danger to the students, and they can do these things by themselves.

BATTISTA: Wait, I was a competitive gymnast all my life, what is educational -- what do you mean by that?

WILLIAMS: Educational is low-level balancing activities, group balancing activities, group problem solving. I think when people talk about physical education -- and this is probably the heart of the whole issue -- people think of athletics.

Athletics is something that influences physical education, it's sort of the tail that wags the dog. Physical educations needs to be thought of as something that is preparation for a lifetime of activity as an adult, and that usually means things like jogging, running, individual sports, aerobic dance. It doesn't mean professional football or even varsity football, which most people don't do after high school.

BATTISTA: Let me take -- OK. Let me take a phone call from Dawn in Washington state.

DAWN: Hi. I am -- I am definitely against the dodgeball issue. I -- again, I sucked as a young girl. I was always hit in the face. And now, as I have three kids in school, one is a girl, 10, and one is 9, a boy, they both wear glasses, they both have played dodgeball, and they have both been hit in the face, had their glasses thrown off of their face and broken.

P.E. teacher, in the case of my son, was told to get over it, and that was it. And so, I think that it's definitely something that is not being taught the way it should be. I think it's too aggressive, and in the day and age when we are trying to stop aggression -- in fact, in Washington state, they are trying to do the anti bullying thing -- I think this just brings the bully out in kids, and nothing is done about it.

LLEWELLYN: I just -- I think that -- I have an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, both daughters who I talked with today when I found out I was coming here, and the 8-year-old said: "Yeah, we play every day," and I said: "Does anybody get hurt?" "Yeah, Eddie cries every day." And I said: "Well, what does Eddie do the next day?" "What do you mean, he plays again."

So, kids are much more durable than we give them credit for. I mean, we need to -- we just need to, you know, supervise it, but let them play, let them enjoy themselves. They're not cognizant of the competition. They're not cognizant of all these things that we have talked about, unless we tell them as adults that they need to be. We need to let them play and enjoy themselves.

BATTISTA: Quickly, Neil, go ahead, you wanted to say something?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, kids just don't have the understanding that they can opt out of a physical education class. They are intimidated by the whole process, and they trust their teachers. If the teacher says, this is good for you, Jimmy, Jimmy will get in there and get hit in the face again, and cry and then come back the next day. So, I don't think that is really a good argument for the game.

BATTISTA: All right. Neil Williams and Jack Llewellyn, thank you both very much for being with us today.

As we to break here, don't forget to be a buddy, put us on our AOL instant messenger buddy list and send us a message. Our name is TALKBACK LIVE. Don't have instant messenger? Go to our Web site, click on the yellow icon and follow the directions.

Our next guest says dodgeball has no place in any school setting. Find out why. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: Welcome back. We are talking about banning dodgeball. Joining us now is Steve Malzberg, radio talk show host at WABC in New York and a columnist at Newsmax.com. Also with us, Paul Zientarski, chairman of the physical education department at Naperville Central high school in Illinois.

Paul, let me start with you.

PAUL ZIENTARSKI, NAPERVILLE CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL: OK.

BATTISTA: What -- you don't think it has a role anywhere in the physical education curriculum, right, in the schools at all?

ZIENTARSKI: Absolutely not. There is no place in the phys ed curriculum for dodgeball. There are so many things that we have evolved beyond dodgeball in today's day and age that it really doesn't serve a purpose. Educationally, there is no value to it that you can't receive in any other kind of a game that you play, whether that game is basketball or volleyball or any other kind of competition.

We are certainly not looking to ban competition. As has been said already, competition is what has made our country as good as it is. That's an important factor here, and that has to be taken into account. But by the same token, with the health care crisis that we have in our country today, we have so many adults and students who are inactive.

And so we, as former phys ed teachers, have kind of created this with some of the things we've done in the past. Today's day and age, we need to do things like making sure students understand how to exercise properly and correctly. In our setting, in our district, from elementary school to high school, when students do aerobic kind of workouts, they do it with heart rate monitors, so they know that they're in there training heart rate zones in order to do themselves good.

BATTISTA: Do they do -- do the younger kids do anything that is just for fun?

ZIENTARSKI: Well, sure, every -- a lot of things we do for fun. I mean, we still play kickball and thing like that, but when we do those kinds of things, we do them on a small-scale level. So, if for example, even at the high school, if we are going to play softball, we won't play 11 on 11 softball. We will play four on four, or three on three. That way, kids are involved in it.

It's amazing because we have had students tell us, you can't play four on four baseball, but we all did that growing up, and kids don't know how to do that anymore. So, four on four baseball, yes -- right field is out, pitchers hands are out, if you are on base, you have to have an invisible runner come up because it's your turn to bat -- whatever the case may be. And so, all small-sided games are what needs to be played.

We don't need to spend all of our time with watching all of the kids dribble a soccer ball the length of the line, and then take that soccer ball back to the other line. We need 27 kids out there with 27 balls, all dribbling in opposite directions of each other, so they don't hit each other, and keep kids active.

BATTISTA: So, basically you are rethinking this whole idea of phys ed. Steve, do we need to do that to some degree?

STEVE MALZBERG, WABC RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, I don't think so. I mean, I played dodgeball at PS215 and David A. Boody (ph) junior high school in Brooklyn growing up, and I'm OK. Did I get hurt? Maybe. I took a ball to the shoulder, or the head, or the face. But that's part of it.

This guest of yours, respectfully let me say, it sounds like you are trying to take the fun out of physical education. First of all, a lot of states and schools have banned dodgeball within the school curriculum. There are clubs now that kids come to school early just to play dodgeball. That's how much some of them love it, and still there are those who want to ban even that from the child's choice.

I just don't understand you. You want everybody dribbling a ball constantly on their own, at no significance to it, softball with four people -- why not have 11 on 11? Teach them the game, teach them the competition, teach them how it's really done.

If dodgeball gets out some aggression, then all the better. Let them take out their aggression by throwing a rubber ball at each other in an organized fashion, as opposed to fist fights or something worse!

BATTISTA: Paul?

ZIENTARSKI: Yes.

BATTISTA: Are you -- are -- is that a way of thinking that -- are we wrong about that?

ZIENTARSKI: Well, you can make this as an emotional issue as you want, and I can get revved up just as much as he can about how things need to be.

But again, as been mentioned, we don't do things the same way we used to simply because it was OK for us. It's -- the example I use is we used to teach math on an abacus or with a slide rule. Do we still do it that way? No. We use calculators now.

Don't tell me things aren't changing. They're constantly changing. And as I as a phys ed teacher in the business for 31 years, if I were to continue doing things that I did 31 years ago, or any of us did anything we were still doing 31 years ago, do you think we would still be in the business we are today?

MALZBERG: Well, let me just say that change is not always a good thing. First of all, in New York City, talk about math, 2/3 of fourth, fifth and sixth-graders failed the math test. They can't do math at grade level. So maybe they should have stuck to some old rules.

And talking about changes, today a 5-year-old kisses a 6-year-old girl on the cheek in a schoolyard, they call the cops, sexual harassment. A kid goes bang-, they throw him out of school. They call the cops. They arrest him. I mean, do you think all change is good? What's wrong with letting things stay the way they were?

I was on this show a month ago. One school in New York bans Mother's and Father's Day because there might be a kid who doesn't have a mother or father. How far do you want to carry this?

BATTISTA: Let's not go revisit that one again.

MALZBERG: No, but that's part of the pattern.

BATTISTA: I know. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I'm kidding.

MALZBERG: OK.

BATTISTA: Let me take a quick call from Harrison in Missouri and then I've got to go to break. Harrison, go ahead.

HARRISON: Yes, you know, I'm a variety athlete in three different sports, and dodgeball taught the competition, the basic building blocks for life, and I use it in everything I do. I'm a straight A student. And you know, it's just -- it's competition. Everything in this world is competition.

BATTISTA: All right, Harrison, thanks very much for your call. Got to take a break. We'll continue here in just a moment.

In Boston, Massachusetts, a high-school principal attracted nationwide attention for refereeing a fist-fight between two students. Curtis Wells took the teenage boys to a science classroom in the school basement and let them fight for 10 minutes, fearing they would turn to weapons if not given this outlet. The unhurt boys shook hands at the end of the fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: Let me go to the audience here and Ashley, who is not a fan of dodgeball.

ASHLEY: No, I'm not. I feel very strongly that dodgeball should be taken out of schools, because I remember, when I was a kid, I was severely hurt and the boy was not punished, and I didn't have a choice to play the game. I was made to play -- they said, "You have to play the game." So I played the game, and the boy hurt me and he was not punished.

BATTISTA: What happened?

ASHLEY: He...

(CROSSTALK)

BATTISTA: What happened? You got a bruise on your leg.

ASHLEY: I got a welt. The red leather ball thingee, it gave me a welt on my leg, and I had to stay home in school for a couple of days. And I feel very strongly -- I mean, if you're going to play it for competitiveness and like learn sportsmanship, whatever, you know, that's fine. But whenever it becomes violent and your intention is to hurt somebody, like his intention was to hurt me, that's when I don't like it. And I feel very strongly that you should not play it in school.

MALZBERG: I don't think anybody should be forced to play it, Bobbie. I think if a child doesn't want to play it, they shouldn't have to play it.

BATTISTA: I'm kind of amazed at how many stories we're hearing where the kids are forced to play it. I don't quite understand that either -- Scott.

SCOTT: Earlier during a break, Ashley brought up a point about dodgeball like promoting violence, I think, but I think if kids think that, well, I can go tomorrow and go to school tomorrow, and go to phys ed, hit somebody with a dodgeball, then they don't feel the need to like, say, bring a gun to school and shoot somebody. I see it as an alternative to other forms of school violence.

BATTISTA: Paul, how do you propose that children work through their violence or aggressiveness if they don't necessarily do it on the playground or in gym class?

ZIENTARSKI: The controlling of violence or those kinds of reactions by students, that needs to be a trained reaction or a trained activity. And I think a lot of times what we're doing now in phys ed classes is moving into what we call "adventure education," where students have to learn to work together cooperatively to get through a different element, and use that experience and the processing that took place in completing a task to understand that there are differences, that there are different ideas about completing that task, and it's OK to risk and fail and then to try something else different. And...

MALZBERG: And that's the classroom, sir. What -- the gym is for phys ed. Phys ed. Where's the phys in that scenario? I just don't hear it.

ZIENTARSKI: You need to -- you need to come to our school and you need to see the kids sweating and perspiring in our school. That's where the phys is. The phys isn't just because it's fun.

You know what, if kids came to school and watched videos all the time, that would be fun, too. But do we want to educationally do that to our kids and just say, all right, come in early in the morning and we'll put on some videos for you and you'll have fun and everything should be fun?

MALZBERG: No, but there's nothing wrong...

ZIENTARSKI: Well, that's what you're -- but that's what you're proposing.

MALZBERG: No, there's nothing wrong... ZIENTARSKI: You're proposing that everything should be fun.

MALZBERG: No, I never said everything, but there's nothing wrong with breaking up in science and math and reading and history and art with 40 minutes of physical activity that's fun.

ZIENTARSKI: I agree. Physical activity, and it can be fun. It doesn't have to be tedious.

Our school district was No. 1 in the world in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) science math scores test. Singapore -- we beat everybody. And...

MALZBERG: What does that have to do with phys ed?

ZIENTARSKI: Our schools in our system, every day our students have quality physical education programs. We don't have to sacrifice phys ed for academic subjects or anything else. I'm against that.

BATTISTA: I'm going...

ZIENTARSKI: You're finding -- we're finding out that brain research, kids need to move in order to develop their brains. So we need to have movement.

I've been able to watch some of the films on the kids playing dodgeball in this studio and I see kids standing around or just moving away from a ball instead of being -- moving constantly. That's what phys ed needs to be about. Not about just throwing the ball at each other.

MALZBERG: Competition and strategy.

ZIENTARSKI: Competition should be there.

MALZBERG: And aggression, and winning and losing, and having to sit out and try better next time.

BATTISTA: Again, it goes back to the way it's taught and the way it's being handled, I think, in the school. But you know what? I'm going to interrupt here, because it always amazes me who happens to be in the audience when we're doing this specific subject.

And we have Robert and Arthur in the back row here. You guys are -- you have shirts on that are like what -- what are you? Like professional dodgeball guys or something? I mean, this is incredible. I didn't know they had it.

ROBERT: That's correct. We represent the World Pro dodgeball Association. And first of all...

(APPLAUSE)

ROBERT: Look, guys, dodgeball in the playground is fantastic. It's an opportunity for kids to vent their anger and frustration and confusion at that age in the spirit of fun and competition. Sometimes it goes wrong. There are always exceptions to a rule.

What we've done is learned from the benefits of this sport and we've developed a professional adult league where we play in the spirit of fun and competition to vent our anger and frustration. It's a simple program, and it's been a real effective means for us to have fun.

BATTISTA: Arthur, quickly.

ARTHUR: Yes. We've been real amazed by how many people really truly love dodgeball. Every country in the world has their own version of it. And by regulating it and making rules and creating strategies and teams and teamwork, we're kind of trying to take it to the next level where it's not just chaotic and kids are standing around on the playground. They have an integral part of each game and a role in the game and winning and share in the win. So that's -- it's important for us to kind of bring it to that next level and let it be more organized and legitimatize it so it's not so criticized in school.

MALZBERG: Bobbie, the whole thing here is not to elevate -- that's fine what they do. But nobody's here to elevate dodgeball to the highest level, that it's a savior of everything, it should be played all the time. But banning it is just insane.

BATTISTA: Well, I've got to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to ask Paul if there's any way that the game could be tempered or changed to make it acceptable. And we'll find out how you voted on our online viewer vote when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: All right. Let's check our online viewer vote. The question was "Should schools ban dodgeball?" And 84 percent of the folks are saying no, 15 percent are saying yes.

And clearly by our audience today, Paul, too, which just happens to be a lot of high school kids, it's a very popular thing to have in school in some way, shape or form. Should we be trying to correct the problem from that aspect maybe rather than trying to ban it?

ZIENTARSKI: I think what's important to understand is that people are not really against dodgeball. It's just that it should not ever be part of a physical education curriculum.

There is no value to dodgeball. I mean, if you're talking about competition, I'm all for competition. I've been coaching for 31 years. I love competition. Competition is what we should be about.

If you're talking because kids are getting hurt, kids are going to get hurt in phys ed class. I've had kids fall on somebody's ankle while hitting a volleyball over a net and break an ankle. So I've seen all kinds of injuries in 31 years.

So those aren't the reasons we're banning volleyball (sic). It just has no educational value. If we are about...

BATTISTA: Dodgeball. You said volleyball there. You meant dodgeball. I know you meant dodgeball.

MALZBERG: Can I...

BATTISTA: We'll have a whole another show going there on volleyball.

Paul, we're completely out of time. I'm sorry. Paul Zientarski, thank you very much for joining us.

ZIENTARSKI: Thank you.

BATTISTA: And Steve Malzberg, thank you.

MALZBERG: Thank you, Bobbie.

BATTISTA: Coming up next on NEWS SITE, the latest on that missing intern, Chandra Levy. Join us again tomorrow at 3:00 Eastern for more TALKBACK LIVE. I'll see you then.

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