Nfld. & Labrador·Access Denied

'The adrenalin of getting hit': Able-bodied, disabled players face off on dodgeball court

Dive, duck, dodge! There is high praise for a St. John's league that welcomes players with a range of abilities.

Wheelchair athletes say they enjoy the inclusive Dodge Dive Donate league

Danielle Arbour is a disabled athlete who also plays wheelchair basketball at Easter Seals. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Danielle Arbour doesn't mind being hit with the hard thud of a dodgeball — actually, she relishes in it.

The 22-year-old is a wheelchair athlete who takes part in the Dodge Dive Donate dodgeball league, a fundraiser for Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador that started in September 2016.

It features 12 teams that compete at the Easter Seals gym, including CBC NL's very own The Deadly Coopers. (Full disclosure: I play on the team and can wholeheartedly say that getting hit by a dodgeball hurts!)

CBC NL also has its own team in the dodgeball league, The Deadly Coopers. (CBC)

Organizers say the St. John's-based league is the only one in the country that includes both able-bodied and disabled players.

"I love it, it's so much fun," Arbour said.

"I'm very athletic, so I just love the aggression of any kind of sport."

Playing in a mixed league

Arbour said she enjoys how inclusive the league is, but thinks able-bodied players felt a bit awkward when the league first started.

"I think you are automatically intimidated by a chair," she said. 

"But once they got used to me and my nature and how I play, I think it became a lot easier for the other athletes to be able to throw the balls at me and hit me and hit me hard."

Arbour, who also plays wheelchair basketball, said being an athlete in a wheelchair is no different than those who aren't in one.

"We train, we fuel our bodies with the right food, we keep up our day-to-day activity just as an ice-hockey player would or a softball player," she said.

Working on inclusion

Megan Fitzgerald plays on Arbour's team, Dora's Bawlin', and has recently signed on as the league's director of inclusion.

She has been involved in setting some rules for disabled players, to make sure there's an even playing field for everyone.

Organizers say the St. John's-based league is the only one in the country that includes both able-bodied and disabled players. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"We don't add very many rules. Honestly right now, it's just where they can be hit," Fitzgerald said, adding an extra player can help hand them the balls once a certain number of players are left on the floor.

"But other than that really, all the rules are the same, and that's what they want: they want to be as equal as everybody else on the floor."

Fitzgerald said she loves playing on a team with disabled players.

Megan Fitzgerald is the director of inclusion for the Dodge Dive Donate league, and she also plays on Dora's Bawlin'. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"When we do play a different team that doesn't have that experience [of playing against wheelchair athletes], it's a teaching opportunity for me to kind of say, 'Hey, they're the same as everybody else.'"

"All the teams have been amazing, and very inclusive with all of our players," she said.

'I want to get hit, I want the adrenalin'

Hayley Redmond is another wheelchair athlete on on Dora's Bawlin'. The 26-year-old said it's nice for able-bodied and disabled players to be on the court together, but there was an adjustment period.

Hayley Redmond says she loves the rush of adrenalin when she's hit with a dodgeball. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"No one wanted to hit me at first, and I was like, 'If I'm just going to sit in the middle of the floor, it's no fun,'" she said. 

"I want to get hit, I want the adrenalin."

Redmond said it didn't hurt when she was hit for the first time.

"Oh I thought it was the funniest thing in the world!" she said.


Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a reporter and producer with CBC News in St. John's.