Sometimes innovation comes from putting a new spin on a classic. That’s exactly how Appalachian State University’s new aquatics program was born.

Because the facility caters to college students, Assistant Director for Aquatics Cheryl Eddins always looks for programs that don’t require purchasing expensive equipment.

The facility already owned paddleboards, so Eddins decided to try something different with them — Paddleboard Dodgeball. Eddins asked her program manager to make up some rules for the new game, then the staff tested it before an official launch.

Rules of the game

The game works with two teams of four players.

Each team occupies one lane in the deep end, with an empty lane separating them. Their paddleboards are anchored to a lane line. Those standing on paddleboards are called throwers, and they chuck the dodgeballs. Teams have two to eight retrievers, who grab the balls that land in the water and give them to the throwers. “If the balls go out on the pool deck, the balls are dead ...” Eddins said.

Throwers can either stand or kneel on the paddleboard, depending on their balance level. The same dodgeball rules apply: If you get hit between the shoulder and knee, or if you catch the ball, you’re out. You’re also out if you fall off the paddleboard.

The team make sure to place the paddleboards far enough in the center of the pool so that someone can fall and not worry about hitting a wall. “You play until whoever’s left standing is the team that wins, and then you switch out the retrievers and throwers,” Eddins explains.

Paddleboard Dodgeball is a bit more challenging than regular dodgeball because it requires balance and endurance. Each game lasts about 10 to 15 minutes, which gives retrievers a chance to rest from swimming and treading water.

All players must know how to swim. Weaker swimmers are offered jogging belts to help them tread water. There is also always a lifeguard on duty to supervise.

Gradual groundswell

The early games didn’t see much of a turnout, with only six to eight people coming. So Eddins paused the program during summer, when the facility was short of lifeguards and staff.

When they opened the program again in fall, Eddins didn’t expect a large turnout. In fact, she didn’t plan on being there that evening, and told staff they could handle the few who would come. Instead, 30 people came to play.

“They had so much fun with it,” Eddins says. The next game saw a turnout of 20 to 30, so they offered it once a month.

The new program is a way to introduce more students to the aquatics center at the university. “I think we brought in some students that wouldn't have otherwise come in,” Eddins says.

In the future, she hopes to expand the program and attract other community members.