When a group from Castleton State College broke the Guinness World Record for longest dodgeball marathon last April, Rob Immel knew he had to do something about it.
This weekend, Immel and his amateur dodgeball team, Upstate Empire, will compete with members of the Hometown Dodgeball league as they attempt to play dodgeball for over 43 hours. There will also participants who were recruited from New York City, and even one from Japan, who Immel met at the Dodgeball World Championships.
“The record is 41 (hours) and I thought 43 sounded better,” Immel said, simply.
Three years ago, Immel and other dodgeball enthusiasts from the Capital Region set the record at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany by playing for a continuous 31 hours.
Immel, a physical education teacher at Ballston Spa High School, is a team U.S.A dodgeball captain as well as a rules chairman and a member of the leadership council for the National Dodgeball League. The 2003 graduate of Cortland picked up the sport in his college days before Hometown Dodgeball started locally in 2005.
Aside from another shot at getting in the Guinness record books, the sport has opened up many doors.
“Once I started Hometown Dodgeball and I saw the impact I could have locally, I wanted to see what else we could do regionally, nationally, globally, and kind of go bigger and bigger,” Immel said. “I wanted to spread the sport the right way, the way it should be played.”
As a member of the U.S. team, which plays at the Dodgeball World Championships in Vegas every August, Immel has played against teams from Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and British Columbia. The sport has allowed him to make some of his best friends to date and meet people from all over the world, including one Japanese player who will be participating Friday in just his second trip to the United States.
“It’s not a goof-off game,” Immel said. “Yeah it’s funny to watch and funny stuff happens, but the sport is amazing. I just started thinking globally. We started researching a couple things and said, ‘Hey what can we do? Hey, let’s try [the Guinness record].’”
Guinness has strict rules for a record. There needs to be two teams with the same 10 people competing throughout. Six individuals play at a time per team using the correct rules. The balls will be lined up directly after each completed game to abide by the record rules of continuous play.
When the opening game kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. at the Sportsplex of Halfmoon there will be a referee ensuring those correct rules are followed.
“If you don’t (strictly follow the rules), Guinness will not award you anything,” Immel said. “They’re obviously the highest upper echelon of record keeping.
Another rule states that participants must be 18 or older to compete. The average age of the 20 participants, 16 men and four women, is 31. Immel, 31, and the team had a dinner Saturday before continuing training Monday.
“We’re sitting around the table and I said, ‘This group of people was brought together by throwing a rubber ball at each other as hard as they can,’” he said.
In order to break the record, the teams will have to play to around 3 p.m. Sunday. What Immel refers to as Camp 43 will be set up courtside with sleeping bags, air mattresses and coolers.
“It’s a huge mental challenge,” Immel said. “You have to go in knowing you’re not going to beat the clock. You’re there the entire time. I keep telling people who haven’t done it that you have to live in every play and enjoy every hour as a little celebration. Obviously 43 hours of anything is tough and grueling. Playing the sport the way that we play it is going to be just a step above.”
Anyone who wants to watch can come at all hours of the day free of charge. There will be a vendor open for the complete 43 hours and an opportunity to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Wounded Warrior set themselves apart from other charities with the immediate impact for the soldiers who are coming home,” Immel said. “It’s a great cause and people are definitely donating.”
Almost $1,000 had already been donated to the cause as of Monday.
Immel expects there to be over 1,000 intense games of competitive dodgeball played this weekend and he’s looking forward to having people show up and watch.
“Aside from the wear and tear of your body, just when nobody’s there and it’s just an empty gym, and you’re doing the same thing you’ve been doing for hours and hours, it just gets tiresome,” Immel said. “Like when you’re on a road trip and you’ve been driving for 12 hours it gets a little hallucinating. What helps us a lot is people being there. Even if it’s at midnight and there are four or five people there, at least somebody’s there so we can play for them and they’re supporting us.”
To contact the reporter on this story email [email protected]