For some unholy reason, they made me the middle and high school P.E. teacher. If you’ve ever known me, and especially if you knew me in middle or high school, you know this was a horrible mistake. P.E. is first thing in the morning for thirty minutes. The kids troop in late in snowpants and boots, and they want nothing but to play kickball, so I let them. I don’t want to pick a fight first thing in the morning, and I don’t care what they do as long as it’s somewhat physically active. I’ve resigned myself to kickball for the time being.
Kickball was a thing at my school, too, and throughout every spring there was a constant dread in my mind of the hideously embarrassing moment when I’d come up to kick and everyone would move in close, chuckling. It sounds like such a cliche woe, but it happened every time we played (and we played a lot) for the five years I attended that school. I was such a joke in all things sports, and rightly so. I really did suck. It hurt though. I definitely have some organized sports ptsd, and here I am a gym teacher. Blah.
Venetie kickball is a little different from what I was expecting when I tossed them the ball the first time. Because they have to play in their pintsized gym, and often with very few players, who range in age from twelve to twenty, the rules are modified. It took me a few days to figure out what was going on. It’s actually pretty genius: I’ve seen the kids make it work with as few as two players.
- There are six bases: the four corners of the gym, plus the two halfway marks on the long sides.
- The pitcher rolls the ball from anywhere. When the pitcher has the ball, the runners can’t run.
- You (almost? I think I saw it once) never get an out by tagging a base. You have to hit the runner with the ball. No head shots. They throw viciously hard, but the risk is understood. No injuries yet.
- If the offense runs out of kickers, the runner closest to home is forced to run. Since the defense can’t tag bases, they have a pretty good chance of dodging the ball and making it home to kick. This is how they manage with only two players.
- If it hits the ceiling, it’s an out.
- If it doesn’t cross halfcourt, it’s a reroll.
When it gets hot, instead of taking off their sweatshirts and snowpants, the kids open the fire door and let the cold air into the gym. Sometimes, since the door is in the corner with third base, someone will wing the ball at a runner and it will fly through the open door into the still dark schoolyard. Inevitably, half the kids will run out and track snow all over the gym floor when they return. I saw one really great wipeout, but the girl got up laughing.
That’s pretty much it. It’s fun to watch because there are these big, athletic high school boys playing with these tiny, gangly sixth grade girls, and it somehow comes out pretty even. There are built in mechanisms that make the game work for the funny situation we have out here. I like that. It’s modified and unique like so many other things in this place.