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Bounce house


Trampolines add a twist to classic dodgeball

With the new year, come those annual resolutions (whether we keep them or not) to get in better shape. But for those who can't bear the bitter temperatures Mother Nature deals us and who hate the traditional gym, there is a familiar, yet extreme option: indoor trampoline dodgeball.

Picture the stadium from the comedy "Dodgeball." Now take out the ridiculous characters, and add dozens of trampolines up to the walls, and you've got your standard trampoline dodgeball court. Locally, Sky Zone (155 Bellwood Drive) and Altitude Trampoline Park (3333 West Henrietta Road) are often packed with players doing their best to "dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge."

Indoor trampoline dodgeball has been a part of Sky Zone since it opened. "That's one of our staples," says Valerie Berger, a spokesperson for the trampoline park. Sky Zone opened its first park in the early 2000's, and expanded to Rochester about two years ago.

Berger says the park's kids dodgeball leagues (for ages 8 to 10 and 11 to 13), have become hugely popular. "They get to go out and bounce around and burn off all that energy that kids have," Berger says. In the fall, Sky Zone had to cap the league at about 50 participants, and registration is already filling up fast for the Tuesday night league starting February 23 (skyzone.com/Rochester).

For adults, popularity comes and goes with the seasons. "It definitely has had its ups and downs — no pun intended," Berger says. She adds that things are picking back up in the winter months.

Sky Zone offers adult drop-in dodgeball on Sunday nights for those who want to play regular games or anyone who just wants to see what it's about. Every week, about a dozen or so adults show up, pay their $12 fee, meet their teammates for the night, play for an hour and a half, and then scamper off into the snowy abyss of Rochester's winter.

Among them is Mike Johnson, who started playing about a year ago. "My buddy told me about it and I love dodgeball, so it just made sense," he says.

The rules are essentially the same as regular dodgeball: hit your opponents with balls to get them out of the game while dodging those thrown at you; catch a ball and the other player is out and brings one of your teammates back in — all the while you're bouncing off the floor and walls of the arena. One of the main differences is if a ball hits any part of the court (the trampolines), it's considered a dead ball — if it hits you or you catch it off a bounce, it doesn't count.

"Yeah, the rules are pretty much the same," Johnson says, "but the trampolines add a whole other level of intensity. You're bouncing everywhere, and the dodgeballs are bouncing everywhere, and it's just nuts."

Sky Zone has three trampoline courts to play dodgeball on, each made up of multiple mini trampolines. The largest court can accommodate a 14-on-14 match, while the smallest court is reserved for 5-on-5 games.

Johnson says the hardest thing is keeping your balance and staying focused. "You might be trying to bounce off one of the side trampolines and then all of a sudden — wham! You get hit because you're not watching the other team." Players wear special socks ($2 for a reusable pair) with grips on the bottom to help with traction and prevent injuries.

"The adult dodgeball is always really intense," Berger says. "Like a regular dodgeball game, but on steroids because you're bouncing everywhere, the dodgeballs are bouncing everywhere and sometimes it's hard to keep up." Despite that, there are no prerequisites to join. "We have people who are hardcore athletes and then we have those who just want to come out and have a good time."

Johnson used to play soccer in high school and says he started playing dodgeball to get in shape. "I also just wanted to get back into team sports. There's something about the comradery and the fun of it that makes me feel like I'm 16 again."

Berger says that youthful feeling has helped spur interest in the extreme sport, including Sky Zone's annual tournament. Registration is underway for their next one on January 31. Teams that advance from Rochester go on to play in regionals and eventually a national competition for cash prizes.

Sky Zone isn't the only gig in town for those looking to bounce around. Altitude Trampoline Park (altituderochester.com) also has offers pick-up games and leagues for extreme dodgeball enthusiasts. Teams are even encouraged to create their own costumes — just maybe not as extreme as those worn by Vince Vaughn or Ben Stiller in "Dodgeball."

Both parks also offer fitness classes, birthday parties and special events for those just looking to work up a sweat and keep warm this winter.

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