MS. REBECCA SHEIR
All right, so now that we are all fueled up on bialys, let's burn some of that energy with a little dodge ball. Surely you remember the sport from when you were a kid, right? You run around hurling a big rubber ball at other players, all the while trying to avoid getting hit yourself. Many of us would probably prefer to leave our dodge ball days firmly in the past, but not Paniz Asgari.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Not only does the Washingtonian moonlight as somewhat of a dodge ball professional, she's become one of the best dodge ball players in the country. She recently showed reporter Lauren Ober a few of her signature moves.
MS. LAUREN OBER
So, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that when you hear the word dodge ball, you think about the time you got drilled in the face with a red rubber ball on the playground. Or maybe you think of the classic Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller movie, "Dodge Ball: A True Underdog Story." But that's not what comes to mind for Paniz Asgari. When she thinks about dodge ball, she thinks strategy and training and world championships.
MS. PANIZ ASGARI
For me, it's a super fun sport that I happen to excel at.
The 29-year-old D.C. resident was recently selected to the 2013 US Women's National Dodge Ball Team. And at the end of September, Asgari and her teammates head to New Zealand for the world championships. Yep, Asgari is flying halfway around the world to play dodge ball for her country.
I mean, can we at all acknowledge there is like an inherent ridiculousness a little bit. Like, a silliness to it, right? Because it's a playground sport, which is not to take away, you know, any sort of skill involved, but, like, when you tell people, hey, I'm gonna go to New Zealand and play dodge ball, people are like, what? Right? Like, they raise an eyebrow. Or no, am I, like, totally offending you by saying that?
I'm not offended that you think some people might think dodge ball is silly. It can be silly, but get on the court, come play with me, and we'll see if you end up thinking it's still silly.
So, I take her up on that. We head to the racket ball courts at the Georgetown Law Center gym where she runs a coed dodge ball league. She's going to demonstrate a few moves that landed her on the national team, but before we start playing, I try to assess her skills. How fast can you throw it?
A hundred miles an hour. As fast as I can get people out.
Yikes. First, we begin with throwing. Asgari demonstrates a couple of techniques.
So, what I use is the sidearm technique. It's perplexing to the person that's being thrown at because they don't know what direction you're going in. Now, if you watch...
That was so loud.
And listen. You have so much more torque with it, just the force that you can throw it with, because it's your whole body motion, as opposed to just your arm.
Then she lets me have a go.
You're, you're going overhand.
Try to go from the side.
Okay. Go from the side. All right.
But not low up. It's gotta be from high to low.
It has to be from high to low.
You're signing up for next season. You're gonna be great.
We go through some of Asgari's flashier moves, including some sneaky behind the back action. Then she does the no look.
Some people do the no look throw.
Which is like...
See that? I'm not catching that.
That's not hard.
That wasn't hard.
After a few more basics, we play for real.
I'm taking it easy. I don't wanna go all out.
Lauren, are you ready?
I'm ready. Ooh. That got me. Asgari proves she is definitely no slouch on the dodge ball court. In her regular league play, she generally is the last person standing on her team. But she's sort of predestined to be good. Dodge ball is in her blood. Asgari is Persian. She was born in Tehran and immigrated to the US with her family when she was two and a half. And apparently Persians love dodge ball.
Their version of the game is called vasati. The Persian version of dodge ball is where you have one team that's in the middle, almost like monkey in the middle, but instead of throwing the ball over every time so that you can't get it, they try and hit you. And so that second team is split on either side of you, and they'll throw the ball back and forth. Sometimes, they'll throw it over and you just keep playing until they get everybody out. I've been groomed for this sport. I have.
Vasati is still really popular in the Persian ex-pat community. Asgari remembers playing all the time when she was growing up in northern Virginia.
Picnics, barbecues, every chance I ever got, I played dodge ball with friends, family, and I said, hey, I know what I'm doing. I'm coming into this with an unfair advantage.
Asgari's parents fled Iran during the height of the Iran/Iraq War. In Iran, her father was an architect. Her mother was a nurse. When they left their lives in Tehran and landed in the US, they had to start over. Asgari's mother got a job handing out Yellow Pages for five cents a book. Her father found work driving a taxi.
My parents were upper middle class, educated Iranians. And they left everything. They left it all and came to the US. I am forever grateful for their sacrifice, for them to give up everything that they ever knew to make my life absolutely amazing.
And a big part of that amazing life is dodge ball. Asgari takes the sport seriously and leaves it all on the court. Her immigrant parents taught her that.
My take away has been to never be lazy, to never take anything for granted. And so there is no option to quit.
So, watch out New Zealand. Asgari's coming to drop bombs. Dodge bombs. I'm Lauren Ober.
Paniz Asgari competes in the World Dodge Ball Federation Invitational on September 27th. You can see photos of her playing dodge ball and learn more about the tournament on our website, metroconnection.org.
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