Dodgeball with Pacca

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Sports class at Pacca last week got off to a slow start but ended up being the best class we have had thus far with our older group. Due to group size and time of day, the girls at Pacca can sometimes be very difficult to engage for an entire class. Although they all love to spend time asking various questions about us and the United States, they are not always quite as interested in learning a new sport during the hottest part of the day.

Pacca is a boarding school for girls outside of Cusco in the town of Izcuchaca. Two groups of students alternate boarding at the school for two weeks at a time, so it can be slow to progress with our curriculum. This past week was our second week in a row with the older group of girls, and we were planning to wrap up with our kickball curriculum to begin teaching them baseball when we see them next.

Kickball itself is not enough to occupy the girls for an entire class—something we had learned the previous week when we began the class with a full group and ended with just twelve girls not sitting out in the shade. Taking this into consideration, we decided to change gears this past week and planned to introduce dodgeball as a means of raising energy and getting the girls excited prior to moving into our final game of kickball.

In the U.S., I feel like dodgeball can carry a myriad of connotations and memories, which vary greatly between people. I have always been naturally competitive, and I loved playing dodgeball in my middle-school gym class. I’m also aware, however, that for some people, dodgeball was the paradigm of middle-school awkwardness. Larkin and I hoped that at Pacca we could introduce the game in a way which was fun, engaging, and safe!

We had several false starts, but after a few more minutes we finally got a game underway. Much to our surprise, the girls really loved playing. It turned out to be the most engaged the girls have been since we began working with them, and after each game they begged to play another round. They were having too much fun for me to continue refereeing, so I joined in for the last few rounds and had a blast. The other team pretty much targeted me with all their throws, but I was the last one standing for two rounds in a row!

It was great to see them having so much fun. By the end of class, we had zero girls sitting out which definitely made us feel like we accomplished our objective for the day. I am confident that one of the reasons they enjoyed the game so much is that they got to play it in safe space with no boys. There was lots of laughter and excited screaming when people got hit with the ball, and the girls that had been tagged out were consistently great cheerleaders for the rest of their team. We won’t see this group of girls again for another three weeks but we are hoping that when we teach dodgeball to our other Pacca group this week they will be equally excited!

— Caroline