EHS: Not Playing to Make Friends, Playing to Win

By CAMERON KEATING ’20, SERENA KLEIN ’20, BURRELL SMITHEN

In the Book of Samuel, Goliath champions the Philistines. He is their warrior, protecting their people, maintaining their claim to Israel, as his tall stature and military prowess deter challengers. Nonetheless, a young and meek Israelite, David faces Goliath on the battlefield with nothing but a slingshot and some stones. The Israelites depend on David, and though no one predicts he can win, David artfully prevails with a slingshot to his adversary’s head, his defeat of Goliath signifying the victory of the Israelites over the Philistines. Against all odds, David slays the giant.

How does a rag-tag team of a daycare worker, a violinist, a theatre kid, an ice cream connoisseur, a bubble tea barista, and, granted, one actual athlete unite to challenge the dodgeball higher powers? Enter David at EHS along with a broader view on what it means “to win”.

When the Saucy Cobblers stepped into the Edison High cafeteria, they were surrounded by herds of high school dodgeball teams: school athletes who wore matching outfits and sported high enthusiasm as they mingled together in the cafeteria room. The Saucy Cobblers felt inundated with fear as they realized their competition included students with high athletic ability who had trained their entire lives for similar competition. Despite their daunting situation, the Saucy Cobblers were ready for the fight of their lives. Still, no one expected them to win.

Dodgeball for Charity, an annual Student Council event, raises money for the state charity of the New Jersey Association of Student Councils. This year, the charity sponsored the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation, which provides counseling for families of pediatric cancer patients. “[Student Council] raised $773 from this event alone,” says Student Council Vice President, Lauren Gaspar ‘20.

Dodgeball for Charity is one of the most popular school events, with participants and spectators alike. Ms. Brito, one of the Student Council co-advisors, enjoys this event because “it’s a time students can come together and have a good time.” Dodgeball signifies a break from the stressful academic and athletic environments of EHS. For this reason, dodgeball truly showcases the defining characteristic of Edison High: its diversity. That’s Mr. Ross’s favorite part of the event: “seeing the competition from all the different parts of the school in one event here, playing together and having fun.” People from all different social groups—whose lives typically do not intersect within the classrooms of the school—meet in the Frank N. Cangelosi Gymnasium to vie for first place in this tournament. 

And teams take this event seriously. Many echo the sentiment of Jillian Bader ‘20: “Dodgeball means everything to me.” Teams spend weeks preparing for this night. Haley Zampella ‘23, from the team All Dodge No Balls, described their process of choosing outfits. Her all-girl team “went with the boxer theme,” braiding their hair boxer style and donning red robes draped over their custom-made t-shirts, sporting their nicknames on the back. Conversely, other teams dedicated less time to preparation. Christopher Banyacski ‘20, a player from the team Balls to the Wall, explained, “We prepared by just joking around like any other game we would play.”

Dodgeball for Charity would not be the popular event it is without its dedicated fan base. Parents, siblings, friends, and faculty crowded the bleachers, but understandably avoided the first few rows. Fellow students attended to support their friends—like Shayla Edwards ‘20, who, when asked which team she was supporting, exclaimed without hesitation, “Saucy Cobblers”— while others just came for an exciting competition.

As the Saucy Cobblers stood nervously on the endline, referees Micah and Malachi White ‘20 blew their whistles to initiate the first round, and the Saucy Cobblers’ career flashed before their very eyes.

These six unconventional dodgeball players (Jessica Damanski, Cameron Keating, Serena Klein, Samantha Matson, Burrell Smithen, and Stacey Zhang ‘20), as well as their alternates (Nirali Dalwadi, Vicki Ling, and Alisha Sookhu ‘20), began as mere acquaintances in Ms. Grubb’s freshman honors English class four years prior. Overlapping course selections and shared extracurricular activities cultivated a family of friends they had chosen for themselves. Together, they navigated the stress of their rigorous course loads and the uncertainty of their collegiate and vocational futures. Of course, Ms. Grubb; teacher, dodgeball coach, and friend; has mentored them along the way, sharing her not only her wisdom about the perfect essay analysis, but also playing dodgeball.

For Ms. Grubb, Dodgeball for Charity is quite personal. Luckily, The Eagle’s Eye had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Grubb during the event to ask about her connection to dodgeball and her favorite team.

EE: What does dodgeball mean to you?

AG: For me, dodgeball reminds me of school as a child. It takes me back to a warm, smelly school gym and the memory of not wanting to line up to get hit with a ball. Times were more vicious then, and gym class dodgeball was a fight for survival, and usually a trip to the nurse for an ice pack.

Clearly, the sport was quite integral in transforming Ms. Grubb into the woman she is today.

EE: How has dodgeball affected your upbringing?

AG: Dodgeball only affected my upbringing in the sense that it taught me how unlikely it was that I was ever going to be athletic enough to enjoy playing it! [It] taught me that I need to stick to things that highlight my musical talent. 

On the eve of February 21, their judgment day, the day that they would make Ms. Grubb proud, the Saucy Cobblers spent the night putting the (starting and) finishing touches on their research projects for Ms. Corsun’s AP Literature and Composition class. Each team member submitted their essays on time, a feat many students in their class cannot claim. They carried this adrenaline until 6:30 p.m. when Ms. Brito assigned them to their court.  

The Saucy Cobblers stood at the line, ready to impress the school, and most importantly, their mentor in the first round. The team stood opposite their competitors, the Black Panthers, a team of athletic football players, highly skilled in dodgeball. The Saucy Cobblers began to sweat profusely, their knees shaking, their hands trembling, until, in this moment, they remembered the teachings of Ms. Frey, fellow English department peer to Grubb, and the profound words of Queen Elizabeth I: “I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king…”

The match lasted less than a minute. No amount of agility from Smithen ‘20 could overcome the sheer force and rapid speed of the Black Panthers. To this day, the velocity of the dodgeballs zipping past them still haunts the Saucy Cobblers.

Though they suffered a brutal defeat, the Saucy Cobblers held their heads high. We asked Ms. Grubb about the team and her opinion on their work, as Ms. Grubb has coached this team for two years.

EE: Tell us your perspective on the trailblazing Saucy Cobblers.

AG: The Saucy Cobblers are not just saucy, they are a groundbreaking recipe for greatness. Take one part highly intelligent, diverse, slightly scared competitors, add a splash of cat-like reflexes, plus a cup of stubborn will, and what do you get? You have a dodgeball team that will not take loser for an answer. At least not until the loser round. They are role models in the classroom, and on the dodgeball scene–they are my heroes. 

Saucy Cobbler, Serena Klein ‘20, described her main takeaway, “Dodgeball made me feel better about myself because I know I have more skills than just dodgeball.”

And Goliath—they’ll get him next time. 

@Warehouse_Aug and Balls to the Wall went on to battle in the final, and @Warehouse_Aug— with team members Dominic Lapelosa, Charlie Taub, Evrin Virola, and Tyler Mellinger—claimed victory. 

But according to Mr. Ross, the real winner was clear: “Edison High!”