San Francisco’s Colosseum has no gladiators or lions, but the battles are intense nonetheless.
The combat of choice is trampoline dodgeball, and Dennis Sprague is a competitor on the championship team.
Sprague’s Swingers have won both tournaments held at House of Air, formerly an airplane hangar and now an indoor park with 42 conjoined trampolines in San Francisco’s Presidio. The Colosseum, where both trampoline dodgeball and basketball are played, occupies about half of the trampoline space of the facility that opened last September.
The arena consists of 16 trampolines separated by a padded middle line with a wall of trampolines surrounding the combat zone.
The eight players on each team are tossed four balls, the fight begins, and pandemonium ensues.
“Some games only last 45 seconds,” Sprague said, though most of the fast-paced contests take between 5-10 minutes before one side has knocked out all members of the opposing team.
The confident Sprague is generous with the tips that he offers newcomers to the game.
“It goes against you if you jump too much; it’s hard to throw if you’re jumping,” Sprague said. “And you never throw at a guy who has a ball in his hand.”
Sprague, a 28-year-old resident of San Francisco’s Marina district who works in spine reconstruction consulting and sales, was originally recruited by Swingers founder Cherokee Scribner to play on the group’s co-ed softball team.
Started in 2006, the Swingers have expanded to 120 members, with Scribner taking charge of the East Bay contingent while Sprague has spearheaded the San Francisco tournaments, including bowling, kickball, flag football and “regular” dodgeball, in addition to softball and trampoline dodgeball.
The savvy Swingers are strategic in their approach to the game and scout the opposition before tournament play.
“We watch games early and eliminate the best opponents right away,” Sprague said.
A team comprised of UCLA water polo players lost in the final to the Swingers in the first tournament. The Swingers took the second tourney with only six players.
Scribner believes that “less can be more” in this frenetic sport, and playing with six rather than eight may have been a benefit as there’s less room to maneuver than in regular dodgeball. Sprague said he agrees with his teammate.
“There are a lot of moving pieces. Make sure that you’re not running into your own teammates, and make sure you’re communicating,” Sprague said. “And you have to keep your head on a swivel.”
House of Air San Francisco
WHAT: 8,000 square feet of trampolines
WHERE: 926 Mason St., San Francisco
INFO: www.houseofairsf.com, (415) 345-9675
FIVE J’S OF DODGEBALL: Jump, juke, jive, jostle and panic