GREENWICH, Connecticut. Liam Nelson is a scrawny sixth-grader who’s short for his age. His dad, Terry Nelson, is manager of a hedge fund that has beat the market for eight of the past ten years. “Liam gets picked on during gym class,” says his mother Caroline. “And we’re fine with that.”
The Nelsons’ modest $13 million starter home.
The Nelsons are part of a growing backlash among upscale parents against efforts to eliminate dodgeball from physical education programs across the country. “It builds character,” says Terry Nelson. “Or at least it generates resentment that a kid can store up while he’s young and then inflict on the world for the rest of his life.”
Dodgeball had been in decline as an indoor activity in kindergarden through 12th grade physical education classes due to concerns that it subordinates aerobic exercise to children’s innate aggressive instincts. It gradually lost favor as educational experts pushed less confrontational games such as “Neutrality Ball”, in which students break up into “Swedish” and “Swiss” teams and eat fondue.
“Neutrality is totally awesome!”
Old-school gym teachers who resisted the trend were marginalized, forced to man school crossing guard posts or rake girls’ softball infields. “We played dodgeball when I was a kid, and it didn’t hurt none of us,” says Elwood “Chick” Grayson, a janitor at the exclusive private school Liam Nelson attends. “‘Course, by ‘us’ I don’t mean the geeks. We’d pummel them until their faces turned to applesauce.”
“Okay, big kids over against that wall, dweebs over here.”
Which is precisely the point, according to the Nelsons. “Losers in life are winners at dodgeball, and vice versa,” says Terry Nelson. And indeed, his regular Sunday golf foursome includes a corporate lawyer, a venture capitalist and a corporate CEO, all former dodgeball targets who say they were on the receiving end of deadly, high-speed strikes that left imprints that can be seen to this day. “Look at this,” says Terry Nelson, dropping his Brooks Brothers boxer shorts to reveal a scar on his buttocks. “See-it says ‘Moisten needle before inserting’.”