On March 11, Oles Against Inequality (OAI) hosted an intersport dodgeball tournament for St. Olaf athletes. Students representing all 24 varsity sports were invited to participate. The bonding event garnered an incredible turnout, with over 100 athletes dedicating their Saturday afternoons to dodgeball. After a rowdy rock-paper-scissors ice-breaker, OAI leaders separated the group into teams of ten, giving athletes the opportunity to compete with individuals from different sports. With busy in-season and out-of-season schedules, there are rare opportunities for athletes to meet one another at large events like this. “I had fun playing against my friends on other sports teams”, said Beau Giddings ’26. Armed with ridiculous team names such as “Margaritaville”, and “The Iron Six” athletes went to work pelting each other with foam balls.
The double elimination tournament took over three hours to complete, with three games going at a time. Athletes from all sports teams contributed to their new dodgeball team’s successes and failures. Although some were quickly eliminated, everyone stayed to cheer on their fellow athletes. “Dodgeball was awesome”, Travis Miller ’24 said. “[It was a] great way to have Ole comradery!” The final game was a best two-out-of-three. Attendees surrounded the court, yelling names of friends new and old. “Catch it!” was commonly heard when one person was left in the game, hoping to catch a ball to get their teammates back in. After a tense “one vs. five” finale, athletes swarmed the court, hoisting the winning team up onto their shoulders. Clearly, everyone had fun.
OAI was created in 2020 by a group of student athletes who aimed to address many racial inequalities they saw and experienced during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall semester of 2021, the group began the pop-up OAI barbershop in Buntrock Commons, catering to mostly, but not only, students of color. Initial funding came from the St. Olaf Athletics Department, under director Ryan Bowles. The barbershop has been a great accomplishment for the group, and is still hosted on campus.
Beyond the barbershop, OAI has many other focus areas. Leaders regularly meet with the Athletics Department to facilitate conversations with athletes about inequality. They aim to increase the number of students of color recruited to compete on St. Olaf sports teams; the lack of racial diversity is apparent on many varsity squads. A goal that was mentioned several times at the dodgeball event was to increase the low attendance numbers at St. Olaf home games. Beyond racial inequalities, leaders from OAI are attempting to address inequalities between sports teams, hoping for more of the campus community to come out to games for every team, not just high-stakes football or basketball games.
Overall, the dodgeball event was a great way to bring attention to OAI and what they do to make campus a more welcoming place for everyone. The tournament is an excellent example of how the St. Olaf community can come together in support of one another, on and off the dodgeball court.