I had just gotten out of a relationship and was looking for things to do. This Groupon coupon came up for dodgeball in D.C. I showed up to play with these people I’d never met. That was four years ago. My thought going into it was: I’m going to win. No matter what. That’s just who I am. It didn’t matter how serious other people were about it, I was showing up to win. It was more competitive than I expected.
After a couple of years, I was considered one of the better players. Someone told me about the U.S.A. dodgeball team. I submitted a video and was chosen for the team that placed second in New Zealand in the world championships. It was interesting — and difficult. All these women who’d never played [together] before showing up on the other side of the world and playing as a team. It really made me want to get serious about setting up my own league and helping the sport grow in the U.S.
When I’m out there, I feel like I want to beat the boys. I just want to be better. I’m a feminist at heart. I grew up with my mom facing every challenge out there and conquering every single one. I don’t like the idea that it’s guys vs. girls. It’s ability vs. ability. The guys can throw harder than the girls, yes. But if you can catch, it doesn’t matter how hard someone throws. If you can take what someone’s throwing at you, that’s all that matters.
It hurts so bad. The speed of that ball coming at you is nothing to laugh at. It’s painful. Some of the guys can throw at 80 miles per hour. But still, when you catch it and see the look on their faces, it is so worth the bruises. Being able to compete on that level is just total joy for me. It’s the best stress relief. I mean, who doesn’t want to throw something — with accuracy and care, of course — as hard as you can at someone else? On the court, emotions run high. You want to do everything in your power to get people back.
Playing in the World Dodgeball Invitational has brought a lot of attention to the sport — and to me. I like attention but to a limited extent. There’s a shy part of me that feels: “I’m not that great. Why is everyone so interested in me?” But here’s how I’ve chosen to think about it: I’m lucky to have this opportunity to play. I’m lucky my parents moved to America [from Iran]. I’m a female, an athlete, a lesbian who’s been successful in a sport she played in elementary school. I’m just going to take it and run with it.