Eagle Rock Yacht Club combines dodgeball and community service

Photo by Sam Pess

Despite the name, Eagle Rock Yacht Club (ERYC), founded by Chris Alves and Craig Fowler in 2008, is not about expensive boats. Instead, it is an adult dodgeball league that works as a nonprofit organization. Every Wednesday night from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. adults of all ages meet at the Highland Park Recreation Center for two simultaneous games of casual dodgeball. Beginning in Eagle Rock, it has since expanded to Westwood, North Hollywood, Glassell Park, Venice, Glendale and San Diego.

“Our number one rule is ‘don’t be a d—,’” Rob Tsuji, the Highland Park ERYC’s league ambassador, said.

Players act in accordance with this rule by rushing to each other’s aid after taking hits to the face and keeping the mood light and fun. According to Tsuji, the origin of the misplaced nautical name is ambiguous.

“The name is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a conversation starter, for sure,” Tsuji said.

Since its inception, ERYC has fostered relationships between community members of all ages, provided extracurriculars to children around the Los Angeles area and promoted active, healthy lifestyles, according to Tsuji.

Members do not keep track of the score at the dodgeball games until the playoffs. Instead, Tsuji said points are earned by partaking in acts of community service such as cleaning up neighborhoods and the Los Angeles River. Recently, the club volunteered at the Recycled Resources Center.

“This club is à la carte. You take from it what you want to, whether you come just for dodgeball or for the community service aspect,” Tsuji said.

Putting on after-school activities for children in underfunded areas is one of the main goals of the club, according to Tsuji. The $55 fee to join for the season goes toward keeping the recreation center open for longer hours in order to provide children with a consistent place to spend time.

Erin Yi is a member of the team and has been for about seven years.

“When both the parents work, the kids don’t really have a place to go,” Yi said. “So they’re out, and what we try to do is raise enough money to keep the gym open, and not only keep the gym open, but give them an activity to do.”

These volunteer-run programs include kids’ dodgeball, photography, screen printing and a community garden combined with a healthy cooking class that teaches the kids simple recipes to make on their own, according to Yi.

Amber Mitchell has played with the team for five years.

“You have kids who maybe don’t have anything else to do on weeknights,” Mitchell said. “We fill a void there so they aren’t hanging out at home doing nothing.”

Through this volunteer service, the players are able to not only connect with their communities but also form meaningful relationships with each other, Tsuji said.

“It’s been around long enough that there aren’t only couples, but marriages and babies,” Tsuji said. “We attract such a strange crowd from all walks of life. I’ve made so many friends it’s ridiculous.”

People come for the dodgeball and stay for the teammates, according to Yi.

“[ERYC] is how I found my community — I met my husband here,” Yi said. “I guess I kind of met my family here, too.”

Find out how to get involved at theyachtclub.org.