Thunder Dome

Um, okay, so I guess I’m talking about Thunder Dome, which was a ritual thingie for my water polo team in high school. Um, uh, so, basically, it was like this exercise we did every week for hell week, which was like the most intense part of practice, I guess. It’s before the season starts, like a week. Anyway, this particular exercise, um, basically what they would do is, they wouldn’t tell you what it was until you were about to start it, so for like the freshman it was like this big deal. So what they would do is wheel out this big speaker system. And they’d start playing “Thunderstruck” by AC DC, like really, really loud, on the pool deck or whatever. And then, uh, they would have to uh line up in two different rows on each side of the pool. Basically the rules of the game is you have to stop the other person—you were like matched up with someone on the other side—you have to stop the other person from scoring any way you wanted to. And if you didn’t you had to keep going against another person, and another person, another person, another person, until you do. And, yeah, that was basically the game.

This sample of folklore describes a rite of passage. The secrecy and fear of the mysterious “Thunder Dome,” is a way for older high school students to intimidate, and allow new freshman team members to prove themselves in order to be accepted as part of the team. The game is an extreme version of water polo that allows freshman to show the team what they’ve got. If one performs poorly at Thunder Dome, they are off to a bad start as a member of the team. Doing well can increase one’s standing in the eyes of older players. This tradition can lead to acceptance by a niche peer group.