MSU club dodgeball player turns fun into Las Vegas career

Nov 2, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. - He is 22, and one of the youngest slot hosts in Las Vegas.

All because he played dodgeball in college.

That’s Mike Van Ermen, former captain of the Michigan State club dodgeball team, and he landed the job because of his unusual expertise.  

Mike Van Ermen poses in front of "The D Hotel" in Las Vegas.

  “It is not really something that I would correlate – playing dodgeball and landing a career,” Van Ermen said, “but that’s how it worked out for me.”

Van Ermen attended MSU from 2010-14, graduating with a degree in Hospitality Business. He was on the club dodgeball team all four years and  team captain in his junior and senior years. While looking for a job he attended a career fair at MSU, interviewing with Golden Gate Casinos.

“Club dodgeball was something that I included on my resume for the heck of it,” Van Ermen said. “I attended a career fair and sat down in the interview, handed over my resume, and the first thing he said to me was ‘Dodgeball?’

“To my surprise, he thought it was awesome.”

Van Ermen’s dedication is very obvious.

“I told him that I live and breathe dodgeball, I wanted him to know how passionate I was about it,” Van Ermen said. “It was funny because he thought it was one of the coolest things.”

To Van Ermen’s surprise, Golden Gate Casinos offered him a job to work in Las Vegas for The D Hotel.

“Right there in the interview he asked me, ‘Would you be able to throw the biggest dodgeball tournament Las Vegas has ever seen?’ Obviously, my answer was yes,” Van Ermen said.

Van Ermen moved to Las Vegas and began work a month later.

“My second day of work at The D, I started planning the Elite Dodgeball Invitational, which is a tournament for the biggest professional dodgeball league in the country,” Van Ermen said. “The first year I planned it there were 150 people that traveled to Vegas from all over the country. I didn’t plan the actual tournament itself, but I did plan all of the accommodations for the athletes. I coordinated hotel rooms, transportation, food and drinks, the ballroom space and the Elite dodgeball party.”

Van Ermen hopes that he can make this year’s tournament bigger and better.

“I was able to get all of those teams to come stay with us at The D and gamble with us, which is ultimately my job,” Van Ermen said. “It was really a great success.”

Van Ermen plans the event in addition to his career at The D.

“Like I said the tournament is not in my job description – my job is to bring in gamblers to the casino and this is kind of an extra thing that I have taken upon myself,” Van Ermen said. “But I am grateful to do it because my boss told me that in the interview at the career fair I hadn’t really stood out until I started talking about dodgeball.”

Van Ermen credits dodgeball to where he is today.

“He basically told me that dodgeball sealed my job position,” Van Ermen said. “I highly doubt without dodgeball I would be where I am today. It really goes deeper than being a captain of a club in college. Dodgeball obviously helped me stand out, but it also allowed me to connect with people throughout the dodgeball community.”

Van Ermen’s experience with dodgeball ultimately allowed him to connect with other teams to bring them to the tournament.

“I got to know a lot of the captains in our league,” Van Ermen said. “In getting to know this community of dodgeball players – that’s what allowed me to get everyone out here to the D Hotel. The dodgeball community is absolutely incredible and since they all knew I had their best interest in mind – they knew I would take care of them in Vegas – that’s how I was able to make this tournament so successful.”

Van Ermen’s former teammates believe that he deserved this opportunity.

“He brought a lot of skills to the team – he could do it all and was always up for a challenge,” Senior player James Schneider said. “As for Vegas, I think it’s really cool what he’s done. I would’ve never thought playing dodgeball could do so much for someone but it’s amazing how far it has gotten him. It’s good to see someone who enjoyed the game and gave so much to it get something so great in return.”

Alex Zajac, a senior and assistant captain, agreed.

“His on the court presence including his hard throws and great catching abilities, alongside his ability to be a leader distinguished him as a captain,” Zajac said. “The number one thing Mike taught me was realizing that every player has a unique set of abilities – that’s what makes the team dynamic.”

Zajac hopes that more employers recognize the significance between a career and dodgeball.

“Mike’s Vegas opportunity shows that there are many key characteristics associated with dodgeball such as honesty, hard work, commitment, team work and leadership,” Zajac said. “That makes all of us more marketable. Mike has these characteristics and many more which made him ultimately one of the most respected players in the league and in our team’s history.”