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It's fast. It's fun. It's good for you.

December 08, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

As I was reviewing the list of activities for our Master Clubs regional competition next spring, one category caught my eye.

Sport stacking is one of the newest additions to the competition. In sport stacking, participants stack and unstack up to 12 cups in pyramid formations, racing against the clock. The competitions can be for individuals or for teams competing in relay fashion.

The sport originated in the early 1980s in Southern California, where paper cups were used, according to Bob Fox, founder and president of Speed Stacks Inc., based in Englewood, Colo. Fox's company produces sets of plastic cups and other products designed for the competition.

Fox said he first saw sport stacking on "The Tonight Show" in 1990. As a teacher and juggler, he was intrigued.

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"When I saw this, I said, 'That's just upside down juggling.' "

He became a physical education teacher in 1995 and decided to use a sport stacking unit in his classes.

"The kids loved it," Fox said.

Because sport stacking was so popular at his school, Fox started a home business in 1998, developing products and a curriculum for other physical education teachers.

Children of all fitness levels are on equal playing fields when it comes to sports stacking, Fox said.

One major benefit is that sport stacking teaches children to use both sides of their bodies. This helps them develop a greater percentage of the right side of the brain which houses awareness, focus, creativity and rhythm, according to the company Web site, www.speedstacks.com.

Children who are not necessarily athletic can excel. They benefit by the movement they get during practice and competition and through increased awareness of how to move their bodies in other sports.

Children who typically excel in athletics also benefit because they learn how to better use both sides of their bodies.

"The best basketball players can dribble with both hands," Fox said.

Musicians, particularly budding pianists, can benefit as well because as children become more proficient at sport stacking, they learn to isolate their fingers, releasing them one at a time, a skill that is important for musicians.

Some occupational therapists and special education teachers have begun using sport stacking to help their clients' motor skill development, Fox said.

The competition involves upstacking and downstacking. At the start of the competition, the cups are much like they would be in your kitchen cupboard, upside down, nesting inside each other in a stack, Fox explained.

Then competitors make 3-3-3 stacks - three pyramids of two cups on the bottom and one on top - or 3-6-3 stacks - two pyramids of two cups on the bottom and one on top and one pyramid of three cups on the bottom, two in the middle and one on top.

Downstacking involves returning the cups to their original nesting position.

When a child first learns how to stack the cups, he or she might take six or seven seconds to do 3-3-3 stacks, Fox said. The world record is 2.31 seconds.

The 3-6-3 stacks might take a beginner 10 to 15 seconds, Fox says. The world record is 2.72 seconds.

Children as young as 3 or 4 years old can learn how to sport stack, Fox said. "It's fun, and we believe it's downright good for kids."

A Speed Stacks Stackpack costs $30 to $40. The packs are available at the Web site, www.speedstacks.com, or at Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us.

More information about sport stacking can be found on the World Sport Stacking Association Web site, www.worldsportstackingassociation.org.

Emmanuel Baptist Temple, 16221 National Pike, west of Huyett's Corner, uses sport stacking as part of its Master Club program. Master Clubs seek to teach children about Christian principles and provide opportunities to perform Christian service. According to the Master Clubs' Web site, www.masterclubs.org, each club meeting includes a combination of Bible games and just-for-fun games such as sport stacking to keep kids engaged.

For more information, call the church at 301-582-0378.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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