Alternative sports all within a few miles of Oak Cliff … and a few in our own backyard
Did you know that tug-of-war, hand tennis and live-pigeon shooting have been Olympic sports? Well, the bird-shooting thing was held just once, in 1900. But doesn’t it go to show that what is considered a sport is subjective? And sports — even ones with funny names like cornhole or mushball — can be life–enhancing. Whether you’re looking for improved physical fitness, healthy competition, camaraderie or pure silliness, there’s a sport for you. You just might not know it exists.
Jennifer Barclay hosts a group of women on her front yard most weekends for what she calls “hoop and gab.” Barclay is part of Oak Cliff Hooplah, an informal group of hula-hooping enthusiasts. “When you’re hooping, you’re really just standing there, so you can visit all you want,” she says. Hooping is fun, easier than it looks and a pretty good workout, she says.
Get your hoop on // Search Facebook for Oak Cliff Hooplah to stay in the loop (lah).
Skate counterclockwise around a circuit track in two teams of five players. Each team’s designated “jammer” scores points by lapping the opposing team while “blockers” use physical force to stop them. This is the quintessential contact sport for women, so you have to be willing to take an elbow to the jaw every now and then. Besides, in roller derby, bruises are badges of honor. Plus, you get to adopt a clever, tough-sounding name such as Babe Ruthless.
Hit the birdie with your racket to your opponent’s side of the court in such a way that he or she cannot return it. The game looks a little like tennis, but the rackets are nimbler and the balls aren’t balls but tiny nets with rubber tips called shuttlecocks or “birdies.” It is an Olympic sport. The Dallas Badminton Club, active year-round, is based at Reverchon Recreation Center at 3505 Maple. Founded in 1988, the club regularly hosts tournaments for local and out-of-state players. The badminton Dallas Open is held annually on Labor Day, and a family-oriented tournament benefitting Scottish Rite Hospital and Reverchon’s after school programs is held each December.
Play birdie // Open play is 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Reverchon. Training and coaching is offered there Saturdays at 10 a.m. Players must have a City of Dallas recreation center membership, which can be acquired at the front desk. The cost of an annual individual DBC membership is $60. Family memberships are $100, and juniors, without accompanying parents, are $35.
Ah, the sport of kings. Fancy hats, refreshing cocktails, royals. Well, this ain’t that. Bike polo, a sport whose popularity is growing in Texas, is played on tennis courts. And it’s more like a bunch of punk-rock-looking guys and gals in cutoffs, wielding mallets alongside their mountain bikes. Dylan Holt of Oak Cliff organizes the Dallas Bike Polo League, which meets weekly at Norbuck Park. About 10 bike polo loyalists show up every week to compete, joke around and, occasionally, have a minor wreck. Most experienced cyclists catch onto bike polo quickly, Holt says. “It’s mostly just for fun, but we do take it seriously,” he says.
Play polo // The Dallas Bike Polo League meets at Norbuck Park on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Mushball is almost softball, but the ball is even softer, so you don’t need a glove. Don’t expect to hit it out of the park. Because of the mushiness, it takes a herculean swing to make the ball go very far. Dallas YMCA’s fall adult, co-ed mushball season starts next month.
Play mushball // It costs $450 to register a team. Teams play seven regular season games followed by a post-season elimination playoff tournament. The games will be played at a City of Dallas park field, to be determined. To register your team or find one to join, call Dallas YMCA at 214.954.0500.
Get the bag in or near the hole. Players, two per team, take turns throwing beanbags at a hole located at one end of an elevated platform. Though it is one of the few sports that allows you to hold a beer in one hand as you compete, it can get serious.
Play cornhole // You can find a cornhole league any season of the year. Dallas Sport and Social offers a league that plays weekly at Draft Picks, 703 McKinney. The cost is $68.50 for a team and $38.50 for an individual player. For details, visit dallassportsleagues.com/leagues/cornhole.
Getting smacked in the face with a speeding foam ball doesn’t hurt that bad, says Tom Wakefield, commissioner of Dallas Dodgeball.
“We had a lady get hit right in the face, and she just laughed,” he says. “It’s a sport that anyone can play. It’s the most natural sport there is.”
The group hosts co-ed, open-play games every other week — including soccer moms and 6-year-old girls — with plans to launch a league later this year.
Wakefield and his son formed the group eight years ago, inspired by the 2004 comedy “Dodgeball.” After watching the movie, they searched the internet for local leagues. They didn’t find any, so they started their own.
“Other people must have been looking for leagues, too, because we had 40 or 50 people sign up in the first week.”
The rules of dodgeball are lengthy, but the objective is simple: Grab a ball, and hurl it at an opposing team member to try and eliminate him or her from the game. Repeat. The last team standing wins.
Most people play recreationally, but there a few serious athletes. Wakefield took his best players to the Toronto Dodgeball Tournament in February 2011 where they placed fifth out of 20 teams from the United States and Canada.
Play dodgeball // Dallas Dodgeball hosts recreational games 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturdays at alternating venues: Sole Roll Indoor Soccer, 4435 McEwen by the Dallas Galleria, and the Dunford Recreation Center in Mesquite. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under. The Dallas Dodgeball Shootout is an open tournament for ages 17 and up, set for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 13 at Sole Roll. Registration is $200 per team with a cash prize. For details, visit dallasdodgeball.com.
Hold on to a pole, and wrap your body around it, forming different acrobatic positions. It’s not just for exotic dancers. Pole dancing is considered performance art and requires a great deal of strength, flexibility and stamina. In fact, the U.S. Pole Dance Federation hosts a national championship in September. But most people pole dance for exercise.
Start pole dancing // Fihankra Dance and Fitness Studio in Deep Ellum, in addition to poling, offers burlesque, zumba, hip-hop and belly dance classes among others. Classes cost $10 each, and memberships cost $80 per month. Visit fihankrafitness.com.
When you think Frisbee, do you imagine a couple college-age dudes, all smiles, tossing colorful disks on a windswept beach? Sure, that’s Frisbee. But it is not Ultimate Frisbee. The formations look a little like football and the objective is to move the disk into the end zone. There’s a lot of running, passing and jumping and falling, but it is non-contact, at least that’s what the rules dictate. Ultimater Mike Ahern has been playing since 1993 and says he likes not only the athleticism involved, but also the “camaraderie of the Ultimate community.” It’s different from many other team sports in that, in general, individuals sign up for the league and then are drafted onto a team as opposed to a bunch of people forming a team and then joining a league.
“The Ultimate way makes for more of a sense of community because you get to know more people and you’re less likely to develop deep grudges,” Ahern says. “That guy you’re mad at one season may be your teammate in the next.”
The ultimate Frisbee demographics skew younger, Ahern says, but there is a significant subset of older people playing these days, and that stereotypical Frisbee guy — “the protohippie, let’s say” — is an endangered species. And it’s not just the guys. Maybe one-third of the players are female, Ahern says.
play ultimate // Beginners can find pick-up games Mondays at The Village Apartments on Southwestern or Wednesdays alternating among Norbuck Park, Glencoe Park and Lake Highlands Park. Winter league is popular among Dallas players, though the games are held in Oak Point near Denton County. The leagues are divided into recreational and competitive. Winter league costs about $70 and runs December through March. Ahern is involved in the Irving league. Cost is in the neighborhood of $30 for a season of league play. Learn more at dallasultimate.org.
Land Paddling or Paddleboarding
Zack Fickey frequently is spotted paddling down White Rock Lake or the Katy Trail.
Paddling down the Katy Trail, you incredulously wonder? Yes, Fickey is an avid advocate of land paddling — which involves a flexible, bouncy type of skateboard called a longboard and a wide-blade paddle called a Kahuna Big Stick — though it admittedly garners some strange looks. “It’s a free-spirited kind of sport, he says, “an innovation for surfer-types in this landlocked city.”
Stand-up water paddling is an option for those in close proximity to White Rock Lake. Both land and water forms offer intense, low impact core and overall muscle workouts, says Fickey, whose day job entails event planning for Deep Ellum Brewing Company. “Plus, I am barefoot a lot,” he says. “You can do these sports shoeless, and it’s less expensive than cycling.” Longboards can be purchased at any sporting goods store for about $130. You can get the stick online (kahunacreations.com) for about $100 or at Quicksilver (NorthPark Center) or Sun and Ski Sports (Central Expressway at Royal), to name a couple. As for the water paddle boarding equipment, it is easy to rent at the White Rock Paddle Company, located at the Mockingbird-Buckner corner of White Rock Lake, where you can also purchase lessons.
how to // Visit whiterockpaddle.com for information.
Kick the big red ball. Run the bases without getting tagged. Think baseball, but the bat is your foot. Seriousness ranges from just-out-here-to-meet-people to no-mercy-in-it-to-win-it. Dallas Sport and Social offers mostly year-round kickball leagues. A season is typically seven regular-season games plus playoffs, if you’re good enough.
Play kickball // Games are held at Glencoe Park near SMU or Norbuck Park at Northwest Highway and Buckner. The cost is about $75 per person or $630 for a team. To sign up, visit dallassportsleagues.com.
Southern Methodist University alumnus Clint Montgomery has been practicing archery since his mom said “no” to the BB gun, he says. He has played other sports — tennis, football, basketball — but he always liked the bow and arrow, despite the fact that it wasn’t exactly mainstream. As the director of the Dallas Archery Club, he hopes to make it more accessible.
Many years ago, you could find people practicing archery at public parks and bowling alleys all around Dallas, Montgomery says, but times have changed. Now, we’re in an era where we must be protected from ourselves. The Dallas Archery Club, which started long ago as a benefit for Texas Instruments employees and recently opened facilities in Plano and North Dallas, aims to change all that and make archery available to everyone. To that end, they offer opportunities to try the sport at little or no cost.
The sport has enjoyed a surge in popularity, thanks in part to the teen drama “ The Hunger Games,” Montgomery says.
“Since we’ve made [archery] accessible, every race, creed, size and age and ability — a kid in a wheelchair, even — can be seen side by side here at the range. Everyone is the same on the [shooting] line.”
The club is working with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department to create mobile ranges at public parks around the city. Montgomery says he hopes the club will have 50 or so ranges throughout the region in the near future. Once you take up the sport seriously, the equipment — a bow and arrows — runs around $200. But it’s sort of like golf in that you can spend what you want to spend — the fancy stuff is upward of $2,000.
Start shooting // An intro to archery class is held 11 a.m.-noon Saturdays and 6-7 p.m. Wednesdays at the Texas Archery Academy Indoor Range, 600 B Accent Drive in Plano. It’s $10 per person, and all equipment is included. You can try archery for free 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays at the Elm Fork Shooting Range, 10751 Luna. It’s $5 to practice longer. Visit dallasarchery.com to learn more.
Were you the kid who loved getting lost in the woods? It didn’t scare you because you could handle any terrain and always found your way out? If so, orienteering is the quintessential sport for grown-up you. Using maps and compasses, participants navigate their way along a cross-country course and compete to finish fastest. It isn’t necessarily kids’ play. It is known to draw some seriously competitive athletes. Take, for example, Peter Snell, once one of the fastest middle-distance runners in the world. Snell and his wife Miki live in the White Rock area and have been heavily involved in the North Texas Orienteering Association for years. “When the athletic career is over, the desire to be good and achieve things doesn’t just go away,” says Peter, who won three Olympic gold medals for his home, New Zealand, in the 1960s.
He and Miki, who also was a competitive runner, found that orienteering is one of few sports in which performance doesn’t drastically deteriorate with age.
“It’s a fascinating sport because you have to be very fit, but you have to use your brain,” Miki says.
Find your way // The NTOA sponsors many events September through May. Every event features a beginners’ clinic that starts at the same time as event registration. Generally, local events cost $7-$10. You’ll spot people of all ages at orienteering events, and there are special programs for juniors and Scouts. National Orienteering Day is September 29 at Harry Moss Nature Preserve on Greenville at Royal in northeast Dallas. Learn more at ntoa.com.
Jonah Hill is training for the Lonestar Ride Fighting AIDS, a 150-mile charity bike ride, and he meets with a group of cyclists every Saturday morning for training rides. The difference here is that Hill intends to do the whole 150 with only one wheel. Hill learned how to ride a unicycle about six years ago, after he saw a friend of his dad’s riding one. He bought a unicycle for $20 on eBay and taught himself to ride. Later, he bought a unicycle with a 26-inch wheel for long-distance rides at Richardson Bike Mart. Anyone who tries to unicycle will fall down. But it wasn’t as hard as he thought. “It’s a great workout for your core muscles,” he says. Instead of doing juggling tricks and joining the circus, Hill is more interested in endurance riding. He and a few other unicyclists meet most Saturday mornings at White Rock Lake. But there are several other unicycle meet-ups as well.
Ride a unicycle // Search facebook for DFW Unicycle Club to keep up with the one-wheel scene.
Indoor rock climbing
Climb to the top of an artificial rock wall, using the climbing holds that jut out from the wall. Try not to look down. We may not have any mountains around Dallas, but you can still experience what it’s like to climb one. Indoor rock climbing engages all your muscle groups and promotes balance. It can get competitive, though. Exposure Rock Climbing in Carrollton oversees Team Texas, a youth climbing team that has won four USA Climbing national championships.
Climb // The nearest facility is Dallas Rocks, on Forest and Greenville, which offers 14,000 square feet of climbing area. Day passes start at about $12 plus equipment rental. Memberships are about $50-$60 per month with special discounts for police, firemen and EMS. Visit dallasclimbing.com.