Try your hand (or feet) at these alternative activities, all accessible within zero to 20 minutes of our neighborhood
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 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.
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 ain’t 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.
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 croquet mallets alongside their dirt bikes. Dylan Holt organizes the Dallas Bike Polo League, which meets weekly at Norbuck Park near White Rock Lake. About 10 bike polo loyalists show up every week to compete, joke around and, occasionally, have a minor wreck. Most experienced cyclists can 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. Visit leagueofbikepolo.com/club/dallas-bicycle-polo.
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. Far North Dallas-based 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 Southern Methodist University 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.
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 // The Girls Room on Greenville, in addition to poling, offers yoga, zumba, ballet and belly dance classes among others. Most classes are $25, and memberships start at $99 per month. Visit thegirlsroom.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 he bought at Richardson Bike Mart a few years ago just to see if he could do it. Anyone who wants 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.
Ride a unicycle // A new unicycle costs about $300. Hill and the unicycle gang meet at 9 a.m. Saturdays at White Rock Dog Park.
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.”
Paddle// 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 few. As for the water paddle boarding equipment, it is easy to rent at the White Rock Paddle Company, located on the Mockingbird-Buckner corner of White Rock Lake, where you can also purchase lessons. Visit whiterockpaddle.com for information.
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 in Lake Highlands. Learn more at ntoa.com.
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.
Roll // Assassination City Roller Derby league plays at Fair Park Coliseum, and Dallas Derby Devils play at NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills. For details about fall leagues, visit acderby.com or derbydevils.com.
Dog agility/ flyball
Anne Pullen played for the North Texas Women’s Soccer Association until she tore her second ACL and retired. But, there’s another sport that keeps her active — one that involves a 2-year-old Border Collie mix named Booger.
“Keeping up with him is pretty difficult,” Pullen says. “Ideally, you want to be ahead of them.”
She and Booger compete in dog agility, during which owners lead their dogs through obstacle courses as quickly as possible. They are judged on speed and accuracy. When practiced regularly, dog agility is just as intense a workout for the humans as it is for the canines.
“I had a friend who lost 40 pounds. She competed with a Pomeranian, then she switched to a faster dog.”
The sport is dominated by purebreds that go on to compete internationally. Mixed-breeds were only recently allowed to compete, and they cannot advance from the nationals.
“There’s always some satisfaction when we beat [the purebreds],” Pullen says.
Run your dog // At Paws for Applause, where Pullen trains, beginner classes start at $70 per month. Visit pawsforapplauseagility.com. Dallas Agility Working Group (DAWG) hosts classes at Southpaw Training Center near Murphy, about 15 miles from Lake Highlands. Visit dawgagility.org. A four-week introductory flyball course is offered at Top Dog, 1138 Pleasant Valley near Buckingham, about 7 miles outside Lake Highlands, for $95. Visit topdogdallas.com or call 972.494.PETS. See dogs play the agility variation flyball at Flag Pole Hill Sundays at 1:30 p.m. Visit flyballdogs.com/dash to learn about joining.
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.
Hit the hollow ball back and forth across the table with small paddles. Keep the ball in bounds but try to get it past your opponent. It’s like miniature tennis — but don’t call it ping-pong. The King of the Court Table Tennis League takes the fast-paced sport seriously. But the players still know how to have fun. The league, offered by the umbrella group Big D Sports and Entertainment, includes prizes, happy hours and post-game socials.
Play table tennis // The King of the Court League plays Thursday nights at Heights Recreation Center, 711 W. Arapaho. Registration is $160 per team. The summer league is in session. For details on the fall league, visit bigdfun.com/sports/richardson/table-tennis.
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.
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, 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.
Getting smacked in the face with a speeding foam ball doesn’t hurt that badly, 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 (a few minutes outside Lake Highlands near the Dallas Galleria) — 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 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.
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.