Everyone’s paying attention to the Winter Olympics halfway around the world in Sochi, Russia. Closer to home, there’s growing interest in a slightly different "sport" -- this one using a small, plastic drinking cup. Here’s a glimpse into the world of competitive cup stacking. It’s not an Olympic sport. At least not yet.
Imagine this sound -- clop, clop, clop -- multiplied by 300. That’s what Major Cheney Elementary School in Haltom City sounded like when 4- to 12-year-old kids packed the halls on a February weekend for the Sport Stacking Invitational.
“I need Flaming Panthers and the Cheney Champions to table four,” teacher Katie Bonin said in the packed gym. “And Blazin’ Bulldogs and Hillside Eagles to table five.”
Bonin, with her volunteer teachers, helps run the competition, using rules set by the WSSA, the World Sport Stacking Association.
Each kid gets a dozen official plastic cups. They stack them into pyramids and take them down. Sometimes it’s two pyramids of six, or three cups on each side of six, known as the 3-6-3. Sometimes it’s fewer. Bonin says cups may have holes in the bottom to reduce air resistance.
“They have to up-stack them, which means they have to build the towers and then they have to down-stack them, which means they have to take them back down, all while being timed.”
Carson Magryta, who's 9, is in fourth grade at Park Glen Elementary. He practices 20 minutes a day, He has been stacking cups for nearly three years, and has won individual bronze medals and silver in school team relays.
“My friends started doing it and my friends got together and we both all, like, practiced together,” Carson said. “And we all got medals and stuff and had a good time cup-stacking.”
Carson stands at a table, his dozen official cups on the regulation mat with its built-in timer that starts and stops with his wrists, palms or fingers.
“I usually do it like that, with like my palms and my wrists, and so, I’m just going to do a 3-6-3 first,” he said.
Carson finishes in six seconds, which is a little slow for him. But it’s not even close to the national 3-6-3 record of just under two seconds.
“I don’t want to be national,” he says. “It would be cool if I was. But I don’t. Because I’d rather play football.”
Carson’s mom, Christine Magryta, is fine with that. But, for now, stacking’s still his game.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “His team has placed every year. And so I think it’s really good they have to depend on each other, and they get frustrated with each other and they also have to encourage each other. I’m sure it helps him concentrate a little bit better when he’s testing and doing things like that where he’s under a time clock.”
Park Glen’s physical education director, Lisa Hugo, says those are just some of the benefits from cup stacking.
“It encourages ambidexterity, the use of both hands, both sides of the brain," she said. "It’s an equalizer. It’s a great thing for kids who may not be quite so athletic but allows them to be very competitive, and being a part of a team so they learn to work as a team.”
Hugo attributes the growth of cup stacking on its low cost and high kid interest. And, she says, it delivers real exercise.
“One side of the room has to stack up everything," she said. "The other side of the room has to down stack everything. But then of course we change roles and so they‘re up and down, they’re squatting, they’re standing up they’re sitting down. They’re moving, they’re running they’re trying to go as quickly as they can. It’s kind of addicting. Have you ever done it? I’ve done it. It’s something you want to get better and better, and you just keep doing it.”
Cup stacking didn't exist when Hugo was in school. These days, it’s in the Junior Olympics.