Alternative sports and fitness all within a few miles of far north Dallas … 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.
Life can sometimes get a little too serious for Blythe TwoSisters, a clinical therapist who commutes three hours to work and back each day. Hooping not only helps her stay in shape; it saved her personality, she says.
“I became fun again.”
The nostalgic pastime has developed into a fat-burning workout for everyone from teenagers to senior citizens, encouraging community rather than competition. TwoSisters teaches a weekly class at MoveStudio at Preston and Campbell.
Advanced students dance fluidly around the room as the hoops float up and down their bodies. Beginners might struggle at first.
“It took me four months to learn how to waist hoop. Let go, and magic happens. The more you think about it, the less it works.”
TwoSisters was certified through the program Hoopnotica and has been teaching for four years. She says hooping strengthens the core, working the abs and lower back as well as the shoulders, biceps and triceps. The exact numbers are debatable, but TwoSisters says a first-time hooper can burn 400-600 calories during a one-hour class.
The rhythmic, hip-moving exercise isn’t just for the ladies. TwoSisters got her husband, Brad, hooked on hooping, too. They travel around the country honing their skills at workshops. Through hooping, TwoSisters gained confidence and resolved her self-esteem issues.
“That’s when I asked Brad to marry me. I thought, ‘We can grow with this.’ It’s something that we can do together.”
Start hooping // Classes are at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays at MoveStudio, 17062 Preston. Call 972.732.0206 or visit movestudio.com.
Becky Foster was 49 when she donned her first sparkly unitard.
Having never practiced gymnastics or ballet as a child, the middle-aged mom joined the Far North Dallas-based Lone Star Circus School, dangling on the silk alongside spry 20-year-olds.
“People think you’re crazy,” Foster says.
Lone Star is a local nonprofit founded by Fanny Kerwich, an eighth-generation circus performer. It was originally created for children, but four years ago, Stephanie Stewart convinced Kerwich to open the school to adults.
“It’s kind of a lost art,” Stewart says. “I had such a passion for it, and I thought there had to be other adults interested in it, too.”
The silk involves two long pieces of fabric that hang from the ceiling. Performers climb the silk while moving their bodies into different positions. The first step is to master the climb.
“Most people can’t climb at first, so we start out slow. It may feel intimidating, but everyone else is in the same boat. Once people realize how it really is, the intimidation goes away.”
Stewart says people will notice a difference in their bodies after three weeks of practice, building strength and endurance. Serious students like Foster develop a dancer’s body with long, lean muscles.
“It’s all-encompassing. You feel energized and not so eager to just go home and watch TV.”
In addition to the silk, advanced students can learn other circus tricks — most of which involve suspending the body in the air on the trapeze or the lyra (a hoop).
Kerwich says she hesitated to make circus performing accessible to everyone, fearing that the art form would become watered down.
After all, it’s not just a pastime — it’s her heritage.
“You don’t give that away,” she says.
She came around after considering the impact it could have on people’s lives in a world overrun with technology and endless streams of information.
“In this time, we don’t know what to feel anymore. This is very, very pure. It’s a beautiful way to be happy.”
Perform silk // The summer session runs through Aug. 25. Adult classes meet on weekdays at the Palaestra Gym, 4335 N. Beltwood. The cost is $20-$22 per class or $140 per month for unlimited classes. Private lessons also are available. For details and to register, call 214.206.1449 or visit lonestarcircus.org.
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 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.
Clint Montgomery has been practicing archery since his mom said “no” to the BB gun, he says. He’s 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 in Lake Highlands as a benefit for Texas Instruments employees and recently opened facilities in Plano and Far 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 just $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.
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 in Far North Dallas for children and adults — 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 near the Galleria Dallas, and the Dunford Recreation Center in Mesquite. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and younger. The Dallas Dodgeball Shootout is an open tournament for ages 17 and older, 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.
Move the disk into the end zone, like football. There’s a lot of running, passing and jumping and falling, but it is a non-contact sport (at least that’s what the rules dictate). Mike Ahern, who has been playing Ultimate Frisbee since 1993, says that while demographics skew younger, there is a significant subset of older people playing these days. That stereotypical Frisbee guy — “the protohippie, let’s say” — is at best an endangered species. And it’s not just the guys — about one-third of the players are female.
Play disk // Beginners can find pick-up games at 6:30 p.m. Mondays at The Village Apartments (8303 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 Prestonwood Polo Club in Oak Point. The cost is $70 per player and includes a disc and T-shirt. Visit dallasultimate.org.
Move the ball into the end zone without losing the flag attached to your waist. It’s a non-contact version of mainstream football. Flag football still involves the same skill and athleticism — minus the part where you are slammed to the ground. Instead, each down ends when a defensive player grabs the flag of the offensive player.
Play flag footbal // Big D Sports offers co-ed and men’s recreational, upper recreational and intermediate leagues that play Wednesdays and Saturdays at Glencoe Park at Central Expressway and Martel. The cost is $575-$600 per team. For details on the fall league, visit bigdfun.com/sports/flag-football.
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 like Babe Ruthless.
Play roller derby // 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.
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, they 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.
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 // Zensual Dance offers classes at MoveStudio, 17062 Preston, Ste. 108. The cost is $15 for an introductory class. Call 469.426.5090 or visit zensualdance.com.
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.
Indoor rock climbing // Exposure Rock Climbing is at 2389 Midway near Keller Springs. Day passes are available for $20, including all the necessary equipment. Private lessons are $50 per one-hour class. Visit exposurerockclimbing.com.
Hit the shuttlecock or 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. It is an Olympic sport, so it can get competitive, but many play recreationally. The Dallas Badminton Club, founded in 1988, is active year-round and attracts players from different backgrounds.
Play badminton // The Dallas Badminton Club meets 7-10 p.m. Monday and Wednesdays and has open play 11:15 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays at Reverchon Recreation Center, 3505 Maple. The cost is $60 for individuals and $100 for families. Call 214.670.7720 or visit dallasbadmintonclub.com.
Hit the ball with a mallet into the opposing team’s goal — all while riding a bicycle. It’s like horse polo for the urban athlete. It may seem like a new fad, but bike polo actually was invented in 1891 by Irish cyclist Richard Mecredy. There are more than 160 registered teams in the United States, and the sport recently gained popularity in Dallas.
Play bike polo // Dallas Bicycle Polo plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at Norbuck Park at Buckner and Northwest Highway near White Rock Lake. There usually is extra gear available for newbies. The cost is free. Visit leagueofbikepolo.com/club/dallas-bicycle-polo.