Why you should care
Because you are your own biggest competition.
Over at The Huddle, we do our best to showcase the new and surprising tales that make the world of sports a vibrant place. But “sport” is a boundless concept — not all rewarding athletic experiences come under the bright lights of a roaring stadium or from the few sports that the masses obsess over. Luckily for us all, sports are like Tinder. Swipe long enough and you’ll find a good time.
As a firm believer that humans crave physical competition, I’m always searching for nontraditional options to explore — both alone and with others. This way, when my 5′6″ buddy with cauliflower ear declines my invitation to shoot hoops, my lanky ass has plenty of options outside testing his merits on the wrestling mat.
Maybe you don’t consider yourself a “sports fan” or maybe you have a bad back. Or, perhaps, you’re simply searching for a challenge further from the beaten path of traditional sport. These alternative options will get you active, outdoors and riding a wicked endorphin high.
The idea of fishing from a kayak may seem simple, but I assure you it’s not. Fishing on its own is challenging, but throw a kayak in the mix and it morphs into a whole new beast. Kayak fishing can be done in freshwater lakes, rivers or streams, but if you’ve got access to a coast, take that boat to sea (shout-out to my Connecticut mariners).
There’s something frustratingly beautiful about paddling as hard as humanly possible only to reach a snail’s pace because the current has turned inward. This is the beginning of your lesson that Mother Nature stays undefeated. Setting a line, baiting the hook and locating schools of stripers is a whole other game when a dreaded barrel roll must be avoided. The great thing about kayak fishing, though, is that once you’ve established control over both paddle and pole, the leisure begins. Sit back and enjoy the rays, but be sure to set the hook at any sign of tension. Beginner trips may very well end fishless, so bring refreshments to dull your disappointment. Drink fast, though. Waves can make for a salty brew.
Handball is pretty close to a “traditional sport,” but its sheer magnificence warrants mention. Played on what looks like a large basketball court, participation requires standard abilities: running, throwing and catching what resembles a small soccer ball. This easy entry is what makes the game so appealing, and begs the question of why handball is not more popular in America.
With roots in France, Germany and Scandinavia, the game blends concepts that will be familiar to stateside sports fans. Followers of basketball, lacrosse, soccer and hockey will quickly catch on to the movements and pace of play, and any gym class dodgeball hero’s cannon arm will be highly valued. With official USA Team Handball clubs now in 20 states and the District of Columbia, there’s a chance you might be just a stone’s throw from the 2018 Olympic Games’ hottest sport. New Yorkers, be sure to tweet me if you’re ready for a challenge.
Or maybe the ultimate test of mastering the coordination between body and mind will move your needle.
The ancient sport of archery has many forms, but here’s the basic play: Use a bow to propel arrows and strike a target. Recurve bows — the long, curved tools used by countless cultures throughout history — are the most common, but compound bows are where the power resides. My recommendation: Develop a comfort for the recurve and then bump up. Compound bows sport a more intricate levering system of cables and pulleys that, when used properly, can launch an arrow over 100 yards.
More than anything else, archery is a sport of inner competition. It’s the act of improving gradually through increased exercise and understanding. The forced act of physical attentiveness pays dividends toward clearing a cluttered mind. To pull back the bow, anchor the line, make sure that everything is balanced and eliminate any excess motion … this requires so much focus that there’s no room for extraneous thought. Yoga’s boring. Why not drill some bull’s-eyes instead?