Stacking up a storm of cups

2010-08-31 00:00

YOU can hear them long before you see them. The clacking and shuffling sounds of fast-moving plastic cups on desks echoes down the corridor. It’s a typical school passage, more of a veranda, with one side open to a garden. Although the setting is common of local schools, the sight that meets you in the classroom is not. The noise hits you in a clattering wave as eight pupils of varying ages stack, collapse and restack piles of plastic cups.

The popularity of sport stacking, or speed stacking as it’s more commonly known, is growing in city schools. Those that have introduced it include Scottsville Primary School and Gert Maritz, where it is a recognised school sport, and St Charles, Epworth and Cowan House, where it is an extra-mural activity.

Originally called cup stacking, the sport originated in the United States some 20 years ago. It has evolved into a world-wide sport with its own governing body, the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA). A local pupil, Asad Khan, who is in Grade 6 at Scottsville Primary School, was one of four children chosen to represent South Africa at the world championships at the University of Denver in Colorado, in April.

Speed stacking reportedly improves eye-hand co-ordination, ambidexterity and teaches patterning and sequencing, which are the basis of reading, writing and arithmetic. It also helps develop motor skills and encourages perseverance and practise.

Epworth Grade 4 teacher Jan-Hendrik van Tonder said: “I have seen a definite improvement in the performance of pupils who do speed stacking. It builds their self-confidence and gives them something to excel at, especially those who have not yet found their niche in sport, cultural activities or academics.”

Epworth will take a team of 25 pupils, ranging from Grade 2s to Grade 7s, to the Pietermaritzburg speed stacking championships to be held at Scottsville Primary School in early September.

The Witness spoke to several of Epworth’s sports stacking squad who confirmed their teacher’s opinions. Grade 5 pupil Ru Gubba, who has been participating for about a year, said: “It’s really fun and it has helped my school work and my tennis has improved too.”

Fellow Grade 5 pupil Joshua Miranda said: “It helps your brain and your fingers and you get faster at stuff. I used to be really slow at typing on a computer, but now I’m much faster and I can find the keys more easily, and I can write faster too. I’m not allowed to watch TV during the week so my sister and I do stacking, it’s really fun.”

Grade 7 pupil Chad Atterbury, who has also been doing it for a year, agreed: “I was really slow when I started but I got faster. It’s improved my fine motor control a lot and I find I do all kinds of things with my hands faster.”

Local marketer of speed stacks, Reneé Olivier of Hillcrest, said: “I am trying to get the sport introduced into schools in the midlands because of its many benefits [see box]. I am happy to visit schools to do a presentation for staff and/or parents and leave a set up of cups for pupils to try out this fantastic sport.”

Olivier is organising the Pietermaritzburg speed stacking championships which will take place on September 3 at Scottsville Primary School at 2.30 pm.

• Reneé Olivier at 083 443 5461 or renee@speed stacks.co.za or renee@leocapio.co.za

Here is one of the country’s top speed stackers in action — Scottsville Primary’s Asad Khan — who was one of four children to represent South Africa at the world championships at the University of Denver in Colorado, United States, in April.

What is speed stacking?

SPEED or sport stacking is an individual and team sport where participants stack and unstack 12 specially designed plastic cups in predetermined sequences as fast as possible. People of all ages can take part and participants compete against the clock or other players. Participants can also buy mats to work on and specialised timers. The governing body that sets the rules is the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA). Sequences are usually pyramids of three, six or 10 cups. The sport has generated a large Youtube community, with stackers uploading their fastest times to the video-sharing website.

The cups are available in threesizes — jumbo, speed and mini speed stacks. Speed stacks are the variety used in the sport. Jumbo stacks are reportedly proving popular in pre-primary schools and occupational therapy practices.

— Wikipedia and www.speedstacks. co.za

Is speed stacking really a sport?

ALTHOUGH it may not sound like it, speed stacking qualifies as a sport. There is a growing body of research on the activity, both locally and internationally. In one study that was carried out on junior school children in a school in the United States, researchers found that the energy expended in speed stacking matched that of other activities in school physical education programmes. This included bowling, dance, archery, volleyball, weight lifting and walking at four kilometres per hour. The researchers said: “Thus, sport stacking could be deemed a valuable activity for physical education courses.”

— www.speedstacks.co.za

Benefits of speed stacking

INFORMATION available from the South African division of the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA) claims that there are many direct and indirect benefits of speed stacking. It states that the best form of exercise to get the brain to function optimally is something that works the cardiovascular system and the brain at the same time, like tennis or speed stacking. According to a movement specialist at the University of South Africa (Unisa), Dr Soezin Krog, the activity also helps improve dexterity and quickness, increases focus and concentration and improves self-image. Her research findings titled “Movement programmes as a need to learning readiness” were recently posted on the Internet at http://hdl.handle.net/10500/3514

The WSSA website claims that “sport stacking not only promotes physical fitness, but also academic learning. Pupils who sport stack on a regular basis have shown increases in test scores and levels of concentration. This is achieved by pupils using both their right and left sides of their brain. When pupils sport stack they are crossing the midline of their bodies and developing new connections in their brains. These new connections help to spur brain growth, which in turn promotes greater academic achievement.”

Research is currently under way at Protea Rif Primary School in Krugers- dorp in three Grade 1 classes to assess the effects of the activity on children’s reading, writing and arithmetic abilities. The results are expected later this year.

According to the local marketer of speed stacks, Reneé Olivier, it is an inexpensive sport compared with others that require special clothing and equipment, and is highly portable. “It levels the playing field by allowing pupils of different athletic abilities to compete. It can be an individual or a team activity that is co-operative and competitive,” she said. — www.speedstacks.co.za

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