What is Sport Stacking?
Sport Stacking is without a doubt, America’s fastest growing new sport/activity (or at least in the top 5 for sure!). In fact, it’s such a popular sport (ya, we’ll call it a sport for simplicity), that it has its own governing body for competitions and rules called the World Sport Stacking Association or WSSA! If you’re new to this sport, here’s an overview of what’s going on!
Also known as cup stacking or speed stacking, sport stacking is a sport that involves stacking (by hand) 12 specially designed cups (sometimes a different number like 9) in a predetermined order or sequence and then unstacking them again as fast as you can. The cups are made very specifically for this sport and any attempt to use your plastic tumblers at home will only result in frustration. The cups have holes in the bottom to let air flow freely during the stacking process and prevents the cups from sticking together when you start unstacking them. They’re also made of a very slippery plastic that further reduces adhesion to one another.
Stacking sequences are typically pyramids of 3, 6 or 10 cups, and competitions are based on individual times or one on one player competitions. Competitions and popularity are growing so fast that new world records are being set nearly every month! Let’s try to unpack the reasons why!
Benefits – More than a Hobby!
At first glance, it may appear that sport stacking is just another fad like hula hoops or yo-yos, or maybe just a hobby like flying model airplanes. On one level, that’s exactly what it is. However, it seems there have been copious studies done around the world on the benefits of sport stacking, ranging from physical, to mental and emotional benefits that can be life-changing! According to information gathered by Speed Stacks (a company with the only officially-sanctioned cups that can be used in competition in WSSA tournaments), one of the most common comments they receive from parents and school administrators is that sport stacking goes a very long way towards leveling the playing field for otherwise “disadvantaged” kids! Non-athletics kids can now compete head to head with skilled athletes in school, and they often win. That raises self-esteem which in turn motivates them to work harder not only in P.E. class but in other subjects! WOW! It seems tough to believe that a set of plastic cups can move a slacker to become an academic overachiever who graduates top of the class from med school!
Much of this academic improvement is achieved by students because they are forced to use both the right and left sides of their brain. When students sport stack they are crossing the “midline” of their bodies and developing new synaptic connections in their brains. These new connections help to spur brain growth which in turn promotes greater academic achievement.
Parents, caregivers and teachers the world over have endorsed this sport since it promotes fitness, agility, concentration, and quickness! Who wouldn’t want that?! Even school Physical Education programs incorporate speed stacking as part of their curriculum. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin by Dr. Brian Udermann, confirms that stacking improves hand-eye coordination & reaction time by up to 30%. Incredible! Who need mind-numbing video games?! In another study at Towson University, a significant increase was found for elementary school students in comprehension skills, suggesting that Sport Stacking may improve students’ reading comprehension skills, regardless of race or gender.
Unlike many other activities and sports, there seems to be something nearly “magical” about the effects of sport stacking. Dozens (probably way more) stories have come to light about kids whose lives are forever changed in a nearly incalculable way for the better. Consider a young man named Trey Griffith! When Trey’s dad Jimmy found out his son was on the Autism Spectrum he was rightly concerned he may never be able to bond with his son over any common connection to a sport which Jimmy loved. Trey found a set of stacking cups in his sister’s closet, and after a couple of years and some great practice sessions with Dad, Trey became one of the fastest sport stackers in the world at age 12. This is but one of countless stories that warm the heart and jerk the tears!
A Bit of History
Wayne Godinet came up with the idea for sport stacking WAY back in 1981 while working for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club in Oceanside, California. Sports were a bit component of the club, but Wayne saw that often children were tired of traditional sports and some didn’t like sports at all. So, in an epic attempt to alleviate that problem, he took paper cups from the kitchen and made the kids stack them as fast as they could. The specifics of what that looked like are the topic of a whole new post, but for now, let’s just say the activity or sport was very well received and it became more than just another boring pastime at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club! Godinet realized that plastic cups would work better but discovered the problem of cups sticking together. He added a hole in the bottom and the first stacking cup was born!
Popularity grew even further to the point that Godinet started his own cup-making company called the Karango Cupstack Company, and by the end of the 1980’s he had sold around 25,000 sets of cups. He then started an annual competition in Oceanside and later appeared with his championship team on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson!
Earlier, we covered some of the history of the cups from paper to plastic to hole-making. Because of how the cups are made and their surprisingly low price point, it’s simply not worth making your own set. Even if you did, it would have a very different feel than the “official” cups which means that you would need to become accustomed to the official cups to set any records or even just compete! The cups are reinforced with ribs inside which also serve to separate the cups from each other when they are nestled together. The outside of the cup offers good grip since it is slightly textured. The insides are smooth in order to slide out of the nestled position easily. The cup bottoms (which could be called tops since they are facing upward) have at least 1 hole to allow air to pass while stacking and unstacking, and some cup designs have as many as 4 holes. There’s even a company that makes cups with NO bottom (or top) to allow for no air resistance at all!
If you think that a set of cups is all you need to enjoy the sport, you’d be wrong! Well, mostly anyway. We purchased 2 sets for our kids only to find out within one day, that we were lacking in other essentials! In order to have fun competing (even if it’s just against yourself), you’ll want to have a timer. It’s no good to have a stopwatch since you cannot accurately start or stop time during the stacking process which often takes only several seconds. Enter the stack mat. Stack mats (AKA “stacking mats”) are specially designed mats that decrease cup movement but more importantly, incorporate a sensitive timer used for practice and competition timing.
A Bit of a Controversy!
We mentioned the company Speed Stacks earlier, which happens to be the best-known and most prolific maker of Speed Stacking equipment like cups, mats and timers. In 2001, the World Sport Stacking Association was founded to promote and govern sport stacking competitions, but the problem was that the owners of Speed Stacks were the founders of the WSSA. Why is that a problem? Well, it might not be if it wasn’t for the fact that the ONLY cups that could be used in official competitions were cups MADE BY SPEED STACKS! Yikes! That’s not even a hidden conflict of interest! It seems the stacking world has come to terms with this situation, however, there are many critics who contend that sport stacking can’t grow until the governing body is an independent body that is not influenced directly by brand, products and companies that dictate rules to their own benefit.
That being said, Sport Stacks makes (arguably) the best cups, mats, and timers in the world and many competitors really don’t care about the business politics behind the scenes.
With lots of great cups and a huge variety of mats on the market, let’s see what our team has chosen as the top equipment and supplies available anywhere!
Here’s Our Chart of the Best Deals in Sport Stacking
Best Sport Stacking Supplies Reviews
The Speed Stack Stack Station Pro is really one of a kind. We couldn’t find any competitors! With Speed Stack having a virtual monopoly on higher end equipment, our reviews focus on their products simply because of the standardized quality and variety available. This station includes a tournament display pro head and data cable with a G4 Storm mat and pro timer. A surface with no bounce is imperative, and the Stack Station Pro is ZERO BOUNCE! The legs are removable and they’re welded (rather than riveted or pinned) for a very solid feel. If you’re looking to practice for official WSSA competition or just feel like a tournament winner, you’ll want the table/station to be official WSSA height. Guess what? YES, this is the official WSSA height of 30 inches!
- The official height of WSSA competition tables
- Sturdy, stable construction with zero bounce quality
- At over a hundred bucks, it can be a bit restrictive in price for the casual player
Okay, let’s be honest here! You won’t need this pack for your 1-3 kids even if they’re all really into the sport! The sport pack is for schools or other organizations that are equipping at least half a dozen serious competitors or a kid’s club with dozens of interested players! It contains 30 sets of cups, 6 StackMat Pro (mats plus timers) and video instruction including online curriculum. It’s an organized system that really gives the sport an academic and serious note!
- WAAAYYY better pricing than buying all the components separately which would cost nearly $2000, so paying 1/4 the price ain’t so bad!
- Offers instruction on video and online curriculum
- Not much here other than price. The value is insanely good (about 1/4 of the price of buying all items separately) but you’re still paying hundreds of dollars!
By now you know that Speed Stacks is the only certified brand in the World Sport Stacking Association. Earlier in this review article, we outlined the controversy regarding this issue, and whatever you believe about that controversy, you can’t deny that Speed Stacks has set the standard for quality cups, mats and timers. This set includes a lot of stuff that would cost more if bought separately (as many “sets” or “combos” do). You’ll get a set of fairly hard to get (rare?) digital camo cups (4″), a cup keeper and gear bag along with the quick release stem. You’ll get a Generation 3 black flames mat and a G4 pro timer, and finally, you’ll get a $49 active energy power balance necklace. Truth be told, we couldn’t find the necklace anywhere for $49 online. We found other Speed Stacks deals that included it at a lower price, so we can’t guarantee the accuracy of the $49 statement, but overall it’s still a great deal!
- Winner of the Family Choice Awards
- The most accurate timer available
- Combination deal is a good one
- Thinner mat than some expected
- Higher Price for overall (though excellent value for what you’re getting – kind of like if you buy a used 2015 Hyundai for $4000, or a brand new BMW for $8000. The $8000 is quite a bit more $$ than $4000 but it’s a WAY better deal …. get it?)
Here’s probably the best “deal” on our list. It features 12 Speed Stack Cups in any one of 6 VERY COOL color combinations. Click the name just above this line to see the options! It has a GX timer and GX mat and a stacking stem (meant to carry and store the cups but does not help in stacking). It also offers online stacking instructions as do other Speed Stacks products.
- Winner of the Family Choice Awards (as are all Speed Stacks products in general in 2018)
- Very funky choice of bright and loud colors
- The only real negative would be that some customers received something other than what was ordered. This results in extra effort and aggravation to rectify the situation with Amazon, but eventually, it turns out well in the end.
For those wishing to get their feet wet (metaphorically of course) in the sport of speed stacking, without breaking the bank, we strongly recommend this sport stacking set. While it does not include a timer, mat or stand, it does offer an attractive price point to get you started with the feel of actually stacking cups. It also offers you the choice of red, purple, pink, orange, green or blue cups. The quick release stem is also included and it’ll help you carry and store the cups in an organized way. On the stem you’ll find a QR code to bring you to an online training video to give you a jump start on your road to learning and enjoying one of America’s fastest growing sports!
As with all Speed Stacks products, this set fits in the general category of “winner of the 2018 Family Choice Awards” which is quite an accomplishment for any product from any company!
- Officially endorsed cups (by the WSSA)
- Comes with a carry/storage quick release stem
- Winner of the Family Choice Award
- Does not come with timer, stand/table or mat
Okay, true, this is not officially a cup stacking mat, but we had to throw it in because the mat is dual-purpose. It can be used for cup stacking AND you can use it for Rubiks Cube timing as well. The timer itself is 100% the same as the speed stacking timer. It’s a G4 Pro Timer (as good as SpeedStacks makes) and the accuracy is super tight to 0.001 seconds.
CAUTION: The only issue with the Cubing Pack and mat is that the width is NOT ideal for cup stacking. It’s narrower and therefore it’s perfect for cubing. If you’re into both stacking and cubing, we’d suggest keeping the timer and just buying 2 separate mats which will definitely not break the bank!
- Includes interchangeable timer for both stacking and cubing mats
- Includes SpeedStacks’ best timer (G4 Pro)
- Not ideal for sport stacking since the mat itself is not wide enough for 3 stacks of cups beside each other (3-6-3).
Sport Stacking Primer/Overview/Lowdown … you get the idea!