By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN A Christmas gift from their aunt has turned into a satisfying pastime for Drew Jackson, 10, and his younger brother, Zach, 7, of Lester Prairie. To see a video of their cup-stacking prowess, click here.
The boys are the sons of Craig and Tracy Jackson.
Two years ago, Tracy’s sister gave the boys a sport stacking starter kit for Christmas.
They did not know anything about sport stacking at the time, but the kit included everything they needed to get started: a stack mat, a timer, an instructional DVD, and, of course, a set of regulation plastic cups.
They watched the DVD and began practicing.
They learned the various events that are part of the sport, which include individual, doubles, and team events.
Stacking plastic cups might sound simple, but the time element can make it very demanding. Performance is measured in fractions of a second.
Competitions are broken down into timed “races” that may include the various stacking patterns, 3-3-3, 3-6-3, or cycle.
Drew and Zach are happy to demonstrate what each of these events looks like, but observers need to watch closely, because the boys’ hands are a blur as they quickly assemble and dis-assemble the required formations of cups.
They start out with both hands flat on a sensor on the edge of their stack mat, and after they finish the routine, they must end with their hands back in the starting position.
Drew and Zach had their first chance to try out their new skills competing against other stackers, and they fared well in their first formal cup-stacking competition March 6 when they participated in the Central Region Sport Stacking Championships at the Eagan Civic Center in Eagan.
Competing against other stackers from Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri, Drew’s relay team placed fifth, and his doubles team placed eighth.
Zach won three individual championships for his age division.
The competition was a family affair. Craig was able to compete on teams with each of his sons, and Drew and Zach also competed together in the doubles competition. The doubles event requires real teamwork, because each participant is only allowed to use one hand.
Drew explained that there are many ways that a stacker can incur penalties. The rules vary by event, but certain mistakes can result in a “scratch.” These include failing to correct a fall right away, a cup falling outside of a boundary line, or, in team competition, a teammate crossing the line before he is tagged.
“They are very specific about the rules,” Craig added. As an example, he described an event that requires a participant to tap the corner of his cup on the mat. A penalty point is charged if the side, rather than the corner is tapped. Craig learned this by experience.
Participants can be of any age. Those under 18 compete within their own age brackets. Some events, such as the relay, can include team members of any age.
Drew was happy to report that his team defeated a team of stackers who were in their 40s.
The rest of the family acknowledges that even though he is the youngest, Zach is the fastest family member when it comes to sport stacking. He also practices the most, taking time to practice sport stacking every day.
The Jacksons explained that the sport has been growing in popularity during the past decade, and there are many state and regional competitions.
There were about 120 participants in the competition in Eagan.
Tracy did not participate in the event, but took photos of the rest of the family. She said the event took place in a converted ice arena and used the entire space, with about 50 tables set up for the competition.
Participants were as young as age 5, and a couple were older than 70, Craig said.
He added that at last year’s world championship event in Denver, there were stackers from 21 states and six countries.
One of the role models in the sport is University of Minnesota basketball star Emily Fox, who was the world record holder in sport stacking for a number of years, Craig said.
Part of her success in basketball, according to Craig, is the hand-eye coordination she developed from sport stacking.
Many physical education teachers teach their students sport stacking for that reason. The hand-eye coordination developed through sport stacking can help participants to improve their performance in other sports, Craig said.
Some sport stackers work to beat world speed records. In order to qualify for a record, a performance must take place during a formal competition, and it must be videotaped so that it can be verified.
Judges monitor all competitive events.
The sport’s growing popularity has even resulted in corporate sponsorship of tournaments.
Despite the competitive side of the sport, many participants, like the Jacksons, do it mainly for the fun.
Since that original Christmas gift that introduced them to sport stacking, the family is on their second timer and their fifth set of cups.
“They wore them out,” Tracy explained.
The Jacksons enjoy the social side of the sport. The boys made some new friends and participated on teams with stackers from the Twin Cities area during the recent tournament, and Craig and Tracy met some of the parents.
The Jacksons are willing ambassadors for sport stacking, and would like to see other people in the area take up the sport.
Drew and Zach said they would like to participate in more competitions in the future.
For now, they will keep practicing and trying to shave seconds off of their best time, but mostly, they will continue to have fun with this sport that the whole family can enjoy.