Overshadowed by their more mainstream counterparts (we're looking at you, football), there are plenty of less-known sports out there. And not only are they out there, but many of them have competitive leagues right here in Arizona. We like to call them the oddballs. From variations on horseshoes to water polo played with inner tubes, these sports offer fun and sometimes funny ways to pass the time.
Here are 10 oddball sports and where to play them in the Phoenix area.
See also:TopGolf Now Open in Scottsdale
Futsal is a version of soccer that is played with five players on each team on a smaller, indoor court. While it may look a lot like soccer, there are several differences in the rules, including 20-minute halves, not 45, and that the ball is kicked in, instead of thrown.
There are several leagues in Arizona, many of which will be holding tryouts within the coming weeks, including Arizona Futsal, which has teams in the greater Phoenix area and Arizona Premier Futsal, which plays at the Atkinson Pavilions.
Squash is a racquet sport played by two or four players who take turns hitting a ball against a wall and other areas of a court, kind of like a combination of tennis and badminton. The first player to get 11 points wins the game.
There are several courts in Phoenix at fitness clubs and resorts, including at the Village Health Clubs and Spas which host annual tournaments such as the Arizona Squash Open. There are courts at both the Gainey and DC Ranch locations in North Scottsdale that can be reserved. They also have an Interclub Challenge that plays on the third Saturday of every month.
With competitive leagues and competitions, dodgeball is no longer just a sport played in school gym classes. Phoenix Dodgeball, which practices at the Kiwanis Recreation Center in Tempe, provides multiple options for those who want to participate in the sport, including a social league and a competitive league. The social league has a different theme each time, with the one currently in progress themed around Star Wars. Teams have names based on Star Wars characters, and there are trivia nights every odd week of play. The competitive league plays every Sunday for 10 weeks beginning in August and teams and players have until Friday, July 24, to register. Teams can be registered by their captain through the Phoenix Dodgeball website. Individuals can also register as freelance agents and will not be charged until they are placed on a team. The registration fee varies depending on the type of team and player.
7. Dragon Boat
Dragon boating has become popular with festivals celebrating the sport all across the country and locally in Tempe. In dragon boating, teams consisting of 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a person who steers the boat race against other teams to cross the finish line first.
The Arizona Dragon Boat Association (AZDBA) has several teams that people can join from mixed competitive teams to teams for breast cancer survivors and special Olympians. All teams practice at Tempe Town Lake Marina, with each team having their own practice schedule. The ADBA makes it easy for people to try out the sport, by allowing them to join the first two practices for free. The first year of membership costs $135 with annual renewal fees at $110. The association offers a discounted rate to students at $55 a year.
6. Ultimate Frisbee
Ultimate Frisbee, often shortened to ultimate, is a disc sport similar to football. Players pass the Frisbee to their teammates in an attempt to score points in the opposing end zone. However, unlike football, players are not allowed to move their feet when they are in possession of the disc, and interceptions and incomplete passes are considered turnovers.
Valley of the Sun Ultimate offers multiple leagues throughout the year as well as open teams that people can join at any time. During the summer, separate men's and women's leagues are created, but during the rest of the year the leagues are co-ed. There are pickup games at Fitch Park in Mesa and at the Intel Softball Field in Chandler, both on Thursdays. Information on upcoming leagues and open play can be found on www.vots.org.
Flowboarding is an individual sport that combines elements of multiple board sports. Instead of riding the ocean waves, participants ride artificial waves in a small structure. While the sport has been popularized by cruise ships, there are international competitions and permanent locations where people can practice.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in North Scottsdale hosted the 2013 World Flowboarding Championships, where six champions were crowned. They have a permanent flowboarding setup that is available to guests.
4. Inner Tube Water Polo
In this unique take on water polo, the rules are very similar to the original sport. The biggest difference is that players, except for the goalkeeper, must stay afloat in an inner tube. The inner tube makes it easier for more people to play water polo, since less energy is expended. The number of players can vary depending on the league, but typically it can be anywhere from four to seven players on a team.
While inner tube water polo is most commonly played in colleges, there are adult leagues. Currently there aren't any leagues up and running in the area, but Icon Sports is working to create an inner tube water polo team that is coming soon.
Similar to horseshoes, players throw boules to try to get as close as possible to the target and knock out their opponent's boules. The "courts" can vary widely and some teams play more relaxed versions of the rules than others.
Currently there are no teams in Arizona that are part of the Federation of Petanque U.S.A., but there are several groups that get together to play. To find other players in the Phoenix area, visit the Arizona Petanque Directory.
Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. The game is played with a paddle and plastic ball that both look similar to those used in ping-pong and other similar sports, but the equipment for pickleball is unique.
There are several courts available in the Phoenix area, most of which are open during the summer, including the Deer Valley Community Center and the Encanto Sports Complex. The typical rate is $2 per day, but each location offers their own deals and prices.
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The famous Harry Potter sport has been adapted for muggle play and quickly has become popular all over the world with international leagues and even an annual conference. The game is played similarly to the wizard version with seven players on each side and players having to hold a broom between their legs at all times.