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Get Fit The Weird Way With These 4 Niche Sports

Squash and five-a-side boring you rigid? You need something a bit more leftfield...

1. Hardcourt Bike Polo

WHAT IS IT?

A thoroughly urban sport beloved by the kind of people who sport full-sleeve tattoos and only listen to vinyl, hardcourt bike polo is the concreted-over version of ‘traditional’ cycle polo, which is played on grass. It was created in Seattle in the early 2000s, and played by bicycle couriers during downtime between deliveries.

The sport has spread across the globe and sky-rocketed in popularity over the last decade or so, but maintained its original grassroots, punk-rock vibe, which means the rules can vary from city to city. However, the majority of games are now played to ‘official’ guidelines put together by the North American Hardcourt Association.

The basics are always the same: two teams of three players, a ball, and an enclosed concrete space (such as a basketball court) with makeshift ‘goals’ at either end. The ball is placed in the middle of court; both teams charge at it, in what’s known as the ‘joust’. Entertaining carnage ensues.


HOW DO I GET INVOLVED? 

Given that you only need six people to play, you can get started just by roping five mates in – you’ll just need to knock yourselves up some biki polo mallets.

Or, if you live in a large town or city, search Google and Facebook and you may well find that there’s a hardcourt bike polo league within pedalling distance. Here, for example, is Manchester’s. And here’s Birmingham’s. And here’s London’s.

2. Ice Hockey

PIC: Flickr / Kenny Louie

WHAT IS IT? 

Okay, so ice hockey isn’t exactly some esoteric sport that your mum’s never heard of – everyone knows the name Wayne Gretzky, and the game’s practically the national religion of Canada. But it remains relatively unpopular in the UK, despite having been played here for a century now.

Get fit and have fun in the most high-energy, full-contact way possible

However, the sport is always picking up new fans amongst people looking to get fit and have fun in the most high-energy, full-contact way possible. The games may be short’n’sharp – each comprising of just three frantic 20-minute periods – but according to the Journal Of Human Kinetics, a 125lb person will burn 475 calories during those 60 minutes, while a 190lb person will burn a whopping 700 calories.

So get your skates on and let’s knock some big sods on their arses.


WHAT’S THE APPEAL?

“I started playing ice hockey when I was 17 after seeing it on the Winter Olympics,” says Guy Sutherland. “I love the pace, that’s the key selling point of hockey – there aren’t many team sports that I know of that are anywhere near as exhilarating.

Hitting and getting hit is surprisingly enjoyable; a good de-stresser

“It’s also a very good workout; the best comparison is that it’s like doing alternate box jumps and sprints in the gym at three-minute intervals for 60 minutes. Plus, hitting and getting hit is surprisingly enjoyable; a good de-stresser.

“The learning curve is steep but the sense of accomplishment is big. If you like your team sports fast and think you’ll enjoy the occasional collision, ice hockey is the one for you.”

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED? 

The English Ice Hockey Association has a comprehensive list of links to leagues and teams in your area/age range/ability band. If you’re in Scotland, head to the Scottish Ice Hockey Association. In Ireland? Go here. If you’re in Wales or Norn Iron, your best bet is to search Google and/or Facebook for your nearest team.

3. Kabaddi

WHAT IS IT?

Readers of a certain age may recall this sport from back when Channel 4 used to broadcast kabaddi tournaments (for reasons now lost to the mists of time) back in the early ’90s.

Kabaddi is one of the world’s oldest sports, originating in Ancient India

One of the world’s oldest sports, originating in Ancient India, it’s played right across the UK, albeit at a mostly grassroots level. There’s currently a drive to to boost kabaddi’s popularity in the UK up to the blockbuster levels it enjoys in India; to that end, glitzy, Bollywood-infused World Kabaddi League games were recently held at London’s O2 Arena.

The game itself was invented by ancient mystics as a cross-pollination of yoga and high-intensity exercise, and demands intense concentration, lightning speed, brute strength and prodigious breath-control.

Two teams of seven players each occupy halves of a 10m-by-13m court. The teams take turns sending a ‘raider’ into the opposition’s half; this raider must tag a member of the rival team and return to their half without taking a breath – and to prove that they haven’t, they must chant “kabaddi kabaddi kabaddi [etc]” without pause. The rival team, meanwhile, tries to tackle the raider to the ground.

Mad, yes? And also amazing.

FYI: Nobody can agree on what the word “kabaddi” means. T’is a mystery.


WHAT’S THE APPEAL?

“I used to play Kabaddi whenever I visited family in India,” says Sharan Dhaliwal. “It was this thing all the local kids did, but I never really understood it until this girl taught me. My dad used to laugh at me because he’d played when he was young and he thought I looked stupid trying, but I got the gist pretty quickly.

“It’s all pretty manic, but you do get totally swept up in it. It’s very exciting.”

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED? 

The England Kabaddi Federation has a list of UK teams you can approach.

4. Quidditch

WHAT IS IT? 

If you’ve managed to spend the last 15 years in some kind of pop-culture deprivation tank, here’s a quick primer: quidditch is a game played by the characters of the Wizarding World depicted in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It was once a fictional sport, but since 2005, has been a very real sport indeed.

The big difference with muggle quidditch is that the role of Golden Snitch is taken by a human

The ‘real’ quidditch involves flying around on broomsticks, which obviously is a bit out of the question for us “muggles” (if you don’t know, don’t ask…), but broomsticks betwixt legs remain in place.

The other big difference with muggle quidditch is that the role of Golden Snitch is taken by a human. Other than that, the rules and roles (chasers, beaters, keepers) remain pretty much the same. It’s played as a high-speed, full-contact, mixed-gender sport, with teams of between seven and 21 (!) players.

The game was first developed in 2005 by two students at Middlebury College in Vermont. It quickly took off (as if sat upon a magic broom), and there’s now an International Quidditch Association, an official rulebook (now on its eighth edition) and an annual Quidditch World Cup (although it’s kind of like the Baseball ‘World’ Series in that most of the teams are from the US).


HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED? 

Unsurprisingly, quidditch is as big a deal in the UK as it is in the US. QuidditchUK have everything you need to know about getting involved with your local team.

PRO TIP: Yelling out “Bagsy being Harry!” at the start of a game is frowned upon.

Bonus Sport: Roller Derby

Which we’ve already covered… here.

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