Madison Davis’ hands moved feverishly as she assembled one stack of three cups, another of six, and another of three. And in three swift motions, the fifth-grader disassembled her stacks and tagged her teammate — all in a few seconds.
“I like that it’s very fun, and once you learn and keep doing it, you can race your friends,” she said. “It’s a sport because of speed and the hand-eye coordination.”
Madison was one of about 300 Monte Vista Elementary School fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders who were part of a worldwide effort to set the world record for cup stacking. More than 250,000 participants worldwide were expected to set the Guinness World Record for most people stacking in multiple locations in one day.
The game is as simple as stacking cups. Its professional title is sport stacking, and while it’s been part of the physical education curriculum at Monte Vista for a few years, it gained national attention in a 1990 “Tonight Show” episode. Some parents and teachers said it was similar to pogs, a game that gripped elementary and middle school students during in the early ’90s.
The Monte Vista playground was dotted with different stations, each with games. There were team relays, head-to-head battles and races featuring different cup sizes, the smallest hardly bigger than a thimble.
“You don’t have to get all sweaty,” said Brett Dunkin, a fifth-grader. “It’s better than video games where all you’re doing is pressing buttons and moving a character. This, you get a better personality.”
Some parents said they were skeptical of stacking as a bona-fide sport. Roger Sondergaard, the PE teacher, said the game’s rules are flexible enough that it tricks kids into exercising.
“I could have them sprint and they’ll go, ‘Ugh,’” he said. “This camouflages running into a fitness activity.”
Students can also stack from a push-up position, he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids raise their self-esteem by being really good stackers,” he said.
The game is easy to learn and can be played any time, anywhere and with anyone, students said.
“They love it because they can annihilate any adult,” said sixth-grade teacher Daniel DiMundo. “There’s so little time playing games that aren’t on television screens. That’s how I push the game at home and get families involved because every adult wants to play, but they’re terrible at it, which makes it more fun.”
Principal Susan Hoge tried her hand at what she called the remedial stacking race.
“There’s a lot of hand-eye coordination going on,” she said. “And it’s creative thinking.”
Glendale Unified school board member Christine Walters tried the game a few times, only to learn that a lot more goes into it than stacking cups quickly.
“There’s anti-boredom in it,” she said. “[If] you don’t have anything to do, look what you can do with 12 cups. We don’t need complicated video games or expensive gear.”
“People say video games help your imagination and hand-eye coordination,” she said. “But I think this helps both . . . It’s much better than video games.”