© Getty; Carlos Osorio
8 obscure sports that will make you awesome at other sports
Fast, fun and incredibly niche – having a go at one of these unusual sports could help your more mainstream fitness disciplines.
If you ask us, obscure sports get something of bad rap. Sure, they may seem a bit nerdy and require odd equipment, but some of the more 'out there' games can provide a real boost to your fitness and agility.
Yep, gone are the days of these niche events being solely for those who ‘don’t do sports’ – with each field increasingly offering a more competitive edge, they’re now ideal for getting you fit for purpose in other disciplines as well.
So why not get stuck into some of these?
1. Underwater hockey
This wonderful sport sees two teams of six take to the pool for a bout of subaquatic ice hockey. Each player wears a diving mask, snorkel and fins, and controls the puck using a small stick. Games are played over two halves (either 10 or 15 minutes in length) and the winning team is the one that scores the most goals (when the puck hits the opposing side’s three-metre wide ‘gulley’).
It will make you better at: Endurance swimming. As it relies on you holding your breath underwater, it will improve your lung capacity and in time become beneficial for any endurance swim.
You may have seen the 2004 Ben Stiller comedy that brought the obscure sport to the big screen, but now’s the time to live it: played by two teams of six, the aim of the game is to eliminate the other team by throwing balls at them. There can be anything between three and 10 balls in play, and participants can also be eliminated by having a ball they’ve thrown caught. The game only ends when all opposing players have been eliminated, with the longest ever game lasting over 41 hours.
It will make you better at: Obstacle races. The start of a game when players retrieve balls from the middle of the court will improve your sprinting, while having quick reflexes to evade potshots will come handy for whatever’s thrown at you on an obstacle course.
The only sport in the world that can be won by knockout or checkmate, chessboxing is a test of brawn and brain. Invented by the Dutch performance artist lepe Rubingh, matches consist of 11 alternating rounds (six of chess, five of boxing) that last three minutes each. If the bout goes the distance and the game of chess finishes as a draw, the winner is decided by whoever is ahead on boxing points.
It will make you better at: Boxing (obviously). But it’s a great way to improve your general fitness and stamina, while the chess under pressure is a brilliant way to build mental endurance.
4. Stand up paddleboarding
What started on the waves of Hawaii has now crossed over to the UK's lakes and canals. An offshoot of surfing, the activity sees participants standing on a longboard while propelling themselves through the water using a paddle similar to that of a canoe. It's generally a recreational activity, but there's also stand up paddle board (SUP) racing if you need to scratch your competitive itch.
It will make you better at: Swim races. SUP requires you to engage your core to stay balanced on the water, which will help you hold your position in the pool better when swimming.
Celebrating its 50th year in 2018, Ultimate (commonly known as ultimate frisbee) is finally emerging from obscurity – the sport is even eligible for the 2024 Olympic Games. The game involves two teams of seven trying to pass a flying disc into the opposing side’s end zone. Like netball, players aren’t allowed to move when holding the disc, and a point is scored for each successfully completed pass, with any dropped catches or interceptions resulting in a turnover. Ultimate requires a good level of athleticism and dexterity.
It will make you better at: Running. Ultimate will give your body a brilliant HIIT workout, while also boosting your leg power to make you faster out of the blocks when sprinting.
6. Bike polo
As the name would suggest, bike polo is a more accessible and affordable version of the horse-based variety. Generally played on a hardcourt (such as a tennis or netball court), teams of three players attempt to outscore the opposition over a game that lasts between 10-15 minutes. Each player has a mallet that they use to hit a street hockey ball into the opposing side’s goal – all of this while mounted on a bike. Although mocked for being a ‘hipster’ sport, the game requires a lot of technical ability and skill, and there’s often not a moustache in sight.
It will make you better at: Road cycling. Having to cycle one-handed will improve your bike control and balance, while the stop-start nature of the sport is great for improving your cycling criterium skills.
Since being created for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, mere muggles have commandeered the game and it’s popular the world over. A full-contact sport, two teams of six on broomsticks (rigid poles between their legs) must get the quaffle (a slightly deflated volleyball) through the opposing side’s three hoops, all the while dodging the bludgers (slightly deflated dodgeballs thrown by the opposition). After 18 minutes of play, the snitch (a tennis ball in a sock hanging from the shorts of an official, of course) is introduced to the game along with a new member for each team, with the game ending when the one of the ‘seekers’ catches the snitch.
It will make you better at: Racket sports. The stop-start nature of the game is superb for your cardio work, and improving your hand-eye coordination will be a boon for you on the tennis or squash court.
This mixed sport from the Netherlands is quite similar to netball and basketball, and sees teams of eight (four male, four female) attempting to score points by throwing a ball through the opposing side’s basket. So far, so simple. The difference comes with the set-up of the court – each team is split in half (four attackers and four defenders), and they aren’t allowed to leave their respective zones on the court. The focus of the game is on agility and teamwork, with blocking, tackling and holding not allowed, and players only able to defend against opponents of the same gender.