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Strange Ducks

Number of Different’ Sports Available in Abundance in Colorado Springs

Dare to be different.

That’s the motto for a number of Colorado Springs-based sports clubs and groups that have stepped away from the mainstream to find competition, camaraderie and fun in the sports realm. The act of competition knows no limitations, and the plethora of “odd” or “different” types of sporting pursuits available to the area’s residents is an example of that.

Whether it’s the allure of a lesser-known sport or an upstart competition fighting to gain its footing in the sports world, Colorado Springs is a hotbed of activity of all styles. Like every good ice cream shop, everyone can find a flavor that suits him or her when it comes to competition on the Front Range.

“Colorado, as a whole, is just a very athletically active state,” said Bob Ellis, president of the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club. “People are very active, and they want to be out, doing things. The summers aren’t too hot, and the winters aren’t too snowy, so people can continue to do their sport year-round.”

Orienteering may loosely be classified as a “sport,” but is more of a race or competition that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Originally a training exercise in land navigation for military officers, orienteering originated in Sweden in 1886 and has developed many variations, including canoe, car and foot orienteering.

“We have a number of active members in Colorado Springs,” Ellis says. “There’s good availability for orienteering here along the Front Range.”
The Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club schedules 15 to 20 meets per year and also oversees the Colorado Scholastic Orienteering League for middle school and high school students. The club, which will host the National Classic Championships Aug. 8-9 in the Lake George area, has 150-300 members and has a history that dates back to the 1970s.

Most people have never heard of pickleball, a racket sport featuring solid rackets that are used to hit a perforated ball back and forth over a net. Smaller in scale than its more popular cousin, tennis, pickleball has gained a solid following in Colorado Springs.

More than 100 members of the Pikes Peak Pickleball Club are known to meet at Monument Valley Park to play the highly entertaining game, which is believed to have originated in Washington in 1965. It is played on courts that are similar in size and design to badminton courts and features a loyal following.

A handful of these activities not only have enjoyed success and spurred consistent interest from residents, but they have also received the support of the city’s sports leaders. The Colorado Springs Sports Corp has added pickleball and orienteering to the Rocky Mountain State Games’ lineup in recent years.

“What’s fun is to find the sports that are up-and-coming and the ones that are starting to grow nationwide, and to try and get ahead of the curve and offer them before everyone is offering the same event,” Colorado Springs Sports Corp COO Doug Martin says. “Trying to get ahead (of the curve) on some of these newer sports is something we try to do.”

CrossFit and skateboarding are two more recent RMSG additions that have been popular and successful. This year, cricket – the wildly popular bat-and-ball game invented in England in the 18th Century that resembles baseball – will be a new addition to the RMSG competition schedule.

“Cricket is another sport that really wasn’t on our radar,” Martin says. “But once we checked into it, we found it has a good infrastructure and setup and seems like a natural fit for our event. Most people don’t even know we have a cricket pitch at Memorial Park that’s been there for several years.”

The Colorado Springs Cricket Club meets at Memorial Park and regularly competes with other Colorado-based teams throughout the state.

In case the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games awoke and inspired the inner curler inside area residents, they can learn the increasingly popular sport through the Broadmoor Curling Club, which dates back to 1968. The club meets at the Colorado Sports & Events Center in Monument and conducts fall, winter and summer leagues, while also teaching the game to beginners at a host of clinics.

It may be more of a challenge to think of a sport or activity that doesn’t have a presence in the uber-active Pikes Peak region. Offering a little something for everyone seems to be the city’s mantra, just another example of what makes it so alluring for those who choose to call it home.