By Brandon Soum, Gilbert Stuart Site Coordinator
Linda Grossi, health and physical education teacher at Gilbert Stuart Middle School, is one of two Rhode Island speed stacking ambassadors and the instructor of PASA’s AfterZone Speed Stacking program. Grossi discovered speed stacking at the SHAPE America National Convention and Expo. She was initially skeptical.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. That’s just cups,’” Grossi said.
Her feelings soon changed after witnessing the sport in action.
“I fell in love with it. This is a sport for anyone and everyone.”
Speedstacking involves stacking and unstacking twelve specially designed plastic cups in a pre-determined sequence. School districts like speed stacking because it is low liability, requires minimal equipment, and is highly adaptable for children with physical or mental disabilities. Its benefits include strengthening hand-eye coordination, agility, and ambidexterity.
In the AfterZone, Grossi has cultivated a strong following. There are about 16-18 middle school youth who have participated in the program during all three years of their AfterZone experience. Further, five AfterZone alumni who are now in high school have returned to help and to hone their skills for next year’s sanctioned tournament in Providence, which Grossi is organizing.
“I didn’t initially encourage competition in speed stacking, but these kids have been in the program all three years of AfterZone, so they are getting really good at it. They’re aspiring to break records,” said Grossi.
Hopefully, they will break records at next year’s competition, for which Grossi plans to invite high school and elementary school speed stacking groups in the area in addition to her middle school team. The inclusivity, exemplified by the range of ages invited to the tournament, is a central theme in speed stacking. In fact, it’s one of the qualities of speed stacking that’s attracting an international following of speed stackers. During last year’s Guiness Book of World Records event “Most People Sport Stacking (Multiple Venues)”, for instance, 618,394 stackers participated, representing 30 countries like China, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and more. Gilbert Stuart students were part of the event.
People on the autism spectrum or with physical challenges can thrive in speed stacking. A person with only one arm, for example, can be on a doubles team. One teammate only uses his left arm, while the other teammate only uses his right arm.
“It’s a great way to flex your right and left brain muscles,” says Grossi. “People think it’s just cups. It’s not just cups.”
For more reading on speed stacking, read the March 2016 NY Times article “Cup Stacking: A Sport Whose Growth Runneth Over.”