Basketball, football, soccer— these may be among the more mainstream sports in the U.S., but they’re hardly the only two that deserve your attention. We want you to try a new sport this year. One that you may not have participated in before. To help, we’ve put together a list of potential contenders, along with three pieces of gear you’ll need to participate in each. Game on!
Required gear: racket, shoes, can of balls
Why you should try: Easy to play, fun gear and an excuse to dress like Agassi.
Tennis is easy to play but tough to master. However, the right gear can ensure you perform at your peak potential regardless of skill level. First and foremost you’ll need a racket.
Rackets vary in different shapes and sizes depending on things like skill, age, price as well as personal preference. Once you have determined skill level and age, it comes down to how much you want to shell out for a racket, along with how natural it feels in your hands. Once the frame is picked out, players can get their rackets strung for either more power, more control or somewhere in between. Along with a racket, you’ll need a can of tennis balls. While it may seem non-trivial, there’s more to shopping for tennis balls than you may think.
Ball brands generally make three levels of balls: professional, championship level and recreational. Both professional and championship level balls are constructed using the highest quality material for optimal performance and durability. Recreational balls on the other hand are lower quality and are intended for use during practice. Once the class of ball has been identified, players have the choice between extra duty or regular duty balls. To keep things simple, extra duty are more durable and are designed for use on hard court surfaces, while regular duty balls are for softer surfaces such as grass and clay.
Now that you have a racket and some balls, you’ll need a pair of tennis sneakers. Sure, you can get by with wearing your Converse All-Stars to the local court, but if you’re looking to elevate your game (and keep your ankles intact), you’ll want shoes designed specifically for the sport. As with balls, the shoe you’ll need will depend on court type. Follow this guide and choose accordingly.
Note to beginners: Wear shorts with pockets.
Required gear: broom, stone, shoes
Why you should try: Bragging rights that you've done it every time the Olympics roll around.
Before we delve into the gear you’ll need for curling, let’s step back and go over what the sport actually entails. To keep things simple, a proper curling match takes place on ice and consists of two teams competing to see who can slide heavy granite stones closest to the middle of the marked area. Both side take turns and a final score is tallied at the end to determine the winner. Getting back to the gear—you won’t need much to kick off your curling career. Granted you have a place to play, you’ll need the actually granite stone—also called a rock—and, believe it or not, a broom.
Once a player gives the stone a nudge towards the target, two teammates, one on either end, simultaneously sweep the ice surface in the path of the stone—a technique that allows players to manipulate the speed of the sliding stone. It may seem complicated, but the good news is that shopping for a curling broom is fairly straightforward. Most of the brooms are constructed using carbon fiber and are available in varying weights depending on player preference.
Next you’ll need curling shoes, which are similar to regular athletic shoes, except with flat outsoles to allow proper sliding on the curling sheet. When a player is not throwing or sweeping, and wants to keep for slipping on the ice, he can slap on a slip-on gripper for traction.
Required gear: stick, shin guards, cleats
Why you should try: It's golf meets hockey meets soccer, so it's practically the perfect sport.
Field hockey is just that—hockey played on a field rather than ice. The field version features similar rules and equipment as its icy counterpart. Though there are definitely key technical differences in the actual gear required. Field hockey sticks are traditionally made of wood, since metal is not allowed. Although, sticks made from fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fiber have also hit the market in recent years.
The length of a field hockey stick depends on the height of the player. The stick features a hook at the bottom, which is the part used to strike the ball. The actual ball is spherical in shape and is constructed using plastic. Since you’ll be playing on a field, cleated shoes are essential to making sure you have the proper traction to stay on your feet and play at full capacity. It is not uncommon for players to use soccer/football cleats for field hockey. In addition to this standard gear, goalies require additional protective equipment.
Required gear: racket, shuttlecock, net
Why you should try: This is the ultimate fast-paced and competitive background OG hustle.
On the professional level, badminton is played on a hard court similar to volleyball. However, the sport is also commonly played on soft surfaces like grass.
To be quite honest, badminton is probably one of the most underrated sports around. It’s fast paced, competitive, and above all, extremely fun to play. So what gear will you need to get started? For one, you’ll require a quality badminton racket. Different from tennis rackets, those used in badminton are extremely petite and lightweight. However, they’re similar to tennis rackets in a sense that the type of racket depends on personal preference as well as price. Next, you’ll need a shuttlecock (also called a birdie).
Where a tennis ball is round, a birdie is an open conical shaped projectile that consists of overlapping feathers embedded into a rounded cork base. Lesser quality birdies are made from synthetic material. Lastly, you’ll need a net. The good news is badminton gear is often sold in sets, meaning you can get all the essentials at once. If you plan on playing indoors, you’ll need to get a pair of shoes with a high-grip, non-marking rubber sole.
Required gear: gloves, mouth guard, shoes
Why you should try: "Hey girl, whatchu doing... Ah nah I can't, I gotta go to the gym." *Swings gloves over shoulders Ali-style. End scene.
So you want to become the next Cassius Clay. Spoiler alert: it probably will never happen. But what you can do is make sure you don’t get obliterated in the ring.
This isn’t bare-knuckle boxing, so you’ll need a pair of gloves. While there are different types of gloves—ones for training and ones for sparring—on the competitive level, those starting out in the sport just need a solid pair of all-purpose gloves. Boxing gloves come in different weights and sizes. Bigger gloves generally feature more padding, while lighter ones are on the opposite end of the spectrum and offer less protection. The best way to know which is right for you is to try on a few different types and choose accordingly.
Aside from gloves, boxers also require a mouthpiece (for obvious reasons), as well as proper footwear. If you want to get in some practice before entering the ring, invest in a punching bag.
Required gear: ball, pads, shoes
Why you should try: Spiking the ball over the net ≥ dunking on your opponent.
The most important piece of volleyball gear is the actually ball itself. Official volleyball regulations state that a ball must be spherical in shape, made of real or synthetic leather and have a weight that falls somewhere in between 260-280 grams.
While you can technically play the sport with just a ball, players often wear elbow and knee pads to protect them from injury during dives and falls. If you prefer to play beach volleyball, you don’t have to worry about shoes. However on an indoor volleyball court, players are required to wear non-marking rubber shoes with a high level of grip.
Required gear: uniform, mask, weapon of choice (foil, epee or sabre)
Why you should try it: The 'fits are dope, plus this counts as the James Bond training you've wanted since you were a kid.
Fencing is one of those sports that have been around forever, but have had a tough time catching on as a mainstream sport (here in the states anyway). It’s extremely challenging but also very entertaining at the same time. Fencers wear specially designed outfits made from cotton or nylon and reinforced with Kevlar. The complete fencing kit features a jacket, a glove, trousers, knee-high socks, flat-soled shoes, a plastron for underarm protection and a plastic chest protector, among other things. The entire outfit as a whole is used to maximize protection from the opponent’s weapon.
Fencers are also required to wear a mask. Though fencing masks generally feature the same shape, the type you need depends on the type of fencing you’re interested in, whether it’s foil, epee or sabre. Each type of fencing is essentially a different sport in itself. Each one has different rules and regulations, and each one requires a different type of weapon. Learn more about the different choices here.
Required gear: racket, eyewear, shoes
Why you should try: It's the ultimate way to get to know your father-in-law or face your toughest client, according to Ben Stiller movies.
Racquetball may seem similar to tennis at first glance, but it’s a completely different sport that requires a different set of equipment. Unlike tennis, racquetball is played on a fully enclosed court with a wall in the front. The basic gear you’ll need includes a racket, a racquetball and shoes.
Compared to tennis, racquetball rackets are shorter (no longer than 22 inches) and feature an isometric head shape. In the ball department, racquetballs are small, bouncy and constructed using rubber. They’re color-coded depending on skill level, although, the most common is the blue ball.
The shoes you’ll need for racquetball are going to boast similar features to other court sports like tennis and volleyball. They should be flexible, durable and have a grippy rubber outsole for solid traction and quick directional changes. In addition to the basics, players should consider two pieces of optional racquetball equipment: a glove on the prominent hand for improved racket grip and eyewear to protect the eyes from the ball.