Sport stacking

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Sport stacking
The 1–10–1 transition in the cycle stack en-route
Sport Sport stacking
Founded 1985 (became a sport in 2005 with the foundation of the WSSA[1])
Claim to fame The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson[2]
Motto Stack Fast!
Competitors 555,932 (number of worldwide participants in the Guinness World Record set in 2013)[3]
Countries Worldwide[4]
Most recent champion(s) William Orrell
Official website and

Sport stacking (also known as cup stacking or speed stacking) is an individual & team sport[citation needed] that involves stacking specialized plastic cups in specific sequences in as little time as possible. The governing body setting the rule is the WSSA (World Sport Stacking Association[5]). Participants of sport stacking stack cups in pre-determined sequences, by aligning the inside left lateral adjunct of each cup with that of the next. Sequences are usually pyramids of 3, 6, or 10 cups. Players compete against the clock or another player.


The sport received national attention in 1990 on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.[6] The sport was invented by Wayne Godinet,[7] who introduced the first formations and dubbed the sport "Karango Cup Stack". Shortly thereafter, Godinet formed a group called Cupstack. Physical education teacher Bob Fox later developed the activity by formalizing the rules and establishing a governing body, the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA). He also founded a company named Speed Stacks, and along with his partner Larry Goers, created a line of proprietary sport stacking products including the patented timing system known as the StackMat which is also used in speedcubing.

Early competitions for the activity were held in 1998 in Oceanside, California and Denver, Colorado. First introduced by Bob Fox,[8] the World Sport Stacking Association now manages tournaments. In 2004, the organization changed the name of cup stacking to sport stacking in what it describes as an attempt to give it "immediate identification as a competitive sport".

Rules and competitive sequences[edit]

There are three sequences stacked in official sport stacking events, that are defined by the rule book handed out by the WSSA:[9]

  • 3-3-3: Uses nine cups. This sequence consists of three sets of three cups each. The three sets must be stacked going from left-to-right or right-to-left, and then down-stacked into their original positions in the same order as the up-stack.
  • 3-6-3: Uses 12 cups. This sequence is similar to the 3-3-3, except a six stack replaces the three stack in the middle. Each pile of cups is stacked up from left-to-right or right-to-left, and the down-stack occurs in the same order.
  • Cycle: Uses 12 cups. This is a sequence of stacks in the following order: a 3-6-3 stack (see above), a 6-6 stack (two pyramids of six cups stacked up and down into one containing all twelve cups altogether) and a 1-10-1 stack (a pyramid of ten cups in the middle), finishing in a down stacked 3-6-3.

Common for all sequences are these major rules:[9]

  • You may not up-stack two pyramids at the same time, but in the down-stack, it is okay to touch two stacks at the same time.
  • If a stack is not completed correctly (such as when a cup or cups falls off the pyramid, considered a "fumble"[10]) you must correct it immediately. The only exception to this rule is if the cups fall over during the down-stack. If this happens, the player may continue the down-stack normally and correct the fallen stack when you reach it.

There are three main categories of competing that WSSA-sanctioned tournaments offer:

  • Individual: Each competitor is allowed two warm-ups and three timed tries for each sequence. The best time for each sequence is recorded and compared with other competitors. In the case of a tie, the second-best times are used.
  • Doubles: Two competitors stand side-by-side to complete the stack, with one competitor using only his or her right hand while the other using only his or her left hand. The same rules for individuals apply here. The only official doubles event is the Cycle (with the exception of the "Special Stackers" category, where only the 3-6-3 is offered).
  • Relay: Four competitors take turns stacking at a table, switching when the preceding competitor crosses the foul line with at least one foot. The foul line is observed by a line judge, who decides whether or not this rule was followed. The 3-6-3 relay is the only official event; however, some tournaments offer head-to-head (best 2 out of 3) 3-6-3 and Cycle relays. There are no warm-ups in this event.[11]


Official sport stacking cups are specially designed to prevent sticking & to allow the competitor to go faster. The cups are reinforced with several ribs on the inside which separate the cups when they are nestled. The exterior's slightly textured to allow better grip. The insides are very smooth & slide past each other easily. The tops of the cups have 1-4 holes to allow ventilation so the cups don't stick.[12]

One can purchase the specially designed stacking mats, also called stack mats, which are mats connected to a sensitive timer. They're used for official tournament timing, as well as casual play timing or practice timing.

Special weighted training cups, called "Super Stacks," are also available. These heavier cups are made of metal & are most commonly used directly before competing. The added weight's supposed to make the regular cups feel lighter.[13]


Proponents of the sport say participants learn cooperation, ambidexterity & hand–eye coordination. Scientific research has confirmed these claims:

  • A university study by Dr. Brian Udermann, currently at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, confirms that stacking improves hand–eye coordination & reaction time by up to 30% (published in the scientific Journal "Perceptual & Motor Skills" in 2004)[14]
  • An EEG-study by Melanie A. Hart, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences at the Texas Tech University support the claim that cup stacking does utilize both sides of the brain. During the left-hand condition, activity in the right hemisphere was larger than the left, while for the right-hand task, the left hemisphere was greater than the right. Their scientific poster on that topic got awarded by the AAHPERD[15][16] On the other hand, Hart couldn't get the same results as Udermann when studying improvement on reaction time.[17]
  • A 3rd group (Gibbons, E., Hendrick, J. L., & Bauer, J. State University of New York) studied the effects on the reaction time & confirmed Udermann rather than Hart, stating "that the results agreed with the claims made by Speed Stacks, in which practicing cup stacking can improve reaction time.[18] They also state "Even 1 hour of cup stacking practice can improve reaction time in young adults." Speed stacking helps people improve in other sports, because it helps to improve the hand–eye coordination.
  • The Department of Kinesiology of the Towson University, Towson, MD studied the influence of participation in a 6-week bimanual coordination program on Grade 5 students' reading achievement with Sport Stacking being the bimanual activity. A significant increase was found for the experimental group on Comprehension skills, proving once and for all that Sport Stacking may improve students' reading comprehension skills, regardless of sex. Published June 2007.[19]
  • In 2007 Cupstacking itself got a scientific test in a study at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.[20]


Most sport stacking competitions are geared toward children, with for ages 18 & under. There are also divisions for "Special Stackers" (disabled competitors).

The WSSA has set the following protocol for the setting of world records:[21]

  1. Must use WSSA-approved sport stacking cups.
  2. Must use a StackMat and tournament display.
  3. Must be video taped for review and verification purposes.
  4. Must use 3 judges (one designated Head Judge) to judge each try. After each try the 3 judges confer. The head judge will then designate with a color-coded card the outcome of that try. (Green-clean run, yellow-try in question (immediate video review) & red–scratch.)
  5. A finals judge may not be a family member or the sport stacking instructor of the stacker.

The competition's divided into 12 different age divisions, ranging from 6 & under to seniors (60 & up). State, national & world records are recorded on the WSSA website.

World Records[edit]

Updated 26 April 2015.

Event Time Stacker(s)
3-3-3 1.418 William Orrell
3-6-3 1.840 Josh Hainsel
Cycle 5.000 William Orrell
Doubles 5.953 William Polly, William Orrell
3-6-3 Relay 12.212 Fantastic Four: Zhewei Wu, William Polly, Chandler Miller, William Orrell

Popular culture[edit]

  • In the Phineas & Ferb episode "Thaddeus & Thor", Dr. Doofenshmirtz shows Perry the Platypus a demonstration of his speed stacking. Doofenshmirtz says "See, I hold the cup stacking world record, but does my mother care? NO!" However, it shows the wrong sequences; Doofenshmirtz performs the 6-6 phase in the cycle stack, but he upstacks it at the same time then constructs fictional pyramids. The whole thing lasted 1.771 seconds. When Phineas & Ferb build the fort against Thaddeus & Thor, Candace is trying to let her Mom see the largest fort but she doesn't want to leave until Candace cleans the mess she made in the kitchen earlier, when she LITERALLY "threw the groceries in the kitchen". While she rushes to stack cans in the cupboard, Dr. Doofenshmirtz shudders & says to Perry, "I've just felt a disturbance in the cup stacking universe; I think my record's been broken."
  • In the Zeke & Luther episode "The Big Red Stacking Machine", Zeke and Luther are preparing to set a new 2-man butt-boarding record. Things seem set until their training gets interrupted by Luther's new-found fascination with cup stacking. Possessing a natural talent for the sport, Luther fakes a stomach ache so he can get out of butt-board training with Zeke & enter a local cup stacking tournament. After learning that Luther has won the cup stacking tournament, Zeke enlists Stinky to be his new butt-boarding partner.
  • In The Cleveland Show episode "Ladies' Night", Rallo plays a game of cup stacking with a time of 8.350 seconds, but gets disappointed & throws the cups away. There's another cup stacking sequence in which Rallo upstacks a 10-stack upside down, 1 cup at the bottom & the rest stacked inside of each cup.

The 2010 film, Stacker, was directed, produced, and released by Danger Films & features some of the most prominent stackers in the country, including: The Purugganan family, the Myers family, Lawrence Maceren, Drew Wilfahrt, Tyler Cole, Emma Slabach, The Haig family, & several others.

  • The internet film Stacks of Glory is a mockumentary starring sport stacking champion Luke Myers.
  • The Dr. Pepper Commercial in 2013.
  • The McDonald's Commercial in 2011.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Speed Stacks, Inc. : The History of Speed Stacks
  3. ^ "2013 WSSA STACK UP!". World Sport Stacking Association. November 14, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2013. 
  4. ^ WSSA Events: National-level WSSA Sport Stacking Tournament.
  5. ^ World Sport Stacking Association (The WSSA)
  6. ^ "Cup stacking, street credibility". Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  7. ^ "The stacks of life - Offbeat sport developed in sex camp teaches lessons and improves dexterity". Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  8. ^ Cup stacking benefits add up | The Yuma-Tribune
  9. ^ a b Official rule Book of the World Sport Stacking Association, Version 5.0 as released in 2009,
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Speed Stacks
  14. ^ Udermann et al.: Influence of cup stacking on hand–eye coordination and reaction time of 2nd-grade students. Percept Mot Skills. 2004 Apr;98(2):409-14.
  15. ^ Texas Tech University :: Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences, HESS - Melanie Hart
  16. ^ Brain Activation Patterns During Participation in Cup Stacking (Motor Behavior)
  17. ^ M. Hart et al.: Influence of participation in a cup-stacking unit on timing tasks. Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Dec;101(3):869-76.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Uhrich TA, Swalm RL: A pilot study of a possible effect from a motor task on reading performance.. Percept bum hole MotbubSkills. 2007 Jun;104(3 Pt 1):1035-41.
  20. ^ Granados C, Wulf G.: Enhancing motor learning through dyad practice: contributions of observation and dialogue. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2007 Jun;78(3):197-203.
  21. ^

External links[edit]