PORTLAND — Cup stacking, or speed stacking, as it’s more commonly known, is now part of the physical education curriculum at Lincoln Middle School.
Denise Preisser not only teaches speed stacking in her phys ed class, but is also the adviser of a new cup-stacking club.
She said the activity has been shown to improve eye-hand coordination and other skills, like playing a musical instrument or solving math problems.
That’s why speed stacking is now included in the physical education curriculum of more than 40,000 schools across the country, she said.
Speed stacking originated in the early 1980s in Southern California and there are now speed stacking leagues that compete in regular tournaments, as well as a World Sport Stacking Association, which works to promote the standardization and advancement of sport stacking.
There are also online videos that teach people how to engage in speed stacking, including one on YouTube, which has been viewed more than 1 million times.
Don Teel, founder of Speed Stack and an early sport stacking enthusiast, said on his website that what’s so great about the activity is, for “the athlete and non-athlete alike, sport stacking can be a great enhancement for your fitness routine.”
“Non-athletic kids can now compete head-to-head with their more athletic counterparts,” Teel said on his website and “this significantly raises their self-esteem, motivating them to work harder in (phys ed) and be excited to participate.”
Pressier said she introduced speed stacking to her students because it not only improves motor skills, but is also excellent for learning to recognize patterns and increasing speed and efficiency in completing tasks.
Pressier said one of her sixth-grade students had so much fun with speed stacking in phys ed that she wanted to create a school-based club dedicated to the activity. Pressier said the club attracts about 10 regulars and others drop in on the weekly sessions as they have time.
Speed stacking really began to take off after the activity received national attention in a 1990 segment on “The Tonight Show,” according to Teel.
It also got a huge boost, both nationally and locally, when Deering High School alumna and now award-winning actress Anna Kendrick used speed stacking and a song called “Cups (When I’m Gone)” in her on-screen audition for The Bellas a capella group in the 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect.”
But speed stacking is more than just a fun and engaging activity.
According to several studies, including those conducted at Texas Tech, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, speed stacking helps to more fully develop the right side of the brain, which we rely on for awareness, focus, creativity and rhythm.
“Sequencing and patterning are also elements of sport stacking, which can help with reading and math skills,” the Speed Stack website said.
The Texas Tech study also showed that speed stacking can help practitioners improve problem-solving skills and concentration. It also increases the overall blood flow to the brain, “thereby providing energy, and making one more alert,” the study said.
And researchers at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke found that students who regularly participate in speed stacking showed improvements in their reading scores.
“The development of peripheral vision and eye-tracking motions helped improve eye strength, and in turn, helped students read longer and maintain focus,” the study said.
The activity of cup or speed stacking improves eye-hand coordination, as well as math and reading skills, according to university studies. It’s now offered as part of an after-school club at Lincoln Middle in Portland.