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Finding their niche through niche sports

Sophomore founders aim to create a welcoming, enjoyable environment through alternative sports
Maya Tackett
Sophomore Corinne Hampton, with her eyes closed, rolls her bocce ball during the third round of the Niche Sports bocce ball game.

Starting the Hobby Horsing Club after discussing hobby horsing in class one day, sophomores CC Loughlin and Liam Milner didn’t think the club would go anywhere.

“I kinda went down a rabbit hole of hobby horsing videos,” Milner said. “It was a joke. We were going to make a whole league, and it was the Slaughterhouse Stallions versus the Punishing Ponies. And when it got approved we were like ‘Oh crap. We have to be an actual club.’”

Hobby horsing originated in Finland and started as an official sport in 2012. Shortly after, it gained popularity in Europe and America. This sport combines elements of gymnastics and show jumping, but instead of a real horse, the participants use stick horses.

This club is a way to gather people who might not otherwise have a certain ‘team’ and help people access/discover new activities.

— club president CC Loughlin

When talking about the club’s future with sponsor Maria Priebe, both Loughlin and Milner decided that having a club where each month could be dedicated to a different niche sport would be more beneficial and fun to be a part of. So the Hobby Horsing Club transformed into the Niche Sports Club. 

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“This club is a way to gather people who might not otherwise have a certain ‘team’ and help people access/discover new activities,” Loughlin said. “‘Normal sports,’ especially school sports, are gendered, have time requirements, require certain amounts of ability and also make you adhere to a strict set of rules.”

Club sponsor Maria Priebe demonstrates how to throw a bocce ball during the second meeting of Niche Sports Club. (Maya Tackett)

The Niche Sports Club meets every Friday in Portable 12, Priebe’s room, to discuss what niche sport to play, learn about the sport and then play it. 

The first official Niche Sports Club meeting was on Jan. 26 and kicked off by describing the club and then opening up the floor to suggestions on some different niche sports that could be done by the club. From here, the suggestions were divided into two different categories: sports that could be played at school and sports that couldn’t.

For those that could be done at school, Loughlin had the idea to use equipment from places like the gyms or make equipment.

I knew I had to join and thought learning about new sports almost every week and getting to go bowling or something like that would be fun.

— sophomore Elizabeth Falkin

“P.E. is the king of random sports meaning they have objects we could use for our niche sports,” Loughlin said. “We could probably make our bowling stuff and ask if we could use the gym after school sometimes.”

Priebe also had an idea to reach out to other teachers to see if they had any extra sports equipment. 

“I had a department meeting with the social studies people and I already started asking questions like ‘Hey what like sports are y’all into? What equipment do yall have?’” Priebe said. “Someone has bocce balls and someone else had Croque. I think that is going to be our starting point of just seeing what we already have access to and then, for those sports that would be a little more difficult to learn about and engage in, I think those might require some kind of fundraising.”

Milner agrees that fundraising is a big part of how the niche sports that are harder to access could be played by the Niche Sports Club. 

“We could do little things like sell T-shirts or ask companies if they will sponsor us or give us access to their services,” Milner said. 

Sophomores Emily Cockerham-Lewis and CC Loughlin measure the distance between a green bocce ball and the pallino to determine a winner. (Maya Tackett)

When talking to Milner and Loughlin, Priebe saw this club as a way to branch out, form connections and get involved with other clubs at McCallum.

“There’s an archery club, and a fly fishing club, and I feel like there are a lot of connections to be made there,” Priebe said. “I think there’s an ultimate Frisbee one too if they wanted to compete with them. So long term, if we could have some sort of partnership between other organizations, that would be really fun.”

Priebe, who also didn’t know much about hobby horsing or niche sports club, was very excited to be the sponsor of this club because it reminded her of what her high school was like. 

We want to unite people through silly sports.

— Sophomore club president Liam Milner

“When I was in high school, I was the president of Goggles Club, and it reminded me a lot of that because it was something that started as, admittedly, a joke,” Priebe said. “But then we actually started going to Barton Springs, with our goggles. It was really fun and random and this club kinda reminded me of that, so I was excited to sponsor it.”

While every month or so a new sport would be introduced, Milner had the idea to, at the end of the year, have a field day where the members of the club could play each sport that they have learned throughout the club. 

“I was talking to Ms. Priebe but we might want to do an end-of-year field day,” Milner said. “Maybe she could even take us on an in-school field trip or we could make one where we play all the sports that we learned.”

Sophomore Elizabeth Falkin, a member of the Niche Sports Club, said her interest was peaked by the club when she was sitting in Ms. Priebe’s room especially when she heard about the potential field trips.

[Goggles club] was really fun and random, and this club kinda reminded me of that so I was excited to sponsor it.

— club sponsor Maria Priebe

“I was working in Ms. Priebe’s room and was intrigued by all of the member’s enthusiasm about niche sports,” Falkin said. “I knew I had to join and thought learning about new sports almost every week and getting to go bowling or something like that would be fun.”

Though this club stemmed from a joke one day in class, Milner thinks this club can bring people together and provide a safe, fun space for everyone.

“We didn’t mean for it to be serious but we’re dedicated to campus unity,” Milner said. “We want to unite people through silly sports. No one’s going to be good at these sports. We will all be bad together.”

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on February 17, 2024.