While staying active is more than half the battle, it never hurts to impress in the company of your buddies on the playing field (or court, bowling alley, skate park, etc.) Here are five sports abilities that not everyone knows how to do, but can easily learn with a little practice and perseverance. Learn them all and become the Bo Jackson/Deion Sanders (Jim Thorpe anyone?) of your inner circle.
FOOTBALL - THE SPIRAL
Anyone who watches Aaron Rodgers do his thing on Sundays knows very well of the beauty that is “the perfect spiral.” When thrown correctly the ball can either arc smoothly or dart rapidly in the direction of its intended target. Long story short, it’s way more successful (and cool looking) than the wobbly offerings of a certain god-fearing gunslinger playing pro football in the Rocky Mountain State. To get things started, grip the back half off the ball with your fingers running between the seams of the laces. Open up your stance with your shoulders square in the direction of your target receiver. Your throwing arm should cock back while your legs open up, at the same time driving your non-throwing arm down towards your hip to create an over-arm throwing motion. With your body motion remaining fluid and intact, the release (like many maneuvers in sports) comes down to your fingertips. The key is for the ball to roll off your fingers at the top of your release, with your index finger acting as the last one to touch the ball. Your hand should then follow through towards the ground, with your palm facing outward.
BASKETBALL - THE CROSSOVER
Working on that perfect jump shot? Well, it won’t get you too far in a pick-up game if the defense is tighter than John Stockton’s game shorts. For that reason, perfecting the crossover dribble is a must for creating your own shot. The key to this move is making your defender think you’re going one way, and then quickly changing your direction to create ample open space for a jumper or a drive to the basket. While dribbling the ball in one hand, keep a low center of gravity with your opposite knee out to create space between the defender. You want to fake in one direction with both the ball and your head (drawing your defender to that side), then, pausing for a moment, quickly follow with a split-second dribble across your body to your opposite hand. As soon as the ball switches hands, push off to that side, separating from your fooled opponent. The key is to keep everything low; your body and the cross dribble, while making your movements quick and keeping your eyes off the ball. For the advanced, the “killer crossover” (or UTEP Two-Step), made famous by Tim Hardaway, starts off with a hard dribble between the legs from the inside, baiting the defender to the side where the ball emerges, followed by the standard crossover described above. Master that move, and you’re guaranteed to break ankles all day, everyday.
And one of the modern day masters of the move, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, talks about the crossover.
BOWLING - THE HOOK
Embarrassed over bowling between your legs on date night? Even if your problem isn’t that severe, many casual bowlers don’t know the professional technique of “hooking” a bowling ball; you know, that cool spinning motion that makes your ball head straight for the gutter, only to cut in and make a strike look all the more glorious. While you might not want to be “that guy,” your own personal ball (made from reactive resin) instead of a bowling alley provided house ball (made from plastic) is essential for achieving a respectable hook. The ball should also be custom drilled to fit the contours of your fingers for top-notch grip and release. When it comes to gripping the ball, ditch the conventional grip (your middle and index fingers down to the second knuckle) for the fingertip grip (those same two fingers down to the first knuckle). Approach the lane as you normally would with the ball held to the opposite corner of your chest, and then swing your arm back as you step into your release. The key while bringing your arm forward is not to “over-accelerate,” instead letting the weight naturally come down before you release the ball. As your arm swings forward like a pendulum, approach the lane and let your fingers do all the work. After your thumb exits the ball, simply flick your middle and index fingers in the direction of the one pin, and watch the magic (hopefully) unravel.
SKATEBOARDING - THE OLLIE
Skateboard culture has really crept into the mainstream, but before you risk breaking something vital attempting to grind down a two-story railing, it’s best to know the basics. The standard standing “ollie” is the most essential trick for a skater looking to separate their body and board from the ground and get a few "ooh"s. Gravity is clearly working against you, so the maneuver is one that takes a good deal of practice and repetition. Start off by standing on your board, while making sure your trucks and wheels are tight (the looser they are, the more your board will move). Align your feet parallel across the board, with your front foot centered on the deck, and your back foot on the tail, slightly hanging off the side. The closer your feet are, the higher the ollie (but for beginners, keep them at the above distance). To initiate the trick, crouch your knees while putting weight on the balls of your feet. Your back foot initiates the trick by “popping” the tail down, while your front foot slides forward across the deck. Try doing this first just to gain the sense of friction needed to stay one with your board. Once you have that covered, it’s time to combine actual jumping with the pop/slide combo. You will probably slip up (and fall on your ass) a few times, but keep at it. It’s all about repetition.
And the standing ollie:
GOLF - THE SLICE
For those golfers constantly living in the rough (or amongst the trees), slicing the ball—usually associated with golf ineptness—is a true stroke savior. While slicing (hitting the ball at a angle, as opposed to dead on) is something that many beginners do unintentionally, when done right, it can matrix your ball towards the cup, as opposed to, say, ricocheting off a tree. The goal when sizing up the shot is locating where you want the ball to go (obviously not straight), and then adjusting your body, primarily your shoulders, slightly in that direction. When you swing, the key is to keep your hands stiff as opposed to rotating them, as to keep the face of the club open instead of closing in on the ball. By doing so, and abandoning everything you’ve been told about swinging a golf club, your ball will curve once airborne, and keep you on the path to glory.