Guide: Recreational sports

March 1, 2010 

We're known for basketball in the Triangle, but area athletes of all ages like to compete in lots of sports — anything from adventure racing to wrestling.

Toddlers can start with sports such as soccer and ice skating, and masters-level athletes can find competition in running, triathlons and swimming, among other challenges. In between, weekend warriors and hardcore fitness buffs can find clubs and competitions in dozens of sports — just check out the list below.

To get started, look into programs offered by city and county parks and recreation departments, YMCAs, multisport nonprofit organizations and indoor/outdoor commercial facilities throughout the region. Athletes also can find state- and national-level competition through a variety of organizations through the links below.

ADVENTURE RACING Not for your average couch potato, adventure racing involves a lot of mud, vertical climbs, canoes, mountain bikes, long hikes, orienteering and all-terrain running. In teams or solo, Triangle competitors — Trailblazers Adventure Racing Club and Triangle Adventure Racing Team — tend to be crazy about their sport.

ARCHERY Target-shooters and competitors can find places to shoot around the region.

AUSTRALIAN RULES FOOTBALL Competitors don't have to be Australian to play this rugged sport, which also is known as "footy." The Triangle's N.C. Tigers welcome newcomers to their U.S. Australian Rules Football League team, and area players can compete in the N.C. Metrofooty League.

BASEBALL From parks and recreation teeball programs to youth travel teams to adult wood-bat leagues, recreational and competitive baseball teams and leagues thrive in the Triangle, which also is home to USA Baseball and Minor League Baseball’s Triple-A Durham Bulls and Double-A Carolina Mudcats.

Many youth teams area affiliated with these organizations:

Babe Ruth League | Little League Baseball | Baseball Players Association

N.C. AAU Baseball | Tar Heel Leagues | USSSA Baseball of the Carolinas

And grownups who haven't lost their love for the diamond can find a place in the Central North Carolina Men’s Senior Baseball League.

BASKETBALL You probably already know about the Triangle’s college basketball history and its pro basketball connections, so you won’t be surprised to learn that recreational and competitive programs abound here, too.

N.C. Amateur Athletic Union boys and girls | U.S. Basketball Association

N.C. USSSA Basketball ( 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 ) | Youth Basketball of America

BILLIARDS or leisurely play, numerous restaurants and bars throughout the Triangle offer tables. Leagues are available, too. And you never know which traveling pros might show up at bigger tournaments in the better pool rooms.

BMX BICYCLE RACING The non-profit volunteer organization Capital City BMX promotes bicycle motocross racing for youth and adults, with American Bicycle Association-sanctioned racing at Lions Park in Raleigh. Its Web site provides information and links.

BOWLING The Triangle has an active bowling community, and through the U.S. Bowling Congress, you’ll be able to find a bowling center for a leisurely outing or find a men’s, women’s, mixed or youth league of any skill level. Numerous tournaments — ranging from highly competitive events to just-for-fun charity fundraisers — also are conducted.

BOXING Gyms and competitive boxing clubs are active in North Carolina. Many are affiliated with N.C. USA Amateur Boxing, part of USA Boxing’s Southeast Coast Region.

CHEERLEADING Cheerleading isn’t just a high school sport. At, you can find dozens of N.C. facilities offer just-for-fun or highly competitive teams for tots to teens. You also can find cheerleading and dance through parks and recreation departments and Pop Warner football organizations such as those in the Triangle's Consolidated Football Federation.

CRICKET Even if you don’t understand this bat-and-ball team sport with batsmen, wickets, pitches and bowlers, you should venture at least once to the Triangle’s primary cricket grounds in Morrisville. The Mid-Atlantic Cricket Conference started in the Triangle in 1997 and in a decade grew to 30 teams in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

CURLING The ice sport played with granite stones has had a foothold in the Triangle for more than a decade. The Triangle Curling Club welcomes newcomers.

CYCLING Whether you ride bikes on or off roads, you’ll find North Carolina is a great place for pedaling. The North Carolina Bicycle Club is based in Raleigh, and other USA Cycling-affiliated clubs abound. Each fall, the nonprofit Cycle North Carolina, based in Research Triangle Park, conducts the Mountains to the Coast Tour across the state, and there's a spring ride, too. For off-road riders, Triangle MTB is the place to find mountain biking information.

CYCLOCROSS North Carolina Cyclocross competitors are off and pedaling every fall in this steeplechase version of bicycle racing. Cyclocross combines elements of road racing, criterium racing and mountain bike racing.

DARTS Lots of Triangle pubs, bars and taverns provide dart boards for leisurely games, and more serious players can join leagues, including Durham's Bull City Dart League , the Raleigh Dart League and the Triangle Dart League of Chapel Hill, Durham and Hillsborough.

DISC GOLF This flying-disc sport has a strong following in the Triangle. Raleigh Disc Golf is the place to find events, courses and clubs in the region.

EQUESTRIAN SPORTS North Carolinians love their horses, and some of them gather for shows nearly every weekend year-round at the James B. Hunt Horse Complex at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Horse lovers can find clubs and more events through the North Carolina Horse Council.

FENCING Errol Flynn and, more recently, Johnny Depp have taken swordsmanship to the big screen, but the Triangle has its own cast of fans of the foil, the epee and the saber. USA Fencing-affiliated clubs in North Carolina participate in a sport so fast-paced that the touches must be scored electronically.

FIELD HOCKEY You’re most likely to see Triangle field hockey played at the college level, but high school-age and younger players can get involved, too, through USA Field Hockey-affiliated clubs or USA Field Hockey’s Futures development program.

FIGURE SKATING Several former Olympians have settled in the region to train young skaters, and skaters who work out at area ice rinks often glide and leap their way into national and international levels of competition. The Skating Club of North Carolina is based in Raleigh, and the Central Carolina Skating Club is based in Hillsborough.

FLAG FOOTBALL These guys — and gals — take their football seriously, and they have the trophies to prove it. A variety of organizations offer contact and noncontact leagues for men, women and youth.

Independent Flag Football Leagues | N.C. Flag Football Association

Triangle Area Flag Football League | U.S. Flag Football League

FOOTBALL Young players with NFL dreams can join a variety of programs offered through parks and recreation programs or through Pop Warner Little Scholars Mid-South Region organizations such as the Consolidated Football Federation or independent organizations such as the Carolina Copperheads.

GOLF If you don’t play golf, the reason is unlikely to be because you are unable to find a place to play in North Carolina. Whether you play socially or competitively, you’ll find beautiful courses and organizations to help you form a foursome. The Carolinas Golf Association offers extensive schedules of men’s, women’s and junior events from CGA and other organizations. For social golf outings, consider the American Singles Golf Association's Raleigh Chapter or the Executive Women’s Golf Association's Raleigh-Triangle Chapter. Children can get involved, too, through The First Tee of Wake County, which provides free youth instruction pairing golf skills with life skills. And for the 50-and-over set — men and women — Raleigh-area Tar Heel Seniors Golf Association tees off every year.

GYMNASTICS Quick and graceful, strong and flexible, gymnasts start learning and competing at a young age at many facilities throughout the region. Find a club through North Carolina Gymnastics or through USA Gymnastic’s club locator.

HOCKEY The Triangle is the home of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, the 2006 Stanley Cup champions. So, of course, various forms of the sport have caught on in this Southern state since the former Hartford Whalers arrived in North Carolina in 1997. Ice hockey and inline/roller hockey players of all ages can find pick-up games, camps, clinics, house leagues and travel teams, plus a variety of tournaments, year-round at area ice rinks. For nonskaters, Raleigh Street Hockey offers hockey action in sneakers.

Raleigh Youth Hockey Association | East Coast Eagles Youth Hockey Association

Carolina Scholastic Hockey League | Central Carolina Hockey

Canes Youth and Amateur Hockey

Carolina Hurricanes Fan Zone list of places to play ice, inline and street hockey in the Carolinas and Virginia

HORSESHOES The sport of horseshoe pitching is alive and well in the region through the North Carolina Horseshoe Pitchers Association. There’s even an annual contest during the State Fair.

LACROSSE This fast-paced ball-and-stick sport has caught on in the Triangle and even has a growing presence in N.C. high schools. Learn more from the U.S. Lacrosse North Carolina Chapter.

KICKBALL Some people never give up their love for that big red ball, and they can play in one of the World Adult Kickball Association’s North Carolina divisions.

MARTIAL ARTS Whether you choose to study one of the many forms of martial arts for self defense, for fitness or for competition, you’ll be able to find instruction throughout the region in discipline. The American Martial Arts Alliance headquarters is located in Durham.

North Carolina Judo | USA National Karate-Do Federation-registered N.C. clubs

USA Taekwondo clubs | Aikido dojos

MOTOCROSS High-flying motorcycle riders take to the dirt throughout the region at a variety of facilities.

MOUNTAIN BIKING Trails? We have trails in the Triangle and beyond. And we love to ride them on our own or with clubs.

RACQUETBALL The challenging, speed-filled game with short rackets has followers in the region. USA Racquetball lists Triangle connections.

ROLLER SKATING Tie on those skates and hit the rink. Or just watch — Raleigh is the home of the Carolina Rollergirls, a hard-skating team in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The Triangle has a variety of rinks and clubs.

ROPE SKIPPING There’s school-yard jump rope, and then there’s rope skipping. The Triangle is home to the multi-time U.S. National Jump Rope Championship-winning and internationally known Bouncing Bulldogs rope-skipping team and other USA Rope Skipping clubs.

ROWING Beautiful lakes and rivers create beautiful venues for people who row for pleasure or for competition.

RUGBY Men, women, youths and even competitors who use wheelchairs love their sport, and North Carolina's clubs are glad to welcome newcomers. In Durham, check out the Eno River Rugby Football Club. In Raleigh, see the Raleigh Rugby Football Club, which hosts regional and national competitions on the two pitches at its top-notch facility, the Raleigh Rugby Complex.

RUNNING Triangle runners log countless miles on the road, on the track or cross country. They run on their own for fitness or to join in the dozens of competitive or charity races held throughout the year, particularly in the spring and fall. For the most serious runners, there’s the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race in the spring and the City of Oaks Marathon and Half Marathon in the fall. Frequent road race participants can enter the Second Empire Grand Prix Series in the fall, scoring points in selected races to build torward prizes. Running events and partners can be found through a variety of clubs. Programs to help young runners get started can be found, too, including Girls on the Run and area track clubs.

SENIOR GAMES Adults ages 55 and up stay active through sports and cultural competitions conducted by the North Carolina Senior Games.

SHOOTING Throughout the region, firearms enthusiasts will find numerous places to shoot offering instruction or competition for pistol, rifle, cowboy action, skeet and sporting clays.

SOCCER Weeknights or weekends, you’ll find people of all ages and skill levels playing the round-ball version of football or futbol. SAS Soccer Park in Cary is home to the United Soccer Leagues First Division’s Carolina RailHawks, who started play in 2007, and will be home to a new USL W-League women’s team for 2008. Many youth teams play in the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association, which conducts leagues and tournaments for a variety of skill levels. For those adults who still enjoy playing, there's the North Carolina Adult Soccer Association, which also provides information in Spanish at Asociacion de Futbol para Adultos en Carolina del Norte. For those who prefer to play indoors, there are U.S. Indoor Soccer Association-affiliated facilities. Thousands of area youths have learned to play the game at the Capital Area Soccer League's WRAL Soccer Center.

SPECIAL OLYMPICS Special Olympics North Carolina serves thousands of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports.

STATE GAMES OF NORTH CAROLINA The amateur sports festival, which is organized by Research Triangle Park-based North Carolina Amateur Sports, takes place each June and rotates among host cities. The 2007 games, held in Greensboro, offered competition in 25 sports and drew more than 14,000 entrants. Entry is open to state residents, students and military personnel of all ages and skill levels.

SNOW SKIING Yes, we’re in the South, but North Carolina does have mountains, snow and good skiing. The Raleigh Ski and Outing Club organizes ski trips and other adventures.

SAILING With lots of lakes and rivers and a long coastline, North Carolina is a natural place for setting sail.
The Carolina Sailing Club keeps track of adult and youth competition and information.

SCUBA DIVING Mysterious offshore wrecks and scenic inshore quarries await divers in North Carolina.

SOFTBALL Slow-pitch was the traditional version of the sport in North Carolina, but girls fast-pitch caught on in high schools in the mid-1990s and the sport has been growing ever since. Youths and adults play both versions of the sport competitively or recreationally in a variety of organizations.

North Carolina USSSA Softball youth and adult slow-pitch tournaments

PONY | North Carolina Amateur Athletic Union softball

North Carolina National Softball Association | Southern Softball Association of America

SWIMMING AND DIVING Some of the most competitive programs in the North Carolina Swimming Association are year-round teams located in the Triangle. Many of those programs also offer lessons for all ages and programs for masters swimmers. Less serious athletes can compete, too, and there’s a big summer league offered just for private Wake County swim clubs through the Tarheel Swimming Association.

TABLE TENNIS The fun and lightning-fast sport has ardent fans in Triangle clubs.

TENNIS Mild weather throughout the year and a variety of indoor facilities create plenty of opportunities for players of all ages and skill levels. You can find courts, clubs, competitions or playing partners through the North Carolina Tennis Association.

TRACK AND FIELD The Triangle has been home to some of the world’s top track and field athletes, from Olympic sprinters and weight-throwing stars to NCAA distance champions. The area’s youth teams often bring home medals from national USATF and AAU Junior Olympic competitions, and area Hershey’s Games competitions also produce national medal-winners.

TRIATHLON From short-distance children’s events to Ironman-distance tests of will and endurance, USA Triathlon-affiliated clubs and events make up a strong part of the Triangle’s sports scene. And young athletes can get a taste of multisport competitions through programs such a Kids in Training.

ULTIMATE Players of all ages, from high school to masters, can find leagues and pick-up games through the Triangle Flying Disc Association.

VOLLEYBALL Youth (girls and boys) and adults can find competition through the Carolina Regional Volleyball Association. Outdoor sand and grass tournaments also can be found on many weekends.

WATER SKIING With so many rivers and lakes, along with the Atlantic Ocean, the sounds and the Intracoastal Waterway, North Carolina is a natural place for water skiing and for water skiing clubs.

WRESTLING Did you know North Carolina is the home of pro wrasslin’? This isn’t that version, but the traditional styles have their fans, too. Find a club through, the official site of USA Wrestling.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service