Nothing brings a local community together quite like a big game ... of broomball. Check out these 15 actual high school sports that seemed to have come from out of left field.
Races normally require athletes to stay on a strict path; orienteering forces competitors to navigate their way through wooded, uneven terrain using a map to highlight designated “control points,” but leaving the route largely up to them. A number of schools participate in the U.S. Interscholastic Orienteering Championships each year.
2. Bass Fishing
Kentucky is among the states that have recognized bass fishing as a sport. When it comes to competing, two participants from opposing schools board the same boat driven by a nonpartisan adult, and the student with the heaviest haul wins. (The fish are returned to the water.) Advocates for the sport believe it promotes a healthy knowledge of conservation and the environment.
Since 1977, Toledo, Ohio high schools have been host to the Greater Toledo Broomball League, which pits teams against one another in a modified version of hockey: players use a broom-shaped stick to control a small ball on ice, though they wear special shoes instead of skates.
Japanese high school students are expected to be well versed in this martial art, an Olympic sport which incorporates throws and chokes. The training can be excessive: In 2013, The New York Times reported on an alarming number of athletes—more than 100—who were alleged to have died doing scholastic judo in the country since 1983.
The Shelton, Connecticut Gaelhawks are among the teams involved in high school robotics, which pits custom constructions against one another in games designed by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). One program had robots stacking containers on top of one another, then filling recycling bins with refuse.
6. Synchronized Swimming
Nearly 700 high school athletes participated in synchronized swimming in 2013, the majority of them females. Teams ranging from two to eight swimmers attempt to sync their movements for a panel of judges.
8. Air Riflery
Hawaii's Mid-Pacific is just one school providing students with ammunition for air riflery, which involves target shooting with a BB gun. Some programs are postal, meaning schools participate by sending in their scores to an administrator.
Once the scourge of 1950s family picnics everywhere, badminton experienced a renaissance of sorts at the high school level after its 1992 Olympic debut. The NCAA didn’t hop on board, however, so those players looking for scholarship opportunities may have to head overseas.
Harry Potter’s favorite fictional pastime—played with brooms and a deflated volleyball—has infiltrated American schools, albeit with no tackling, which distinguishes it from the International Quidditch rules. Mostly played within athletic clubs, in April, a Roanoke, Virginia school was the first program to be officially acknowledged by The U.S. Quidditch Association.
11. Flag Football
Women denied the opportunity to suit up for varsity football have been increasingly turning toward the non-tackle version, which is gaining popularity in part because it doesn't require expensive equipment.
Nebraska students participating in rodeo events usually stick to barrel racing and team roping, though plenty of other programs allow bull riding—provided athletes wear helmets. Perhaps that’s why the National High School Rodeo Association requires its members to purchase their own health insurance plans, even if they already have existing coverage through their parents.
13. Ultimate Frisbee
New York City holds the highest concentration of teen handball players around, but controversy over playing pick-up games for money can see students barred from official competition.
15. Video Games
A movement is afoot to bring “eSports” to schools by encouraging game-players to organize competitive teams. More than 750 teams across the country play games like League of Legends; for some members, the hope is to obtain a scholarship to one of the colleges offering gaming as a varsity sport.