GIVE THE GIFT OF SPORTS
Looking for the perfect gift for the sports enthusiast in your life? Sporting goods can be either overpriced or flimsy and cheap. This list features a dozen items that hit the sweet spot in between. Every item on the list can be found on Amazon for less than $75, and nine come in at $50 and under. Some are sport-specific, while others can cross over into a variety of activities and niches. All are favorably reviewed by previous purchasers.
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J/FIT MEDICINE BALL ($34)
Medicine balls are used by athletes across a wide spectrum of sports to build explosive power, speed, and endurance -- and they've stood the test of time, dating back to the ancient Greeks. Unlike many hard, rubberized modern medicine balls, this old-school throwback is bound in a triple-stitched soft shell. J/fit medicine balls are offered in weights ranging from six to 30 pounds. Each ball is 14 inches in diameter regardless of weight.
GIANTEX FOAMIE SURFBOARD ($60)
One of the most demanding, challenging, and exhilarating sports on the planet, surfing connects the athlete with nature in a way few other sports can. It requires intense focus, strong reflexes, full-body strength, courage, and, of course, balance. A starter board from Giantex is constructed from dense foam and features a slick polyethylene thermoplastic high-speed bottom.
MINNESOTA FATS 'HUSTLER' POOL CUE ($43)
Billiards exists at the intersection of sports and games, and serious pool players need their own cues. A 58-inch graphite, maple, and polymer "Hustler" cue is an ideal gift for the pool shark but also the movie buff in your life. It's named for 1962's "The Hustler," starring Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman, which won two Academy Awards and stoked national interest in the game of pool. Pool cues can cost thousands of dollars, but you can pick up the Hustler cue, which one reviewer describes as "smooth as butter," for less than $50.
FUN EXPRESS AGILITY CONES ($9)
Whether they're used to practice sharp turns in soccer, fast redirections in basketball, or diagonal cuts in football, agility cones can challenge athletes on both hard surfaces and grass. They build explosive stopping/starting power and can be used by coaches to measure performance. A set of 12 rigid, bright orange cones available on Amazon are pre-drilled with mounting holes for permanent use, or for applications where they have to remain fixed to the ground, and stack for easy storage.
BUSHNELL FALCON BINOCULARS ($23)
Hunters, hikers, campers, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds need a second set of eyes. Backed by the Bushnell brand, lightweight Falcon series binoculars feature high-definition clarity and come with a case. They're rugged and built for outdoor wear and tear.
CAP BARBELL CAST IRON KETTLEBELL ($35)
A solid block of iron shaped like a cannonball with a handle, the kettlebell is among the most basic, yet most effective single pieces of workout equipment an athlete can own. Compound exercises can develop functional, full-body strength in a short period of time with a relatively light amount of weight. Even the most basic kettlebell exercises, like the two-hand swing, can promote rapid weight loss and improve cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, strength, and explosive power. The 35-pound CAP Barbell kettlebell is solid cast iron and has a flat bottom to prevent rolling.
GOSPORTS BACKYARD BOCCE SET ($43)
Ball-and-target activities are the oldest-known games in history. The Egyptians played a game like bocce in 5000 B.C. You can get a good bocce set for up to eight players for under $50. The GoSports set contains eight poly-resin throwing balls in four colors, a small white target ball (known as a pallino), and an old-fashioned measuring rope. Four teams of two can pair up with the same color balls, and each pair of colored balls contains one circle-cut ball and one square cut, so eight single players can tell their balls apart.
LIFE & FIT NORDIC TREKKING POLES ($24)
Trekking poles allow hikers, distance walkers, mountaineers, and campers to use their arms to propel their bodies forward, maximizing energy efficiency and conserving crucial calories. They also reduce impact on the knees and ankles while helping hikers maintain a consistent rhythm, prod puddles, gain traction, and maintain balance. The Life & Fit set is collapsible and ultra lightweight, both critical features for distance hikers. The poles absorb impact and shock and have anti-skid and damping features.
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EVERLAST 70-POUND MMA HEAVY-BAG KIT ($74)
A staple of boxing and martial arts gyms everywhere, a heavy bag is critical for practicing strikes -- but you don't have to be a boxer to reap the benefits. Heavy bag training promotes aerobic fitness, power, endurance, and strength. Among the most basic but functional pieces of sports equipment, heavy bags are also known to relieve stress and promote mental focus. The Everlast brand has been associated with pugilism since Jack Dempsey commissioned the brand to make long-lasting headgear in 1917. The Everlast set contains everything needed to get started for under $75: a highly rated and durable bag, gloves, hand wraps, and a bungee cord for extra resistance.
FRANKLIN SPORTS MLB FLYBACK ($50)
Also called pitchbacks, flybacks are the best and only practical way for softball and baseball players to practice both fielding and throwing without a partner. Throw the ball at the bottom of the net and the pitchback returns a popup. Throw it high and you get a ground ball. The middle returns a line drive -- all with return force that's proportional to the force generated by the throw. A pitchback from Franklin Sports is secured with all-weather stakes and can easily be adjusted or removed after use or off season. With a steel frame and a 30-ply all-weather net, it can stand up to the elements and remain outdoors long term.
NEWDORA STEEL WIRE SPEED ROPE ($13)
Athletes of all stripes rely on jump-roping as a portable, powerful, and fun, way to improve balance, coordination, and reflexes while burning calories and extending cardiovascular endurance. The Newdora rope is actually a steel cable with handles. The cable is coated in rubberized polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, to protect both the rope and the user. The rope can't kink, is powered by fast ball bearings, and has a CrossFit-chic industrial look and feel.
TRIPLE OUT DARTS DARTBOARD CABINET AND SET ($60)
One third of the "bar sports triathlon" (the other two being bowling and billiards), darts is a precision game that is easy to learn and hard to master. A walnut cabinet set by Triple Out comes with everything you need to host matches or tournaments, or simply practice for league night. The set includes a chalkboard cricket scorecard on the inside of the doors (chalk and eraser included), all the necessary mounting hardware, six brass darts, and a regulation-size sisal fiber dartboard.