Watching the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo just might inspire you to add more playtime to your own routine. While achieving Olympic-level skills maybe beyond the reach of most of us, adding a place for sports in your backyard may be possible — and might encourage you to get outside more.
Simple first steps might include setting up a permanent spot for table tennis, adding some games to your pool or buying a trampoline. More permanent installations can range from setting aside a spot for bocce ball, horseshoes or a putting green to installing sports courts for everything from badminton and tennis to basketball and hockey.
Focus on Family Fun
Taking the time to haul out the bocce set, move the pingpong table outside or string up a badminton or volleyball net is easy enough to do for an occasional activity. But if your family really loves a specific game, why not make it a permanent part of your landscape?
A standard table will work but you will need a table that is designed for outdoor use and a smooth, flat space to put it on. If you remove the net it can be used as an outdoor dining table or serving counter.
Lawns are fine, although you’ll may need to contend with a sprinkler system. A cement or stable paver patio or a spot with crushed stone or firmly packed decomposed granite will also work.
Regulation size for a pingpong table is 5 feet wide and 9 feet long. Extra clearance is needed on each side, with a recommended total space that’s 11 feet wide and 19 to 20 feet long.
Practice your spikes, dives and bumps with a dedicated sand court for beach volleyball. The court could sits along the back of the yard, tucked out of the main outdoor living space but close enough for spectators to cheer on the players.
A popular size for the actual backyard beach volleyball court is around 26 feet by 53 feet. With additional clearance, you’ll need 49 feet by 70 feet feet total. You can go a bit smaller, though, if your space is limited. Just be sure you have enough room to make some plays.
Badminton lovers can turn a formerly grassy spot into a permanent badminton court. But if a landscape overhaul isn’t in the works, grass is still a fine badminton surface. Keep it trimmed so you can move easily across it. Other options include a smooth, soft surface of crushed stone or concrete, although the latter can be hot.
A regulation badminton court is 20 feet by 44 feet. You should also plan for enough room to take at least 5 steps backward at each end and two to three steps to each side.
Shuttlecocks are very lightweight and can easily travel in directions you don’t want them to, especially if it’s windy. Situating the court away from your neighbors’ yards can save you trips to retrieve them.
Bocce, once known mainly for its popularity in Italian communities, has become a game for all. If you’ve become intrigued, adding a bocce ball court may be easier than you think.
While an official bocce ball court should be 13 feet wide and 91 feet long, you can have just as much fun with one tailored to fit your yard. You can find courts that are as small as 6 feet wide and 22 feet long, although most backyard courts are about two-thirds the size of regulation play.
The key to a good court is a flat, level surface, whether it’s made of concrete, crushed stone, sand or oyster shells. You don’t want anything to interfere with the trajectory of the balls. Adding a short, solid barrier of wood or concrete around the sides will keep things in check. Hang a tape measure nearby for checking the distance between balls so you can settle disputes.
A game of horseshoes feels leisurely and forgiving, as opponents take turns tossing a horseshoe, or the modern equivalent, and get points for coming close. It’s also a game of precision, both when tossing the horseshoe and following the rules of scoring.
If that sounds like a great mix of relaxation and skill, then adding a spot for a game may be just what you need. While a place for two stakes set 40 feet apart on a grass, gravel, sand or decomposed granite surface is technically all you need, adding a permanent sand pit, generally 36 inches by 48 inches, ensures you always have a spot for a quick game.
For safety’s sake, spectators and others, especially children, should stay well away from the players and not distract them while they’re pitching, the official term for playing. The players should also pay attention to their surroundings before pitching.
Minimize the endless repetition of Marco Polo with water versions of dry-land games. Include a net for pool volleyball and a basket at one end for shooting hoops.
Other options? Set a water polo net at each end of the pool, divide into teams and see who can score the most points. Or add a twist to a popular lawn game with inflatable cornhole bowls so you can test your tossing skills while you’re treading water.
As with any swimming-related activity, safety comes first. Keep an eye on swimmers, especially if there are solid objects in the pool.
A no-longer-used basketball court is a prime spot for working out without having to head over to the gym.
An outdoor gym is ideal for mild-weather climates, but if your weather is more finicky, you can always add an overhead structure. No matter where you are, you’ll want a level and soft surface, such as mulch or mats, underfoot.
Kid-Centered Gymnastics Training
Let your kids channel their inner Simone Biles with a play area that goes beyond the standard jungle gym. Try a climbing wall, swings, bars and a rope structure. Synthetic turf provides a soft landing spot, although rubber mulch and play sand will also work.
Trampolines are fun. They’re also a sneaky way to improve your coordination and balance and strengthen your core muscles.
It’s easy to add a trampoline to your yard. You just need the room (some are very small) and a flat surface, ideally with some cushioning. Good choices include rubber mulch, wood chips and artificial turf. You can even install a trampoline that’s level with the ground. They are far less obtrusive, but you’ll need to include the same safety features as with an above-ground trampoline.
Wherever your trampoline goes, a net is an important safety feature. You can bounce higher than you think, and the net protects you from flying off and hitting a hard surface, even if you’re at ground level. Anchor the trampoline to the ground whenever possible.
A backyard climbing wall can challenge and entertain kids and adults alike. As a bonus, it can serve as a decorative addition to a fence or wall of your home or act as a landscape focal point.
The finished width and height depends on your space and how elaborate you want to make it. A shorter wall is great for kids to get started; a larger wall can give adults more options. Whatever you choose, consult with a professional to be sure the wall is solid, sturdy and safe for everyone.
Another safety concern is what you will land on, because the odds are good that at some point you’ll fall. Rubber mulch at least 3 inches thick is a good choice, as are sufficiently thick rubber mats. Again, consult with a professional before making a final decision.
Let your lawn do double duty as an at-home putting green for practicing tricky lies and chip shots. While home putting greens were once a rarity, they’ve grown rapidly in popularity in the past few years.
Even a relatively small yard can be big enough to add a single hole; many home greens are around 500 square feet. You can adjust the design to fit the shape of your yard and how you plan to use it.
If you want a golf course feel, closely trimmed grasses such as Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and annual bluegrass (Poa annua) fit the bill. A more maintenance-free choice would be artificial turf. Add a hole or two, and you’re ready to play.
You could add a full-size hockey rink to your backyard if you have the room and the requisite freezing temperatures. But if you just want a simple spot to practice your shooting skills, then think of a miniature ice surface built into the deck. Its walls are tall enough to keep the puck inside without ruining the view. While the purists may decry the feel of synthetic ice, a very high-quality choice can come close enough for a small home installation while also easing the logistics of making and resurfacing natural ice.
Tired of your driveway basketball games, where you have to be careful not to trample the nearby landscape or let the ball go into the street? Dedicating part of your yard to a made-for-basketball court will make heading out to shoot a few hoops a lot more fun.
Depending on your backyard size and your basketball devotion, you can go with either a half court or a full court. In either case, you’ll need 50 feet for the width. The length can vary; while an NBA court is 94 feet long, many homeowners opt for 90 feet for a full court and 47 to 50 feet for a half court. Concrete is the best surface choice, although you can find outdoor tiles that will work. Personalize the look by adding your favorite team’s logo in the center.
A home tennis court may sound like the landscape of a great estate, but it may be more feasible than you think.
Finding enough room is the first step. Plan for a total space that’s 60 feet wide and 120 feet long for the court and required space on all sides. The width of a court designed for singles play only will be about 9 inches less, but you’ll still need the length. There are a number of surface possibilities, including grass and clay, but concrete is a durable choice for home courts, and asphalt is a good choice as well.
Take a look at the how the sun moves through your yard before you decide on a final location and orientation. You don’t want to have direct sunlight in either player’s eyes. You might also want to add a backboard so you can practice even when a partner isn’t available.
Pickleball came into being in 1965 when an unused badminton court, a supply of pingpong paddles and a Wiffle ball were cobbled into a game to relieve an extreme case of family boredom. It’s now a fast-growing sport, with official equipment, rules for playing and tournaments — but it remains a low-key game for all ages with the same laid-back vibe.
The pickleball court itself is 20 feet by 44 feet — not surprisingly, given the game’s origins, the same size as a badminton court. You’ll want some room on all sides, so plan on 30 feet wide by 60 feet long. As with most courts, concrete is a preferred surface, followed by asphalt.
You can even play on grass, although the bounce of the ball will change. And if the court itself is slightly smaller in size, most people won’t care. The idea is to have fun.
Multiuse Play Area
A backyard court can do triple duty as a spot for basketball and roller hockey, with a tennis backboard thrown in for good measure. Outdoor lighting means the court can be enjoyed even when the sun goes down.
Basketball courts are a logical starting point for a multipurpose surface. It’s easy to add the nets and the markings for tennis, pickleball and badminton. Adding weatherproof boards around the court and flooding it with water can turn the summer fun space into a hockey or skating rink in the winter in cold-weather climes.
Careful planning and a willingness to try something new can let you squeeze more than one sport into your yard, while still having a space that looks great.
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