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Indoor sports in Sydney

From rock climbing to badminton, here are 11 fantastic indoor sports you to try

Written by
Time Out editors

Don't let Sydney's moody weather interrupt your fitness agenda – just head indoors. The city has a number of fun indoor activities at your carefully-curled-for-a-volleyball-pike fingertips. Here are some of the best and where you can try them.

1. Badminton

Badminton is not just a sport that toffs play in the movies – it's a racquet-net-ball game every bit as accessible as tennis. The aim of the game, as with most, is to keep the plastic, feathered "shuttlecock" in the air. You can play in pairs or singly, and can only hit the cock on your side of the court to clear the net (about 1.5 metres high) the rally is over when the cock hits the floor. The trick is in the cock (OK, we'll stop that now) – which, with its high-drag, accelerates quickly and can decelerate suddenly. Traditionally, a match is the best of three games, each up to 21 points – and points are counted whether you serve or not. Play at: Sydney Olympic Park Sports HallsHawkesbury Stadium YMCANorth Sydney Indoor Sports Centre.

2. Basketball

If you love the sound of shoes-screeching-on-polished-wood in the morning, then a rigorous, hard-fought game of indoor basketball (just plain old basketball, really) is for you. Take a half court for a game of two-on-two, or the whole thing if you're Mr Popular, and get in a weekly bit of dribble-and-shoot. Interestingly, basketball was created specifically as a winter warmer sport: way back in 1891, on a chilly, rainy day in Springfield, Massachusetts, Phys Ed professor James Naismith came up with the game as a way to keep his students active on indoor days. Play at: Cook + Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness CentrePeter Forsyth Auditorium.


3. Cricket

It may not have Richie Benaud or the Barmy Army, but indoor cricket does share similarities with its outdoor counterpart. The pitch is the same, the bats are the same and the Australian team is one of the best in the world. There are some differences though - teams usually only consist of six to eight members, and players bat in partnerships for four overs and must bowl two overs each. A small tip: scoring in indoor cricket is more complex – you can score physical and bonus runs. The former are runs scored by the batsmen as in outdoor cricket, the latter scored by the ball hitting the nets in certain spots. Play at: Action Indoor Sports BankstownPenrith Indoor Sports or Sportsworld Liverpool.

4. Netball

Indoor netball has created a revolution of sorts, with mixed teams in this sport now nearly as common as the all-girl sides. While the boys don't have to don the pleated skirts, they do have to follow the rules - at least five players per team, with two guys and three girls on court at any one time if it's a mixed comp. The rules of play are similar to traditional netball, so there's the same three feet from your partner rule and no travelling with the ball, but the indoor version is often faster-paced. Play at: Brookvale Indoor Sports CentreCampbelltown Indoor Sports CentreFive Dock Leisure Centre, Sportsworld Sutherland.


5. Rock Climbing

Some climbers will tell you of the feeling of great human accomplishment they get standing on the peak of the world's biggest mountains. Not bad. But want to know what's really impressive: taking that mountain and bringing it indoors. That's what's essentially been done with this exponentially popular sport, where amateur to advanced climbers get the experience of harnesses, belays and aching muscles they would experience in the outdoors, but do so in the cushion-floored environs of a Sydney warehouse. Most Sydney venues will hire equipment and have craggy walls designed for all skill levels. Climb at: Climb FitUltimo Community Centre.

6. Soccer

In Australia, one of the most common forms of indoor soccer is futsal, which differs from other indoor forms of the beautiful game with its strict FIFA-sanctioned rules. This five-a-side game is fast and furious – if the ball goes out of bounds, it must be returned to play within four seconds - and many swear by it as a way to improve skills for outdoor soccer. The walls create rebound opportunities and keep the ball moving, leading to games that are often high-scoring. If it's good enough for Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Juninho, who all got their start in futsal, then it's good enough for us. Play at: Brookvale Indoor Sports CentreCampbelltown Sports CentreFive Dock Leisure Centre, Sportsworld Sutherland.


7. Squash

It will be a wonder to anyone who's spent ten minutes on a squash court that the sport has never been an Olympic sport – this is one of the most exhausting, high-velocity indoor sports around. You know the rules: the ball can only bounce once, it has to hit the front wall, keep it between the lines and try not to whack your opponent in the back-face-or-groin. Always,always, wear goggles. Choose your ball wisely: orange, teal or green for super-slow speed, double yellow and yellow for slow, green or white for medium, red a touch faster and blue if you want huge speeds and huge bounce. Play at: a bunch of local recreational centres, but if you're in the city try Hiscoes Gym or hop east to Bondi Waverly Squash.

8. Swimming

A dip in the morning might have seemed a counter-intuitive start to a brisk morning at one stage in human history, but in Sydney we're well past all that. At any number of heated indoor pools – with thankfully less chlorine than in decades past – Sydneysiders are starting their day with morning laps. It's a gentle, at-your-own-pace form of winter exercise, and, unlike some of the team sports, can be done in your own schedule. Swim at one of Sydney's best indoor pools.


9. Table Tennis

Originally a refined pastime played with cigar-box lids and carved champagne corks, table tennis has left behind its Victorian era beginnings to become a high-tech Olympic sport played with carbon fibre rackets and celluloid balls. Whether you call it ping pong, gossima, flim-flam or whiff-whaff (which, according to the official Olympic website, are all legitimate names), the basic idea is for players to hit the ball back and forth over the net. It's fast, furious and at one point in the early 2000s, the International Table Tennis Federation even made changes to slow the game down to make it more suitable as a spectator sport. Play at: King George V Recreation CentreUltimo Community CentrePeter Forsyth AuditoriumSydney Olympic Park Sports Halls.

10. Tennis

For some, taking the game of tennis indoors eliminates some of the variables that make the game unique – a gusty wind, a spray of rain, that beaming sun you keep blaming for your service yips! But we like to play in a controlled environment where variables are limited and no one can make excuses. Unless that excuse is you're not all that great on hard courts, which most indoor courts are. On this surface the ball will be slower and the bounce will be higher, which could throw your seasoned grass-courter. Interestingly for us in Australia, tennis originated as an indoor sport. In France and England in the 16th Century tennis players competed indoors where they could hit the ball against the wall. Play at: any number of suburban centres – but also try King George V Recreation Centre or the Ultimo Community Centre.


11. Volleyball

You can play volleyball in a number of recreation centres across the city, and spiking, dinking and tipping is a good way to get your heart rate up in winter. But... for a bit of summer-in-winter action, try beach volleyball: indoors! A game of indoor beach volleyball is probably the only occasion you won't get in trouble for traipsing sand inside since the whole court is, in fact, covered with it. Games are played by two sides with up to six players each. Nets surround the entire court so the ball is never out of play. Each side can have no more than three hits in a row. Bikinis and speedos are, of course, optional. Play at: King George V Recreation CentreCook + Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness CentreAction Indoor Sports BankstownPenrith Indoor Sports or Sportsworld Liverpool.

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