SAN ANTONIO — Sport stacking has been around since the 1980’s. The goal is to stack plastic cups into a formation as fast as you can. Some fans play at home for fun. Others race the clock at sport stacking competitions. One of the top stackers in the nation lives right here in San Antonio. She’s just 12 years old.

Colorful plastic cups dance through Leah Jones’ fingertips. She makes it look easy.

“She practices a lot. Sometimes we have to make her go to bed,” giggled Tamika Sanchez-Jones, the cup-stacking-wonder’s mother.

Hours of practice a day, the 12-year-old has earned an elite status in the cup stacking world. Leah is in the top 20 for female competitors in the United States, according to the World Sports Stacking Association.

Click: World Sports Stacking Association

It all started when Leah was in 5th grade and saw someone stacking cups online. Practicing with party cups at first, Leah was hooked on a new hobby. She’s upgraded her equipment since then to an arsenal of regulation cups.

Leah’s first competition was less than a year ago. Just six tournaments later, she’s already earned a spot on Team USA. The rank is a top honor in the sport with exclusive tournament invitations.

Stacking competitions are split up into formation challenges. Stackers speedily place the containers into pyramids. Some routines involve nine cups split into three groups, others use 12 cups.

“I’ve learned that you can make friends in stacking and I’ve learned hand eye coordination,” said Leah. “I’ve learned that even if you make a mistake you should keep on going. Like in a tournament if you drop a cup you should keep on going and just do your best.”

Leah thinks the skills she is developing during cup stacking will be useful in a different way when she becomes a Surgeon, one day.

“I think it’s done a lot for her self-esteem,” said Sanchez-Jones. “I think it’s done a lot for her concentration.”

The benefits also include a strong bond with other competitors. Leah says the friends she has made is the best part.

“I’m really grateful that they take me to these tournaments and help me go for the gold.”

Leah’s parents have noticed their daughter’s dedication to the hobby. She practices nine hours a week during the school year. That number more than doubles when there is no homework to worry about. The Jones’ only complaint is that the cups are loud!