Definition of sport

When we met up with some like-minded F1 fans at the Science Museum in London, the conversation spilled over into the pub and into the evening hours. One of the topics that really got me thinking was how we define sport.

I don’t remember how we got onto the subject, but I imagine it had something to do with our suggestion that if F1 goes down a particular route with the regulations, we’d probably prefer to watch darts instead. That leads to: Is darts a sport?

Working through some of the suggestions that we discussed leads me to no conclusions.

1) A sport is something you compete in. Good and true, but you can have a chess competition or a game of conkers can become a competition. It’s not a sport, though, is it?

2) Something that you get paid to compete in. That doesn’t seem to stack up, because I could belong to a local sports club (as if!) and not get paid but still be participating in sports. Those dreaded Sports Days at schools still count as a sport rather than a hobby, don’t they?

3) Something you need to train your body for. Aaah, now we’re getting somewhere. At first thought, this could be dismissed – F1 is about the cars, the Grand National all about the horses. But there are always people involved, and they always have to train. F1 drivers have great upper body strength, overall fitness and strong neck muscles. Jockeys have to stay slim, and again have good fitness. The only problem with this is when we return to the chess competition analogy. You couldn’t argue with Garry Kasparov that he didn’t put in hundreds of hours of training. There is also the example of snooker. It take practice, sure, but it is not a physical game by any means. Yet it still counts as a sport.

And so, I am stuck. The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines sport as:

“…a game, competition or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job.”

That seems to cover all the above things in a single sentence. If only I’d read that first. Nevertheless, does anyone think differently? Have a better definition? Or can narrow it down even more for us?

4 thoughts on “Definition of sport

  1. I think a sport is a game that is taken that little bit further by it’s competitors. By that, I mean that I can play a game of chess with a friend, but on that simple level it is just a game, or a hobby perhaps. But if I were to start training, practicing and dedicating more time and effort in improving myself, and also took part in larger competitions, then it becomes more of a sport.

    I would also add that while snooker and darts are often seen as lesser sports, the competitors still have to be reasonably fit in order to deal with the pressure. I can’t remember where I read it, but apparently top snooker players try and slow down their heart rate before taking a shot because it steadies the upper-body and means a more accurate stroke of the cue. And anyone who takes a game far enough to start controlling their heart rate is, in my mind, taking part in a sport.

    And on that note, I’m thinking of taking up Connect-4 professionally. 🙂

  2. And anyone who takes a game far enough to start controlling their heart rate is, in my mind, taking part in a sport.

    I didn’t know that, that definitely counts!!

  3. I found the following link to be the best definition of what a sport is.

    Ooh, thanks Lanny. That certainly rules out a lot of what I thought were sports!!

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