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What Is a Sport?

A Sense of the Label

Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash

Debate over if certain activities are considered sports prevails. From esports to cheerleading, disputes over what is considered a real sport continue. Sports play a significant role in numerous lives. They can be hobbies, careers, or even a spectacle for entertainment. Since sports play such a huge role in American culture, there is some controversy over what activities fall under the definition of a sport. Oxford Languages defines a sport as, “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Many physical activities fall under this definition, which allows a better understanding of which activities are real sports.

Debate on this topic typically focuses on whether activities like dance, ballet, cheerleading, esports or rowing are sports. People typically argue that these activities are not sports because they often do not involve physical contact or common athletic equipment, which are typical elements of popular sports. The difference between these activities and ones like basketball, football and soccer is either the contact or the equipment that is used. However, if an activity does not involve physical contact, or isn’t a game founded on the transition of specific equipment, it can still be defined as a sport. In the same way that any of these contact sports compete against other teams, other sports such as dance, cheerleading and rowing also compete against other teams, therefore allowing them to be considered sports.

Dance is one of the most common activities that faces debate over whether it is a sport or not. Many people argue that dance is a form of art rather than a sport. However, dance is a very broad activity, with various forms that fall under it such as competitive dancing and ballet dancing. Since competitive dance is a physical activity that requires skill, it is a sport. In competitive dance individuals or teams compete against each other. On the other hand, ballet is typically not competitive, therefore it does not fall under the definition of a sport. Although ballet can’t be defined as a sport, ballerinas still acquire an impressive amount of skill. Ballet is an art form, and it requires great athleticism to exert. Despite it not falling under the sports definition, it still requires the same respect.

Similar to dance, cheerleading holds different categories such as competitive cheer and sideline cheer. In Competitive cheer, or All-Star Cheer, teams compete against each other. Because it's a physical activity that requires competition against others, competitive cheer is considered a sport. However, recreational sideline cheer for schools is not a sport, because it's an activity that doesn't require competition.

Also, there continues to be a dispute over whether esports or electronic sports is a sport. Esports require mental skills but only require a little bit of physical exertion to control the remotes. Although esports require a slight amount of physical exertion, it cannot be defined as a sport because of how little physical movement there is. The level of physical exertion has a big role in whether something is a sport or not, because if it was defined as a sport because of that small amount of physicality, anything could be a sport as long as it requires some physical movement. Even though esports does have the competitive aspects of a sport, it is not a sport because it requires very little physical exertion.

Real sports require physical skill, compete against others and serve as entertainment. Certain activities may not always fall under the definition of a sport, but that doesn’t take away from their athleticism and skill. For as long as sports remain a huge part of American culture, the debate over what a real sport is will continue.


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Andy Poll

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