What defines a sport?



A common debate that surrounds the world of sports is the elements that allow a particular activity to become labelled as a sport, the most important one being physical exertion.


However, with the rise of mentally exhausting activities such as competitive gaming, it’s important to discuss what can be considered a sport and what is simply just a game.


The Oxford English dictionary defines sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”


Definitions often vary between what is considered a sport, but the vast majority include some element of physical ability to be viewed as a sport.


“In my opinion, the definition of a sport is a physical activity that encourages you to push yourself to the limits. It’s something you’re so passionate about that you’re always giving it your all. You get up at 5:30 a.m. to train because you’re always up to the challenge of pushing your limits and loving every minute of it,” said  Laurier alumni and former member of the varsity women’s soccer team, Nikole Blackmore.


This is typically what most people think of when they refer to sports. One person or team competes against another person or team in a physical competition to defeat them and win. However, physical strength may not necessarily be the key factor in all sports.


“I figure skated for most of my life until my first year of university, so I’ve spent a lot of time hearing things like figure skating isn’t a sport, and I know many dancers and gymnasts hear the same thing, [but] these are sports,” said Blackmore. “we are athletes and we train just as hard as any other athlete does.”


There are plenty of activities that are considered a sport by some, and a game by others. But at which point do we draw the line between sports and games?


In an article published by Sport Management Review, author Bob Heere notes the term “sportification” and describes it as “ to view, organize, or regulate a non-sport activity in such a way that it resembles a sport and allows a fair, pleasurable, and safe environment for individuals to compete and cooperate, and compare their performances to each other, and future and past performances.”


By this definition, there are many more activities that can be considered sports. Things like competitive gaming, figure skating, paintball, and even chess can all be considered sports since they all involve competing against other people.


Many of the activities that people question for being sports are more mainstream than some might think. For example, figure skating may not be considered to be a sport, but it is one of the most popular events at the Winter Olympics.


Similarly, eSports is incredibly popular as well. In November 2018, almost 100 million unique viewers were tuned in to the final match of the 2018 League of Legends World Championships, which was more than the 2018 Super Bowl, according to an article from Farheem Ibrahim and Laura Lewis in Franchise Law Journal. 


“I definitely think for something to be considered a sport there must be a physical aspect involved in the activity, but I also think that something is considered a sport when you or your team are striving towards winning or achieving a goal,” said Blackmore.


Most of the arguments for something being considered as an activity rather than a sport use the notion that it involves minimal or no physical ability. However, there are also a handful of activities that have been gaining popularity in recent years, such as competitive gaming, that requires a strong mental capacity, which can be argued as a component of athleticism as well.


Athletes train for whichever sport or activity they are involved in and committed to, but it’s up to the majority of people to decide whether or not that these athletes are working to compete, or simply wasting their time.

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