Question: What counts as a sport?

So this came up over lunch the other day: what is the criteria for something to be categorized as a sport?

Is dance a sport? How about chess? Golf? Gymnastics?

A few criteria we came up with:

For something to be a sport it must…

  • Include physical movement
  • Include competition
  • Include not-judged competition (nothing with a panel that decides the winner)
  • Require practicing
  • Have a coach

Note: These were all submitted by different members of my family, and are not an “all of the above” situation, though they could be.

Oh, and is rock-paper-scissors a sport?

Well, when I was in Boy Scouts and had to earn the Sports Merit badge, many years ago, I had to participate in a team sport and an individual sport. I was not a sports person. I joined a bowling league and a chess team and used those. Not sure that’s allowed today.

Gymnastic Chess Dancing IS a sport :stuck_out_tongue:

Or so I’ve been told :stuck_out_tongue:

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Great question! I cheated and looked up the definition. Turns out: there need to be rules and, generally, it should be possible to be done for fun by the so inclined. Interesting. By that standard, I’d say that experimental dancing is closer to art than to sports.

TIL sports is when there are rules but people still are having fun. :slight_smile:

:eyes: So rock paper scissors is a sport…


°Any athletic activity that uses physical skills, often competitive.
°A person who exhibits either good or bad sportsmanship.

@Tiny so then chess isn’t a sport, even though they keep saying it is…

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I think it’s all subjective, but I’ve always liked Hemingway’s take

There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.



more down here cause discourse required 20 characters

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Is it fun? Challenging? Are there rules? It’s a sport.

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Another way of figuring this out is by looking at the etymology:

Early 15c., “pleasant pastime,” shortening of disport “activity that offers amusement or relaxation; entertainment, fun” (c. 1300), also “a pastime or game; flirtation; pleasure taken in such activity” (late 14c.), from Anglo-French disport, Old French desport, deport “pleasure, enjoyment, delight; solace, consolation; favor, privilege,” related to desporter, deporter “to divert, amuse, please, play” (see sport (v.)), also compare disport (n.).
from sport | Origin and meaning of sport by Online Etymology Dictionary

This might seem that our understanding of sport as athletics is more recent. Maybe a result of commercialisation? Makes for excitement, storytelling, and pretty pictures - and ads in between. In the old description, sports appear to fit quite well into the general idea of “leisure class” pastimes. So Rock Paper Scissors was a go! Certainly, this is not the 15th century, so a more modern understanding is useful, but I think it’s always interesting to investigate where things came from. Lovely random topic!

Also - just the right question to be raised and discussed by the geek squad. :slight_smile:


Here’s a columnists opinion

Personally I would probably break it down to recreational versus professional. Professional sports are anything that has a professional organization develop around it. Recreational sports could be almost anything I suppose though there would be some overlap with hobbies. Is knitting or cross-stitch a sport? How about computer programming? Doing tabletop puzzles? Suduko? Crosswords? It seems like there can be no limits if people find it fun and challenging.

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