Sports is any activity that requires a psycho-physical effort on the part of those who carry out it, and has a recreational intent.
People have enjoyed both these characteristics in sporting activities since the times of Greeks and Romans. Sport is also a source of enjoyment for spectators.
Traditionally, sports have been linked with national identity and cultural heritage. The link between sports and identity can be seen in the adulation of athletes or the emphasis on certain qualities, such as fair play, valour, and graceful conduct.
The social diffusion of modern sports began in Europe and North America, but has since spread worldwide. It can be traced to a range of factors, including the establishment of international sporting associations, the standardization of sports rules and regulations, the establishment of regularly scheduled international competitions, and the search for the “ultimate” sports performance.
In contemporary society, the sociology of sports has become a multidisciplinary research field that encompasses both the psychological processes involved in athletic competitions and the social relationships between players, coaches, and spectators. This discipline also involves an exploration of the relationship between sport and hegemonic social relations.
Sports are an important focus of national identity politics and can be used to reinforce a hegemonic culture or undermine it. This relationship is most obvious in the United States, where a number of major professional sports are widely popular. However, sports can also be used to represent and maintain racial and ethnic groups that have been excluded from traditional social networks.