What Are Sports?


Sports are activities involving physical exertion and skill that are governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively. They are also usually fun and challenging.

Sport versus Play

To many people, the term “sport” conjures up images of vigorous competition. This is not always the case, however.

Some sports are not physical contests and are instead forms of recreational activity such as equestrian or motor racing that are competitive in their own right. Examples include golf and cheerleading.

Definitions of Sports

One of the most important aspects of a sport is its definition. Different cultures have their own ways of defining it, but the basic idea is that it involves physical effort and skill that’s rewarded through achievement.

The most useful definitions focus on the way that sports are a pursuit of goals and challenges rather than just an activity. It’s not just a physical challenge–it’s a personal goal or ambition, a desire to win.

In the early modern period, Renaissance intellectuals saw sports as a means of developing a moral and aesthetic sensibility. Rather than simply encouraging an innate sense of balance and proportion, they developed a system of quantification that encouraged athletes to train systematically to achieve their peak physical abilities.

These practices, which largely originated in Europe and North America, have influenced and shaped global sports processes. They have had unintended and sometimes contradictory consequences for nations as they seek to reaffirm their national identities. They have contributed to cosmopolitanism, ethnic defensiveness, and exclusiveness.