What Is A Sport?
We have a huge list of sports which includes some that you may not consider a sport. In order to justify what makes the list, we have to base the inclusion on a clear definition of what makes a sport.
Definition According to GAISF
The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) (previously SportAccord) is the umbrella organization for all international sports federations, and has developed a definition of sport to determine whether an applicant federation qualifies as an international sports federation. The GAISF's definition of sport is as follows:
- The sport proposed should include an element of competition.
- The sport should not rely on any element of "luck" specifically integrated into the sport.
- The sport should not be judged to pose an undue risk to the health and safety of its athletes or participants.
- The sport proposed should in no way be harmful to any living creature.
- The sport should not rely on equipment that is provided by a single supplier.
The Encyclopedia of World Sport
When collating all the world sports for the publication 'Encyclopedia of World Sport - from ancient times to the present' (Oxford University Press, 1999), the editors based their inclusion criteria on the following definition:
An activity can be considered a sport if it involves ...
- Competition between two or more individuals or teams;
- Rules of play that allow a winner to be determined;
- A primary goal of victory;
- Victory determined by the relative physical ability of the competitors, although strategy and chance may also play a role.
Here are some other definitions found online:
"An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others" (Google Search)
“A human activity capable of achieving a result requiring physical exertion and/or physical skill, which, by its nature and organization, is competitive and is generally accepted as being a sport.” (Australian Sports Commission, ASC)
"An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively" (Free Dictionary online)
Our Sport Criteria
Incorporating many of the common elements of the above definitions, we have simplified them into these three basic criteria that a sport must have, and have used this criteria for inclusion in our complete list of sports.
A sport is ...
- A human activity involving physical skill and exertion.
- Governed by a set of rules or customs.
- Undertaken competitively and capable of achieving a result.
What makes the list and what does not
There are many activities that are commonly debated whether they are sports, such as fishing, dancing, cheerleading, golf, equestrian, motorsports, pole dancing. Based on the above criteria, are these sports? Let's look a little closer at them.
The examples of golf and cheerleading easily fit the definition of sports when in the competitive form. Fishing and dancing for most people is a pastime and not a sport, but there are structured competitions with these activities which make it a sport in that form. In the case of equestrian and motorsports, there is physical exertion by the riders, but the horse and car are primarily doing the work. On the other hand, there is plenty of skill involved and it ticks all the other boxes.
There will always be activities that are borderline and debatable whether they are sports or not. In that case, maybe the final defining point should be as per the definition by the Australian Sports Commission — it is a sport if it is ... "generally accepted as being a sport".
- Some questionable sports
- POLL: Should motorsports be classified as a sport?
- POLL: Is bull fighting is a sport?
- BLOG: Is Bridge a Sport?
- Alphabetical list of all sports
- Suggested sports for our list.
Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.
- Michael Brown (2016)
My working definition of a sport is "any competitive event in which one side is actively engaged in stopping the other side from scoring". This eliminates a lot of track and field competitions as well as a lot of gymnastics and ice events. As they are great physical feats, but the other competitors are not actively engaged in stopping the other from scoring. This also eliminates golf and archery or markmanship events as they are all conducted with no way of your opponents to stop you. Rugby, cricket and tennis are great examples of sports as the opponent has a means to stop you from scoring and you can stop them from scoring as well.
What does the community think?
- Pat Michael Brown (2017)
So, basically, with definitions, there are connotations and denotations. A connotation is an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning. Denotations are the literal dictionary definitions. You are basically saying that your connotation of the word sport "My working definition of a sport" is how you defined it. That does not make it the definition, but it's fine for your definition. By the dictionary definition of WWE wrestling.... it's a sport. Personally, since it's scripted, I don't consider it so much a sport. Almost like seeing a play with a lot of physical exertion and a competition feel (but since it's scripted, it's not a real competition. But, in boxing, like wrestling, each opponent scores points, so, it is also the job of the WWE wrestler, to stop his opponent from scoring points. So, by your definition, I guess you consider WWE wrestling a sport?
- Colton Moore Michael Brown (2020)
My definition is similar. To be a sport there have to be able to play active defense, and their has to be an objective scoring system. Which I understand doesn't include many of the sprint races in track and all of the field events. I would call those simply competitions. However in the track events, as soon as the lanes cease to matter it becomes a sport because you can actively block others from passing you by how you position yourself on the track. If that makes sense.
- Brew Swillis Michael Brown (2017)
1) Physical exertion
2) Offense and defense
3) No stopwatch
4) No judges awarding victory/defeat.
- Everything else is competitive activity. I find it interesting that people lobbying for their activity to be labeled a sport sees that as the only way for it to be legitimized.
- Sam Michael Brown (2017)
I don't agree with the "stopping other side from scoing" part of your definition. Track and field events are all sports due the competitive and physical parts. Golf is also a sport and probably the hardest.
- Jason Burns Sam (2017)
golf isnt a sport really you swing your arms with alot of force and then walk to go to the next thing its move of a retire ment game and thats why you pretty much only see the elderly people playing it
- Michael Brown Sam (2017)
You are falling into the traps of thinking all sports have to be physical. Is billiards a sport? It is not that physical. NASCAR? Other than driving forces most drivers are far and not physical. If track and field are sports due to competition and physical activity, then is a dance competition a sport or do we just call it a competition? How about a singing competition. Just as physical as darts. Cornhowl?
Archery has a higher level of physical exertion than darts but it practical the same event. And neither stops the other competitors from drawing their dart/shooting their arrow. Curling versus shuffle board?
We like to think that physicality makes it a sport, yet dismiss dance and floor aerobics. We like to say level of skill yet dismiss video games and board games like chess.
Everything can be a competition sans physical prowess and level of difficulty. Hence eating contests and pissing contests or even staring contests. What do those have in common? You can't stop the other contestants from getting their score. But sport means we are actively engaged with each other, be it mentally or physically and ideally both. But track and field, golf, bowling, and marksmanship, does not have that engagement aspect. While there are physical (marksmanship is a stretch), ine can not stop the others from getting their score. And when I can't stop you from scoring your score like in track and field, golf, bowling, etc. we are just in a competition, no different than an eating contest. Hell golfer even tee off at different times and we see gymnast having to wait for others to perform to see if they won or lost. Just like a dance competition. And nothing is more physically demanding than a dance competition or requires high levels of skill, yet we never call it a sport...
- Rob Admin Michael Brown (2017)
I call dance competition a sport
- Michael Brown Rob (2017)
As well as singing competitions? And step competitions, as well as band competitions as they all require physical exertion? Not being glib, because all of them require more effort than darts and golf and bowling and all those things to me are competitions by my definition of not being able to stop the other players from scoring.
By I do respect your consistency.
But by physical exertion being the criteria that gets dance and golf and NASCAR and horse racing in, then again video games (esports) would be included because the consoles/computers are being exerted just like in NASCAR and marksmanship.
- Scooter (2016)
I'm going to have to say that if you're counting the amount of physical exertion that fishing has then you need to claim e-sports as a sport as well. Look at the fact the the League of Legends tourney pulled the second most viewers of any televised single sporting event, only behind the Super Bowl. I would say that the the definitions of sport that you have are more about athletics than sports. They don't have to go together, as is the case with fishing and Aeromodeling. Really? Flying RC planes is a sport and e-sports isn't? Then let's look at Artistic Pool.
- Look if you're going to keep a set of standards in order to compile a list, at least hold ALL of the items that you have to sort through to all the same standards.
- No_CARRIER Scooter (2016)
You're correct that eSports is a type of a sport, it's just not an athletic sport. Same goes for fishing or aeromodeling.
- However, your "fact" is grossly overstated. (And completely wrong) The LOL tournament pulled the 2nd most ONLINE STREAMING viewers only behind the Super Bowl in ONLINE STREAMING IN THE U.S. NOT "Televised", and definitely not a combination of Televised & Online Streaming. Also note that the LOL championship is worldwide numbers, however Superbowl numbers are tracked by television network (by country). So consider the Superbowl for example is excluding viewers in Canada, Central America, etc.
- Not to dismiss LOL, the numbers of viewers is still staggering and edging on the next big thing... but let's just keep everything in check here.
- LOL had 14.7 million peak concurrent viewership (unique viewers). FIFA Finals had 6.0 billion (yes, with a B). Not to mention Olympics, World Cricket Championships, Asian Games, and Rugby World Cup all pulling in well over a BILLION concurrent viewers. Viewership for the U.S. presidential debate, the season finale's of Friends, M*A*S*H, Cheers, to name a few - have all had larger viewership than the LOL finals. Every week more people tune in for Coronation Street.
- ESports are blowing up, but they're still a very long way from mainstream.
- ABC123 No_CARRIER (2017)
I agree with you on basically everything here except the fifa finals numbers. Fifa has claimed 1 billion watched the finals and the number was found to be very exaggerated. The actual number was more likely around 300-400 million. Still a massive amount of viewers, but not 6 billion which is an impossible number to reach. There are 7.5 billion people in the world and the large majority don't have a tv. You then factor in that the majority of people with a tv will not watch the fifa final. So, the absolute maximum you could reasonably get would probably be a little less than a billion.
- Rob Admin Scooter (2016)
Thanks for the feedback. I agree that that the standards of what is a sport should be consistent. I have included a few 'non sports' on my list just for completeness as some people may consider them sports. In these cases I try to make it clear that they do not fit my published definition of a sport. I am sure there are errors and I'll have another look at the sports you have listed. Despite having a clear definition of a sport, it is still a grey area and open to interpretation. What I consider physical exertion may not be the same as yours.
- Sid (2016)
I find it strange that you consider competetive eating a sport, yet on your list of sports, eSports is clearly missing an entry. (It is there, listed under gaming!)
- Bob (2016)
I LOVE eSports its my favourite sport. I have lost 100lbs from playing eSports!