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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.

Cheerleading Is cheerleading 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 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 ...

Other Definitions

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)

Casper playing minigolf at the Wembley golf course Mini-Golf is a lot of fun, but is it a sport?

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 ...

  1. A human activity involving physical skill and exertion.
  2. Governed by a set of rules or customs.
  3. 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".

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Sport Extra

Check out the 800+ sports in the Encyclopedia of Every Sport. Well not every sport, as there is a list of unusual sports, extinct sports and newly created sports. How to get on these lists? See What is a sport? We also have sports winners lists, and about major sports events and a summary of every year.

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