The Truth About Sports

What activities really fall under the definition of a sport?

Maya Sagett and Lila Solomon performing in a dance recital in 2010.


Maya Sagett and Lila Solomon performing in a dance recital in 2010.

Maya Sagett, Features Editor

To begin, let’s preface this discussion with what Google Dictionary defines as a sport: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.


Many people have decided that an activity is only truly a sport if it is an event in the Olympics. Although dance has not made its way to that arena, the International Olympic Committee recognizes dance as a sport. Or maybe you think something is a sport based on stereotypes rooted in gender norms, the “pretty” aesthetic of a ballerina, or another assumption about what dancers do during their training. So let’s talk about it. First of all, dancers are typically well-versed in several styles of dance, not just one, which makes for sometimes daily classes that can add up to over ten hours a week, depending on the level, studio, or personal preference. Dancers also display a significant range of abilities, which is what allows them to have the niche skills needed for each style. In ballet, which is arguably the most rigorous of the styles, being both flexible and strong is a necessity, in order to demonstrate a leg, sky-high jumps, and intense balance for turns or a beautiful relevé. In other terms, if you’ve ever looked at a pointe dancer’s bruised and bloody feet, you’d be well aware of the grueling efforts they have to make in order to be their best. And going back to our definition, weekends spent on 3-day competitions, recitals, and the after-school hours put towards training definitely complete the trifecta of what a sport really is.


If you thought dance was a controversial topic, buckle in. Golf… not a sport. The number one reason for this is because of how little physical fitness is actually needed to play golf, seen with the slower pace of golf tournaments and the very little movement or physical exertion needed (hence golf carts). Also, there is no way you’d be able to play soccer or basketball without being close to 100% in terms of physical health (or at least play well). However, you’d be surprised by how much injury can be endured while — get this — standing still and swinging a >1-pound club. The most famous example of this came about in 2008, when Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open despite playing with his left knee missing an ACL and two stress fractures in his left tibia. It’s completely fair to say that golf takes skill. Believe me, I’m very aware that golf is not easy, based on my less-than-impressive feats at Top Golf. But, just because something may be difficult and take training and concentration does not mean that it is a sport.


In a surprisingly widely-discussed debate, let’s settle one thing: chess is not a sport. And don’t get me wrong, this is another game/activity that takes an immense amount of skill. You’d never catch me even understanding the rules of chess, let alone playing or being remotely good at it. Although chess is very competitive, what distinguishes strengths of chess players is not their physical abilities at doing anything. Some might argue that chess is physical because it requires that one be able to sit in one spot for hours and concentrate. It is true that one aspect of chess is physical, but not in the way that a true athlete would need to train their body and be physically fit in order to be successful. Also, the sitting-still skill is not the essence of what makes a great chess player; there are plenty of people who are great at sitting down and concentrating for hours on end but are lousy chess players (myself, for example). All in all, the moving of pieces on a board and the mere exercise of the mind do not add up to consider chess a sport.


For our final conversation, one that can go both ways: cheer. Think about school cheer, it is vastly different from all-star competitive cheer. Yelling on the sidelines of a football or basketball game and performing during half-time, in my opinion, does not constitute the level of sport that we’re discussing here. Also, it does not entail competition. This does not in any way diminish the validity of cheer as an exciting and skill-based activity, but it does not compare to cheer at a competitive level. If you’ve seen the Netflix show “Cheer,” the rigor and hours of training that goes into their preparation for Daytona is like none other, and definitely qualifies as a true sport. The tumbling, intricate and dangerous stunts, and most of all, those giant bows, are what make competitive cheer, unlike school sideline cheer, the epitome of our definition of a sport.