The Definition of Sport

According to Mirriam-Webster, the definition of sport is “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.”

Pretty good right? Welp, my job is done here – we’ve successfully defined sport and can now end the debate on anything that isn’t football, baseball, hockey, or boxing. What you’re really thinking is probably wow, wow, wow! Slow down Bill – what about MMA, cheerleading, professional wrestling, white water rafting, skiing, NASCAR, running, or heck – marching band! Well, technically, and according to Mirriam-Webster, these are all sports. Yes, even marching band – “certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” Marching band is about moving into formations while playing music. Ever seen the movie Drumline (affiliate)? Yeah – it’s a sport.

There’s been a pretty good ongoing debate between a few of my colleagues and I about about what a sport really is, but in order to decide, we’ve got to all agree on a definition, so how about Mirriam-Webster’s definition? It’s just as good as any – except when someone has a strongly held belief that a certain activity is not a sport, even though it fits in this definition. And that’s probably why a few of us just keep going around and around and around about what we think the term “sport” should include.

Now, this situation is also a great sports business lesson – how do you define success and what’s working? First – you’ve got to come up with a definition of what is most important to you. What are your mission, vision, values, goals? By doing your work, are you advancing closer to these goals? How will you know? What steps should you take in order to achieve certain milestones on your way toward these goals?

Second, everyone has to agree on the definition. In many ways, this can be the most difficult task of any – getting everyone on the bus so we can get somewhere together. We all have a history, a background, bias, and other contributing factors that give us the mindset we do, but how firm are we in our beliefs that may limit our success as a group? In sport as well as life, you’ve got to be about more than just yourself if you’re going to succeed. There are a few sports that only require an individual, but even those athletes have teams that must work together – coaches, trainers, doctors, etc. Be a team player.

Start with a definition and help others in coming up with what that looks like for your organization. Define success and the individual metrics for what that looks like, both in your personal and professional development, as well as in your organization. If you’ve got small benchmarks along the way to measure your success by, the journey will be more calculated and less ambiguous.

Go Forth!

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