The Definition of Sport

Definition of sport. Crossfit included.

What is the definition of sport? This, Crossfit and more!

Academics sometimes get a bad rap from people in “the real world” for not developing applicable knowledge as it relates to business. Often times these folks want “real world experience” and cite someone with a lack of working experience and more education as being less qualified than someone with less education but more time working under their belt.

I’m not here to take one side or the other, but I think both are valuable and appropriate in certain situations. Yesterday I had a great conversation with the owner of a Crossfit gym which got me thinking about the dichotomy between work experience and education. Let this post on the “definition of sport” serve as a somewhat “academic” approach to examining what sport means. You can look forward to more discussion about this topic in the next few weeks.
How do you define “sport”?
A game with rules, a governing body and organized teams? Sure.
Perhaps a regular schedule of competition of two or more teams. Ok.
Maybe you’d just say football, basketball, baseball, soccer. Great.

According to “sport” is defined as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.”.

Great, now that’s settled. We’re done right? Eh, no, not really.

Let’s look at this a little more. This online dictionary definition doesn’t even mention three of the examples I mentioned above…why might that be? Well, let’s explore the first part of the definition – an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.

According to this, sport is always an athletic activity requiring skill. Maybe even physical prowess, but not necessarily.

Ok, so what does athletic mean? According to, “physically active and strong.” Ok, I think we can understand physically active, but what about strong? Strong how? Physically strong comes to mind – big, fit, functional muscle. Let’s go back to the dictionary…”having, showing, or able to exert great bodily or muscular power; physically vigorous or robust.” Yeah, muscles. Got it.

Lets put this together now – Sport is a physical, able to exert bodily or muscular power, activity requiring skill, and physical prowess sometimes, often competitive in nature (but not necessarily).


According to this common, accepted definition as evidenced by this online dictionary, sport is any activity that requires physical skill of some sort and is often competitive in nature.

I was a liberal arts major in college and the thing I learned the most was to question everything. In this example I question the definition of sport. Look at what I did above – take a common assumption, break it down into parts, consider each part on its own, then put it all together and try to come up with some conclusion for yourself.

Certainly Crossfit would be a considered a sport. It’s definitely physical activity and you’re always competing, even if only against yourself. The Crossfit Games would be the ultimate personification of sport – physically skilled, physically strong, ultimate competition for the fittest on earth.

But what about other sports? Say e-sports? Are video games sports? I bet many of you would say no. Have you heard of the various video game tournaments happening around the country (and world) recently? They’re filling up 20000 seat arenas with people watching teams play video games. Usually they are multiplayer games in a tournament setup with a bracket where as many of 8 teams or more compete for their chance at a huge pot of cash prizes. Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes and go look it up.

Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about.

Something else I’d like to point out is that the definition above included sports such as hunting and fishing. I think it’s worth pointing these out for the mere fact that these sports are very different than the others mentioned. Both of these involve wildlife and don’t necessarily require a whole lot of physical strength. Certainly enough strength is required to handle the respective equipment necessary to perform the sport, but putting an extra hundred pounds on your bench press isn’t necessarily going to help you pull the trigger when the time comes as it would swing a bat, club or roll a bowling ball.

So what’s the point Bill?

Question everything.

Go Forth.