Most people think of sports when they hear the word ‘sports’. However, the term also covers many non-sport activities, such as horse racing, motor racing, rugby and ice skating. Sports are generally governed by some kind of unwritten code or traditions, which ensure fair play, and enable consistent adjudication of the results. In popular sports, such as football, fixtures are regularly scheduled, and information can be openly announced in sports media, if the participant is popular.
There are many different types of sports, divided into two main categories: physical and intellectual. Physical games require more strenuous training and exercise than do intellectual games. As a result, athletes have a built-in advantage. Athletic trainers use all kinds of tactics, including stretching and strengthening exercises, to keep their athletes in peak physical condition for the big events. The sport’s mantra is ‘work hard, play smart’. This statement underlines the physical demands placed on athletes, but it also highlights the intellectual challenges they face, in formulating strategies to win sporting matches and to devise new ways to beat their opponents.
Intellectual games are normally governed by unwritten rules, which ensure fair competition and, if competitive, provide a venue for an argumentative contest to occur. For example, football (soccer) is a game of skill, and each side tries to score during the available period. Each side also has certain members who are designated to monitor the ball, to prevent counters or any unfair activities. Unlike the physical game, the members of the refereeing team must wear protective equipment such as gloves and glasses, to protect them from injury. Because most games are regularly played in a stadium or other enclosed area, there is a reasonable chance that members of either team may receive injuries during play.
Another example of a physical activity requiring sophisticated skills is swimming. Water is a natural buoyancy force, which allows a swimmer to move quickly and to stay in one place. Because of these factors, swimming is often seen as a competitive sport, rather than a sport that involve extraordinary acrobatics or strength. As such, swimming is governed by laws such as the swimming pool and spa rule, which set standards of safety and cleanliness, to ensure fair play.
Many people associate sport with contact sports such as boxing, rugby, ice hockey and football. These are games of strength and skill, where the participant is attempting to land blows on his opponent using various body parts. Although these games are generally regarded as contact sports, many people regard them as a form of exercise. This distinction is important to recognise, especially when it comes to defining the difference between physical activity and sport.
Sport and non-sport can overlap, depending on the context in which they are played. In some cases, sport can be considered as a competitive, combative event, whereas in other instances it can be seen as a competition between two equally matched teams. In between are events such as exhibitions, non-sport friendly activities, health and fitness displays, circus and other theatrical displays. All of these can be seen as forms of mind games, where the skills required by the participants are used as weapons or as means of diversion from the contest. The next time you find yourself watching an exhibition or participating in an exhibition, you may well want to ask yourself “what on earth was I doing there?”