An ongoing debate rages on, whether certain activities are considered sports, from speech and debate to bowling and esports.
Sports have long been an extremely popular hobby for many people. Ancient Greece and Rome have the earliest recorded records of participating in sports. Back then, they participated in gladiatorial combat and chariot racing to entertain a crowd. Sports have changed for the better since then, though it’s still unclear what constitutes a sport.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” This definition can be used as a test for many activities to determine if they are a sport.
Speech is an activity that takes a lot of nerve. It places immense pressure on competitors. They’re required to make and give speeches in front of audiences and judges. For certain speech competitions, contestants are required to make an entire speech in a small time frame to present to judges. It doesn’t involve much physical exertion, however.
“Speech is more of a mental sport,” Pius X speech coach Abbie Allen said. “It’s harder than regular sports. Speech takes an extreme level of mental toughness. The number of variables that occur during a speech meet is so much higher than any athletic activity that I can think of. We also don’t have film on our competition.”
In this ‘mental sport’, speech competitors need to be mentally strong rather than physically strong. It doesn’t matter how high they can jump or how fast they can run. Just like regular sports such as basketball and football, speech takes skill and practice. It’s still an activity that takes a lot of effort to succeed. It just takes mental effort rather than physical effort.
Many people are under the impression that speech involves no physical exertion. Allen argues otherwise.
“At a speech meet, my students comfortably walk 10,000 steps a day, and have to carry various things with them such as physical aids, props, and sets,” Allen said. “Some interpretation pieces involve movements like jumping and spinning in order to bring a character to life. It’s definitely more mentally exerting than physically exerting, however.”
Bowling is another activity many discredit for not being a sport. It doesn’t involve physical contact nor require elite athleticism to be an elite bowler. However, there is still a level of physical exertion and skill involved according to Jack Simons, a member of the Triple Take bowling league at Sun Valley Lanes.
“Bowling definitely involves physical exertion,” he said. “I wouldn’t say as much as other sports like football and basketball, but there is still a level of physical exertion and skill required.”
Bowling involves individual competition for entertainment. With its skill and physical exertion involved, it’s hard to argue bowling is not a sport.
Esports is a competitive activity with a massive audience. Professional esports players have an impressive amount of skill and focus yet there is an argument to be made on whether or not it’s a sport.
“There is a real skill level to playing esports, but when I think of sports, I think of true physical exertion where your entire body moves,” esports commentator Gabe Hinrichs said. “The only thing moving for esports is your hands. It involves a more mental aspect than physical aspect.”
Using this reasoning, it can be considered a mental sport.
“There is some physical exertion involved,” streamer and esports set designer Connor Moffatt said. “It’s hard for me to say it’s not a sport because of the skill and coordination involved,” he said.
Esports involve articulate and calculated hand movements while controlling their game character. Whether or not that’s considered physical exertion is up for debate. Regardless, esports players are extremely talented and skilled at their respective activities.
Physical exertion is essentially what being considered a sport comes down to. The definition of sport doesn’t specify how much physical exertion is required, but if only a small amount is required, then basically anything could be considered a sport. For example, brushing your teeth involves physical exertion, yet is never considered a sport due to its lack of skill.
At the end of the day, people try to discredit certain activities because they don’t consider them a sport. The skill required to compete in speech and debate, bowling, and esports is on par with any sport. Being considered a sport or not shouldn’t take away from the skill and practice it takes to succeed.