What makes it a sport?


Courtesy of Maddy Grinnan

Stephen Decatur High School’s varsity cheerleading stunting during Senior Night.

Many people have had lengthy debates on whether or not certain activities are sports. Cheerleading, dance and gymnastics are some of the most controversial when it comes to how they are categorized. Most of the time, if someone is asked to name a sport, they will think of soccer, football and baseball, and not cheerleading or other sports that are similar.  

The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as, “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Following this definition, activities such as cheerleading, rowing, and bowling could all be considered sports.

Some students say part of what makes it a sport is putting in hard work for every practice, competition, game or meet.

“I would define a sport as something that includes competitiveness, passion and sportsmanship,” said Junior Adam Gardner. “Specifically a competition between two individuals, teams or even groups of people. One individual or team will then come out to be victorious.”  

The word “sport” can be defined in several different ways, some more controversial than others. Some say you need a ball or ball substitute for the activity to be classified as a sport. This rules out dance, cheerleading and gymnastics, but includes lacrosse, basketball and volleyball. Another contrasting distinction for whether or not an activity is a sport is by saying “I play.” By using this phrase, it would be grammatically incorrect to say, “I play dance, or I play rowing,” whereas saying “I play golf, or I play softball,” would be considered correct.

The topic of cheerleading and its classification of being a sport or not is highly debatable, especially to cheerleaders. Reese Robins, a junior at Decatur, is a school cheerleader and a member of a competitive team, Maryland Twisters. Robins believes cheerleading is a sport and that it can be split into sideline cheering and competitive, or Allstar cheer. 

“Sideline cheer includes various chants, and maybe a couple flips and stunts,” Robins said. “Allstar cheer is on the opposite side of the scale, and is one of the most competitive sports world-wide. It requires an incredible amount of dedication and skill, and if you are not easily committed, the sport is not for you. Endurance is key. The routine is packed with continuous jumps, tumbling, stunting, baskets, pyramid and you finish with a dance. If the dedication and critical requirements that cheer requires does not qualify to be a sport, then I do not know what does.” 

Rigorous practices for hours upon hours are included in almost every sport, no matter people’s personal opinions on the topic. Tristan Dutton, a senior at Decatur, defines a sport as, “something that gives someone a competitive spirit and the will to win. Dedication for your sport is necessary to be successful.” Following this definition, Dutton believes cheerleading, dance, gymnastics and others are classified as sports. Dutton is a runner on the cross country team and both indoor and outdoor track.

“With that being said, putting in work to better yourself is something I take part in every practice and I believe every athlete, whether collegiate, professional or kids in high school like me, can agree on,” stated Dutton.

Different definitions of a simple word can lead to much controversy, especially when it pertains to physical achievements and ability. Despite the various definitions of “sport,” it does not define an athlete or athletic ability. No matter how a sport is defined, the athletes at Decatur embody the positive attributes of being an athlete.