Defining the term: giving "sports" a sporting chance

Defining the term: giving "sports" a sporting chance

Mary Devine


The word "sports" captures all levels of endurance, pain, and commitment found in a diverse group of athletes. Each sport requires a specific skill set relative to their game that separates one sport from the next. Although sports may differ in rules, the strive to win is within each athlete. 

Unfortunately, some endurance-requiring activities are not considered a sport despite having the qualifications. Activities and artforms such as dance, cheerleading, and colorguard have yet to be recognized as the sports they are.  

According to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) website, a sport can be defined as “an institutional activity involving physical exertion with the purpose of competition versus other teams or individuals within a collegiate competition structure.” 

Along with the definition, a sport is required to have “regularly scheduled team and/or individual, head-to-head competition with the competitive season(s),” along with “standardized rules with rating/scoring systems ratified by official regulatory agencies and governing bodies.”

For the athletes here on the Whittier College campus, the definition of a sport coincides with the the one established with NCAA. “A sport is anything that utilizes a certain skill that can be measured and compared against an opposing person or team,” said fourth-year distance runner and captain Kamron Perry.  “What makes a sport is an objective. [Scoring] points by some task through certain means.”

Precision and technique are required to shoot a baskeball through a hoop; performing a stunt in cheer is no different.

Precision and technique are required to shoot a baskeball through a hoop; performing a stunt in cheer is no different.

 However, some Poet athletes believe a sport requires commitment from the players as well. In order for it to be a sport, it is essential to hold some sort of competitive nature. Whether it takes a team or an individual, athletes are competitive and work hard to achieve a particular goal. For a team to be one solid unit, each player must put forward their best effort. 

“For me, being competitive is what a sport is,” said second-year cornerback Natnael Yitayew. “So, if you are not out there trying to compete and being the best on the field, it is most likely not a sport. [When] I’m on the field, I’m trying to make sure I am the best person to help my collective unit. Being competitive is what drives any champion. There never has been a champion that wasn’t.”

“[An] athlete’s responsibility [is to] give everything they have to improve their performance for the benefit of their team,” said third-year guard Mia Maglinte. “[It is also] having confidence, the ability to move on from mistakes, and [the ability to] work together as a unit.”

 “An athlete’s role is to perform their best while upholding the integrity of the sport,” said Perry.

On top of an athlete’s role, a coach’s role is an important aspect to any sport. The amount of energy and dedication a coach pours into their team and athletes is crucial to the overall morale. “A coach is [there] to facilitate and guide,” said Yitayew. “They have to give you the framework and the blueprint of how to reach success, but it is on the team and the individual to fully buy into the program and what [the coaches] are trying to apply. If you are not sold on the idea, you won’t give it one hundred percent. I know some teams that don’t particularly buy into what the coaches are saying, and that’s when you get teams that don’t work out.”

All three divisions of the NCAA include several different sports, each with their own seasonal category. For the Whittier College Fall season, the NCAA sports consist of Men’s and Women’s Cross Country,  Football, Men’s and Women’s Volleyball, and Men’s Water Polo. Winter Sports are made up of Men’s and Women’s Basketball, along with Swimming and Diving. For Spring, sports consist of Baseball, Softball, Men’s and Women’s Golf, Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse, Track & Field, Men’s Volleyball, and Women’s Water Polo. 

Each of these sports are fortunate enough to have what it takes to be under NCAA classification, while other activities and performing arts such as dance, colorguard, and cheerleading do not. These require the same amount of effort as the sports currently played at Whittier College. 

According to the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women Process Guide, an emerging sport has to meet the established definition. Dancers, colorguard performers, and cheerleaders involve themselves in both rigorous and demanding shunts, tricks, and body formations that take diligent practice. On top of that, all three activities consist of serious, dedicated, and competitive members who push themselves through countless hours of practice lead by a committed coach. 

All of this work is preparation for a series of several competitions, which have an established ranking systems, point systems, and a strict set of rules — all of which are requirements of an NCAA sport. Dance, colorguard, and cheerleading teams all participate in head to head competition against other teams in their appropriate divisions. The competitions are judged by trained members and hosted by a qualified organization. Colorguard and cheerleading have their own respective seasons during Fall and Spring, both of which are competitive, while dance competes year round.

However, a sport is not just competition. Through trial and effort, an athlete can experience a busy schedule, struggles with time management, and fall into the depths of failure. If one is not careful, negative health risks and major injuries can result in an athlete’s permanent removal from the sport they are most passionate about. However, whether a player is involved in a team or competes individually, lifelong friendships can be made, goals achieved, and stress relieved. Being active in a sport can promote a health lifestyle, teamwork, and a positive.

 “Being an athlete, you are more in tune with your body,” said Yitayew. “On top of that, you get connections that you normally wouldn’t get. You can get so many people from different fields to unite on one sport or one team, and that gives you a lot of connection on things other than just sports.” 

Sports are a reflection of life: victory and defeat, happiness and sorrow. But what truly defines the word "sport"?

Sports are a reflection of life: victory and defeat, happiness and sorrow. But what truly defines the word "sport"?