What is counted as a sport activity? Do you need to sweat for it? Does there need to be a competition to compare/asses the gain/value/rank you are at?

For instance: Is Chess considered a sport? How about a Poker tournament?

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    Would competitive eating be considered a sport?
    – user527
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 19:30

6 Answers 6


Personally I think Chess and Poker are definitely off topic. ESPN has certainly hazed the line by airing poker programming. However I think we should define sports as things requiring physical exertion rather than primarily mental exertion.

I think the bigger questions will come with things that already straddle the line between sports and "activities" for instance:

  • cheerleading (often a rather hardcore sport, but sometimes its just waving pom poms on the sidelines)
  • croquet
  • lawn darts
  • disc-golf?
  • etc

The line is far fuzzier than poker/chess (pretty clearly off topic) vs football (both kinds are on topic)...

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    There is no doubt in my mind that each of the bullet points you listed are sports. If we are to attract experts to the site, we must assume that the questions will involve expert material. While waving pom poms might not be accepted here, the truly competitive cheerleading definitely meets the sports criteria. Croquet is just golf on a different scale; darts require an agility-based physical prowess instead of a strength-based physical prowess, but it exists never the less. And if you've ever played disc golf, you know that it is similar to real golf in many ways.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 16:43
  • @corsiKa agreed on all counts. Just mentioning things that do tread the line in some people's opinions. I think we can safely define sports as anything that requires physical exertion.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 16:46
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    Right. Just because you move your hand in chess does not mean it requires physical exertion. That is to say, it is unlikely your hand will become tired or need special exercises to play chess.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 18:00
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    So, how do we rectify the situation where fantasy sports are on topic but chess and poker are off topic? I agree that fantasy should be on topic and poker/chess off topic, but I just have a hard time seeing how we can come up with a generic definition that is consistent with those decisions. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 22:06
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    @MarcusSwope I think fantasy sports are a subset of fandom. They are centered around physical sports. While they are non participatory they are still centered around actual sports.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 3:21
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    Not gonna open the Fantasy league here, but i do agree, as @MarcusSwope , it's hard time defining the scope.
    – Saariko
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 13:10
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    What about auto-racing (or motor-sports in general) or hunting or fishing, where the primary effort is mechanical, not human? (If I have a point--and I'm not sure I do--is that the definition of sport is simply incredibly blurry--and likely always will be)
    – DA.
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 17:14
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    @DA. Though the effort is mechanical, all of those are physically intense sports. But yes, the line is seriously fuzzy
    – wax eagle
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 17:30
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    @waxeagle you and I must have different experiences with fishing. :) The physical exertion on my part is usually lifting the cooler lid.
    – DA.
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 17:36
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    @DA. I'm thinking about competition level fishing, which is way more intense than recreational
    – wax eagle
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 17:39
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    I was going to ask if spelling bee questions are allowed (since ESPN is broadcasting the National Spelling Bee), then I found this answer. :) Commented May 29, 2015 at 5:55

There is great contention as to whether chess is considered a sport. It would seem that it fails to meet what most people think of as a definition of a sport (namely Marcus's first definition, 'an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess'). However, it is a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee.

Chess is definitely covered by another site on the SE network. (In fact, it has its own proposal that is 64% complete!) As a general rule, I (personally) think the philosophy of a site should first be to define what it should and should not have, and then only bring other sites into the equation when a real problem presents itself.

At the same time, I feel that chess and others like it would not be in what someone would 'expect' when they came to a site on sports. The athletic nature of chess is an incredibly small component, to such an extent that it I would consider it negligible.

I do feel that, starting from the definition in Marcus' answer, that the "and often..." be redacted and we use the working definition

"an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess".

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    chess boxing is definitely on topic here :P (although you might want to look at BC&G for your chess strategy).
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 13:07

There are a fine line between sports and games. In order to avoid too many flags and closed or migrated questions, whatever definition we come up with should be pretty intuitive.

I don't know the formal definitions of Chess, Poker, Bridge, etc, but I think most people consider them games rather than sports. If we accept these as sports, then what about the serious computer games - many of which even have their own world wide championships?

I would prefer the wikipedia definition as this is pretty easy to describe and normally also to decide whether a specific question is inside or outside the definition.


My proposal for how to choose if it's a sport that's on-topic for this site:

Must meet all these criteria:

  1. Is it inherently and primarily physical/athletic? If you can call out moves and be considered playing the game (vs coaching), it's not a sport. Chess and poker aren't about any kind of physical technique.
  2. Is it competitive? Can you win? Can you lose? Is there a first, second, third, etc place? Is there a score? Is it timed? Is there a cutoff for who finished and who didn't? A weekend jog (no matter how long) isn't a sport, but an organized timed run probably is.
  3. Are there rules? Sports have rules. Getting to the town limit sign faster than the next person isn't really a sport. Calvinball isn't a sport.
  • I think there needs to more to it than just these three, but I'm not sure what. My wife watches cooking shows, like Top Chef. These shows often meet all three criteria, but I wouldn't call it "sport". Then there's Nascar, or pushing it more, drag racing. There is certainly an argument that there is a physical component, but I don't see these as sports per se. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 2:26
  • Disagree with 2. If it's not competitive, it still can be a sport. Marathon running? Only counts if you compete or do it for competition? I do agree with the rest. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 16:14
  • @MikeHedman: Maybe the word should be "primarily" instead of "inherently"? Given how much the chefs sweat, obviously there's some physicality involved in Top Chef, but it's primarily about making food, not inherently physical.
    – freiheit
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 17:43
  • @MikeHedman: I think maybe "motor sports" is a whole separate meta question. Drag racing: not much physicality. Stock car racing: a fair amount of physicality; I hear that it's exhausting. Motocross: all about athleticism (but still a bit about the vehicle). Where's the line?
    – freiheit
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 17:49
  • @JürgenA.Erhard: I think endurance sports like marathon running are sports only when they're done competitively, even if the competitive criteria is simply "finished". Don't organized marathons track who finished or didn't, time the participants and otherwise apply competitive criteria, even if there's no top-3 finishers podium? What's the difference between taking a 5k, 10k, 20k or 42.2k jog on a Saturday? The cutoff for whether those are sports are rules and competition, not distance.
    – freiheit
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 18:36
  • What about speed or depth (diving) records? These definitely require physical exertion or skill, but are sometimes performed alone rather than in direct competition with an opponent. There may be witnesses, marshalls, etc., but there isn't a competitor at the moment. Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 14:53
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    Calvinball might not be a sport due to lack of rules, but 43-Man Squamish definitely is a sport.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 15:09

In order to kick off the discussion, here are the definitions from Wikipedia and Dictionary.com, I recommend that we use these as a starting point.


Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree of skill, especially at higher levels. Hundreds of sports exist, including those for a single participant, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. Some non-physical activities, such as board games and card games are sometimes referred to as sports, but a sport is generally recognised as being based in physical athleticism.[citation needed]

Dictionary.com (only the relevant definitions):

  1. 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.

  2. a particular form of this, especially in the out of doors.

  3. diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.

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    So there needs to be a physical/athletic action, that's fine. I think we need to have the points clear, when we will have questions asked on the NON-relevant topics.
    – Saariko
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 8:31
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    The olympics--arguably a arbitrator of the definition of sport--include horse dancing. And rifle--both sports that are more non-physical than physical, as the ability to succeed in the sport has a lot more to do with the external equipment.
    – DA.
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 17:18

The physical aspect seems to be a primary desire of many of the answers here. On the surface, it seems like an obvious variable, but that, itself, is really the one variable that is the fuzziest to deal with.

To start with, most all games require some level of physical ability. One could potentially argue that a 'sport' is one where the physical ability contributes to the outcome of the event.

So, for chess, one's ability to move the chess piece really has no direct relation to the outcome the game (though even that is debatable if we're talking about a timed game...)

But...Poker...there's actually a physical aspect to it. Bluffing, poker face, style, presence, that's actually all part of the game and can have a direct relation to the outcome of the game.

And then there's sports that, while there certainly is a physical aspect to it, the outcome of the results are affected much more by external factors. Motorsports would be a good example. Target shooting, hunting, horse racing, etc.

As such, in my opinion, they key to deciding what is a sport isn't so much about the sport itself, but the specific context of the question. The decision has to be made on a question-by-question basis, not a broad sport-by-sport basis.

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