“Sport” is the definitive umbrella term for numerous Olympic Sports. “Sport” is also used in association with some non-Olympic disciplines that are recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This includes fencing, badminton, table tennis, water skiing, gymnastics and sailing. “Sport” is also used to describe recreational activities that are conducted for competitive purposes and may not have some other underlying principle of action or goal.
“Sport” can generally be used in two contexts: with reference to an actual event, and as an umbrella term for a set of associated activities. The first example is when people use the word “sport” to refer to a single sporting activity. For example, when I refer to darts I do not intend to imply that there is any skill required; if I say that darts is my sport then that is my use of the term. Similarly, if someone says that football is their sport of choice then that could easily be construed as suggesting skill, commitment and even alertness. The point I am making is that the use of the word “sport” can potentially expand beyond an event into a generic sense of activity.
Another potential source of interpretation for the term “sport” is in the context of defining sport itself. The dictionary definition is “the physical exercise of running, jumping, throwing, catching, swimming, or otherwise playing a game”. If we take this literal meaning and apply it to most of the recreational activities that people engage in on a day to day basis, it would imply that most sport is not exercise. To take the example given above, the obvious point that could be made is that dart shooting is not an exercise is would not require someone to exert skill, but rather to have the ability to hit a dart over a distance of about forty yards.
There are many possible extensions of the above definition, which all bring us closer to understanding sport and its value in the world. For instance, to extend it to include philosophical thinking, the sport’s philosophy would suggest that sport can provide the motivation people need to become more engaged in the world around them. The two areas in which philosophical thinking can be associated with sport are metaphysics and ethics. Let’s explore these aspects.
Philosophical thinking and the application of metaphysics to the world of sports can be traced back to the days of the Ancient Greek sport of ball games. The Greeks used sport as both a means of exercising physical power and as a way of thinking and being creative. The sport of ball games involved a set of values and norms against which competitors were measured by their abilities. This is the equivalent of our modern evaluation of performance in sport. Aspects of the metaphysics of sports can include such matters as respect, fair play, equal opportunity, safety, and honesty.
Another possibility for the definition of sport is that it can involve both philosophy and physical exertion. In this case, the concept would be that sports involve mental and physical exercises that build skills and teach lessons regarding what is fair and right and how one should react when they encounter another. This might involve sport as exercise, but it could also include aspects of sport such as strategy and sportsmanship.