Is Sportsmanship Meant to Encourage Competitiveness?

Sports (also spelt as s sports and s sport) is any forms of typically physical activity that, through either organised or casual participation, attempt to employ, hone or develop various physical aptitude and skills whilst providing enjoyment to participants, and occasionally, spectators. The term was first used in reference to non-sport activities conducted with a sports theme (e.g. horse riding, golf, tennis etc), though the popularity of the term sport itself has seen it apply to a much wider range of activities. Sports can be both physical and mental exertion, often involving an element of strategy or competition.

Sport, for many people, includes any physical activity whereby participants are required to use their own ‘brains, bodies and spirit’ in order to win, complete or obtain an award or rating. However, many other people may see sport as something entirely different from these definitions; i.e. games such as billiards, snooker, hockey, table tennis, basketball, cricket, bowling, aerobics, surfing, running, skiing, horse riding, skateboarding, motorcycling etc. The wide variety of available sports means that there are now a wide range of governing bodies to set standards, regulations and competitions for sporting activities. These bodies often consult with sports’ professionals to develop criteria and guidelines, often referred to as quality standards or quality indicators, to assist in setting up and encouraging competitions and events.

In terms of definition, sport refers to any physical activity involving the use of the whole body, especially the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems. It can also be further subdivided into two broad categories. Physical sport refers to competitive participation in a regular sport. Performance sport refers to those activities which demonstrate a technical skill, as opposed to skill alone. Examples of physical activities which might be considered as part of a sports program include running, skipping, diving, tennis, golf, hockey, gymnastics, basketball, football etc.

As for the definition of sport itself, it usually refers to any physical activity that regards the development of one’s individual ability. This criterion excludes physical competition as such competitions would normally constitute a contact sport, in which there is no genuine aim of winning. Sports can also be considered as a learning activity, since sport involves application of knowledge gained through observation, experience or training. A further broadening of the definition of sport could involve consideration of any physical activity that provides an opportunity to apply knowledge learned or experienced in a controlled setting.

The idea that sports can be considered a physical activity was made possible by the evolution of the word’sport’. Some people have argued that sports, even if they do not involve participation of the mind or the body, can still be considered physical activities because they involve the use of the physical tools such as the ball, the bat, the goalposts etc. These arguments are not, however, relevant in the application of the standard definitions of sportsmanship. As the term is generally understood to mean any physical activity undertaken with an eye to achieving some goal, purpose or achievement, it could equally be applied to games of skill, including tennis, golf and swimming.

The application of the definition to different types of situations and individuals therefore requires careful consideration. There are several questions that need to be answered before a person can be said to be engaged in a game of sportsmanship; these questions relate to the nature of the games, the type of participants, and the rules governing the game. It is important to remember that a sport does not need to have competitive skill in order to be called sports, and that games could be played between people who are equally interested in achieving the same results (as in a friendly game). Thus, a good example of the application of the standard definition of sportsmanship would be the game of golf, in which the skills involved are not only physical fitness, but also the application of good sportsmanship.