All sports can be games, but not all games are sports

The difference between a sport and a game

The words sport and game are used almost interchangeably these days. But they don’t mean the same thing. I’m going to teach you the traditional meaning of these words.

Learn the difference between sports and games, and you learn a new way of thinking about physical fitness and all the activities which require it.


When you engage in purely physical activities, you’re engaging in athletics.

Things like running, jumping, and throwing are athletic activities.

Sports are extensions of useful activities

There are countless physical activities that are useful to us in our everyday lives. Things like shooting a gun, catching a fish, fighting, automobile driving, and running are all indispensable activities that someone, somewhere, relies on for their life, liberty, and/or happiness.

By practicing an activity that requires some expertise, you’re engaging in a sport.

Target practice, for instance, is a sport because, even though it is enjoyable, it has a practical value. The same with race-car driving. It is a sport because even though it is an indulgence, it has its basis in practicality. You get the idea.

Traditionally, sportsmen were men of leisure who had the time and resources to devote themselves to pushing the envelope of human performance. In many cases, these sportsmen were also instrumental in driving technological advances. Without sportsmen, we would have no idea how well the human mind and body can perform in concert with technology.

Games are for fun, but they are not necessarily sports

Soccer, baseball, tennis, etc. are games. They have no practical value beyond the enjoyment we derive from them.

We can take a sport and turn it into a game by using it as a form of competition with others or against the clock (or some other metric).

For example, javelin throwing is a sport. But it becomes a game when a bunch of javelin throwers get together and see who can throw the farthest (or the most accurately).

The same with weight lifting. It is a sport because it is based in usefulness: when you bulk up, you get stronger and more physically capable. But it can also be a game when you use it as the basis for a competition.

All sports can be games, but not all games are sports

For instance, soccer and baseball are games, but they will never satisfy the traditional definition of the word “sport”.

Now that you know the difference between these two concepts, I hope you can appreciate that there is a sport for virtually everyone! There’s no need to sheepishly say that you’re no good at sports; odds are, there’s a sport that suits you just fine. All you have to do is try it out!

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