Understanding the Difference Between Sports and Recreation

Sports (or sports) can be broadly classified into two – active and passive. Active sports (often spelt as “athletic” or “physical” sports) involve physical contact with a ball (usually played with a football or soccer ball), with an opponent or in extreme cases even without the ball. Sports that do not involve contact with the ball include gymnastics, trampolines, running, cycling, sailing, swimming and skating. In addition to these sports there are also non-contact sports such as camping and climbing.


Active sports are widespread in the modern era. As the name suggests, this type of sports requires the participant to utilize considerable amounts of physical strength and ability. Competitions in the modern sports arena range from gentle exercises like Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates to intense sports like fencing, tennis, basketball, football and track and field. These events require participants to push themselves beyond their comfort zone in an attempt to excel in athletic competitions such as weightlifting and sprinting. However, modern sports also require participants to do mental and emotional acrobatics and challenges. As a result, the physical demands placed on athletes have increased over time.

Physically exertion is required in almost all sports. Therefore, the athletes who excel in their respective sports possess not only great skill but also supreme endurance, agility and athleticism. Although speed is a very important factor, other physical factors that help athletes perform at their best include flexibility, balance, body composition, and cardiovascular conditioning. The essence of each sport lies in the ability of the athlete to exert maximal effort, resulting in a productive, high-caliber performance. Thus, in sports, skill, pace and endurance all form part of the game.

Modern sports events require skill, athleticism and mental acuity. The exact definition and exact timing of each sport can differ from one contest to another. For instance, it may be swimming, diving or surfing that make up surfing, snowboarding or ice hockey. Likewise, the physical skill aspect of the contest may differ from one contest to another, for example, bicycle racing may not involve long distances or high speeds but rather the individual pedaling his or her own bicycle and racing against other individuals. The intensity of the competition also depends on the particular discipline of the event. In sports that rely more on physical skill and exertion such as weightlifting, sprinting, baseball, swimming, cycling and so on, the intensity of the competition is primarily based on the degree of physical exertion required by the athlete.

Many people tend to confuse sports and recreation when they talk about each other. The term recreation refers to any kind of outdoor activity that doesn’t involve competition or use of equipment or tools. Sports on the other hand, are primarily organized and governed by competitive associations and/or leagues that set specific rules, terms and conditions for participation in the sport. Most sports are generally competitive and even non-stop action that requires extensive training and physical activity to engage all the various muscles and parts of the body. It is also a common misconception that all physical activities engaged in by athletes sports. For instance, the term cross-country skiing is actually a recreational activity where the athletes perform ski jumps over frozen mountains.

Sports are categorized into many different sports and they are all done with a certain level of skill and physical exertion. A simple definition would be the physical game of contest and sportsmanship. Today there is much more to the definition of sports than meets the eye and most definitions are actually still in effect in the Olympic Games although the level of participation may have increased due to improvements in technology. It is therefore important to understand the difference between sports and recreation.