Our beloved (apparently by some) Athletic Union (AU) boasts “over 55 sports” which students can participate in during their time at University. However, when delving a little deeper into the actual activities included on their list, an interesting question arises over whether some of these “sports” are genuinely sports or just hobbies. Fear not, those of you belonging to these more niche clubs, I am not leading some campaign to get you defunded and you’re very welcome to scold me about these views if you see me in the street or out on the pitch while playing a real sport…
Very close to home, one of my housemates is a member of the Pool Society (already sounding more like an activity than a sport) while my other housemate is a star player for the Men’s 2s football team. Despite this obvious disparity in sporting prowess (one plays football almost every day while the other plays pool, Pablo in hand on Tuesday nights) they both consider themselves sportsmen for the university. While pool undoubtedly requires skill, my aforementioned housemate does genuinely seem to be rather good at it, a debate could certainly be had as to whether it qualifies as a genuine sport with access to Sinners tickets and all that entails. Pool certainly had no claim to sporting status in the ancient world whereas sports such as football and athletics can certainly trace their roots back hundreds or thousands of years. While undeniably skillful, should we view pool players as sportsmen or rather just people good at a game?
The more extreme natural pursuits similarly prompt questions over whether they truly are sports. I have absolutely no desire to climb a mountain as I would certainly fall off at the first opportunity, and thus, while I recognise the indisputable talent of mountain-climbers, I cannot see the sporting element of it. This writer believes sports should both be competitive and feature physical exertion. While mountaineering certainly ticks the second box, the lack of an easy means of scoring oneself against others again seems to label it more as an interest or hobby than a full-blooded sport.
Perhaps the oddest inclusion on the AU’s page as a ‘sport’ is Sub Aqua. While I definitely enjoy scuba diving during the summer, I have never and will never consider it a sport. It is certainly a fun pastime and can lead to many other interests such as underwater archaeology and free diving, however there is absolutely no element of competition to it. Furthermore, although physical conditioning is helpful, being in peak condition is by no means a prerequisite of partaking in the activity.
Now I am sure many of our loyal readers will be shocked by these assertions today, and I hope you are. As I began, so I end: I don’t seek to defund any sports or bar any from AU participation. However, given personal pride is as big an element of sport as any, perhaps more thought should be taken before you next claim to be a sportsman in the presence of an actual one.