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Sports Then and Now

“Is that a Sport or a Hobby?” Debating the Purpose of Popular Pastimes

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Martin Banks

Everyone’s got at least one hobby.

It is the competitive nature of certain pastimes that raises the question as to whether they are sports or hobbies. A sport could be defined as a competitive activity that can be performed by an individual or team that is played against others for entertainment purposes. The activity typically involves both physical exertion and skill.

Meanwhile hobbies are understood to be activities done alone or with others in one’s spare time for personal enjoyment. While certain hobbies can be done competitively, practically all sports function on a timetable laid down by an organization responsible for governing all related competitions.

Compare that to competitive hobbies that are done in one’s selected free time.

Some pastimes can be performed either as hobbies or sports, which leads to some general confusion. Are the following activities hobbies or sports? Let’s find out!



We begin this list with a sport that is often associated with leisure time afforded to older retire gentlemen or a “paper pusher” hoping to make a good impression on his boss.

For some, golf is very much a hobby. This is because it is strictly done during free time. But this game’s long history suggests that it is indeed a sport.

The sport of golf meets all three major requirements to be considered such.

It requires physical exertion (swinging the golf club at JUST the right angle with a certain amount of force), skill (getting the ball in the hole within a certain number of shots) and it is played against others for entertainment purposes.

While golf’s early history suggests a leisure time activity, within the past couple of centuries a series of guidelines and guiding bodies have been formed. This allows for the sport to be played around the world in official competitions.

Video Gaming


Anyone familiar with the Smash Bros. tournaments knows about the groups of gamers who gather to compete for money and bragging rights.

But is it a sport or a hobby?

Video gaming can be thought of as a hobby, even though tournaments exist. The reason is that it is an activity that is typically performed in one’s leisure or spare time for one’s own enjoyment.

Button-mashing can be called physical exertion and there are crowds that show up to watch the tournaments. But the majority of the time video games are played in one’s own home in one’s spare time.

Competitive Scrapbooking


Before you declare this one to be obvious, it’s important to know what competitive scrapbooking entails.

According to a 2008 Los Angeles Times article, scrapbooking, combined with stamp collecting, is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. It also highlighted a major scandal involving someone cheating during a competition.

Despite the hubbub, it must be said that scrapbooking cannot be considered a sport. Though it requires time and energy, it requires no great level of skill or physical exertion, even if people stay up 24 for hours to compete.

Even though some choose to compete, scrapbooking has been traditionally treated as a hobby.



Bowling is a sport, though some feel it barely makes it into the category. It is a highly subjective sentiment, however bowling meets the standard definition of a sport.

It requires physical exertion. The average bowling ball weighs anywhere from 12 to 14 lbs. You require a certain amount of strength to hold the ball comfortably and then get a good backward swing before walking forward and rolling it down the lane.

Hitting the bowling pins requires skill. You may miss the pins entirely and watch helplessly as your ball rolls down the side and into the gutter.

Bowling can be played in individual or team competitions, where prizes are offered and crowds turn up to watch as entertainment.

Like it or not, bowling as an activity more than qualifies as a sport.

However as with golf, individuals have the option of performing it at their leisure as a hobby.

Are activities like cheerleading, poker and paintball a sport or hobby?

It can be confusing, especially as certain pastimes are competitive and the sport of baseball is often referred to as “America’s Pastime.”

Just remember to ask a few basic questions:

  1. Does the individual decide when he or she will take up the activity or must they register as part of a tournament?
  2. Does it require physical exertion or is it often done quietly while sitting?
  3. Do you need a particular set of skills or can anyone with no talent or practice participate?

Sports require skills and exertion when competing against others. Do not think that a competition makes a pastime a sport.

This alone is not enough to put an activity in one category or another.

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