Lesson Three: Short Essay Samples
Please select from the following short essay sets:
Note: The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.
SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 1:
Georgetown, Saudi International Relations
For many years, I have been interested in studying international relations. My interest in pursuing this field stems from several factors which have affected me. First, I have been exposed to international affairs throughout my life. With my father and two of my brothers in the Saudi Foreign Service, I have grown up under the shadow of inter-national affairs. Second, I am fascinated by history, economics, and diplomacy. I believe, through the study of international relations, I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in these fields. A third factor which has affected my interest in international relations is patriotism. Through the Foreign Service, I would not only have the opportunity to serve my country, but also have the chance to help bridge gaps between my country and others. Finally, as a Saudi living abroad, I have been bridging cultures throughout my life. This experience has taught me to look for differences to compromise and similarities to synthesize in order to balance different cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences in life, combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable me to pursue a successful career in the Saudi Foreign Service.
Georgetown, Favorite Class
At St. Albans, especially in our later years, we are given the freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance to me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript. However, from these classes, one holds an extraordinary amount of value to me. This course is A.P. Omnibus History, a combination of American and European history. There are several reasons for my great interest in this class. First, I am fascinated by the cyclical nature of the past. I see these recurring political, economic, and social trends as a means of looking forward into the future, while allowing us to avoid the mistakes of the past. Second, history teaches many lessons about the nature of human behavior, both past and present, providing insight into the actions, desires, and aspirations of those around me. Finally, it lays a solid foundation for several disciplines, including political science, economics, and international relations, three fields of great interest to me.
Georgetown, Visual Arts
Another major interest of mine, which I have not had the opportunity to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual arts. Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to express myself. I began with black and white photography, focusing on the presence of lines and balance in nature. For my work in this medium, I received an award at the St. Albans School Art Show. From photography, I moved on to glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch the glass, I again concentrated on lines and balance in my works. Moreover, by arranging several glass panes into a sculpture, I moved my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show award. Currently, I am working on canvas, using oil and acrylic in a Mondrian style, which is based on lines and balance. Eventually, I hope to explore the effects of combining these and other media, creating my own style of artistic expression.
In the past four years of my life, no activity has affected me more than wrestling. Four years of varsity wrestling and the honor of being a team captain has instilled many qualities in me. First, through years of hard work and continuous dieting, wrestling has given me discipline. This discipline has spread to other parts of my personality, including my moral character, work ethic, and perserverence. Another quality wrestling has given me is leadership. As a team captain, I have learned to lead by example, both on and off the mat. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a love of life. Through this sport, I have experienced pain, sacrifice, adversity, and success. Exposure to these feelings-which are, in my opinion, the essence of being-has allowed me to truly appreciate life. I hope to continue wrestling at Georgetown.
What immediately strikes the reader about this set-before even reading it-is the balance between the essays. Each answer contains only one paragraph, each of approximately equal length. The solid structure of each essay and the focus of each reflects this outward balance. Each one focuses on a completely different area of its writer’s life, another striking detail. The first focuses on his career goals, the second on his interest in history, the third on his interest in the visual arts, and the fourth on wrestling. This is a perfect example of the jigsaw puzzle approach. When put together, you have a well-rounded individual with passion, depth, and involvement in many different areas.
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SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 2:
Throughout my life, I have tried to be a well-balanced person. Growing up in the South, I had a hard time fighting the stereotypical image of a Chinese person. I was expected to be a math and science genius and nothing more. As it turned out, I defied my detractors by excelling in English and history along with math and science. And over the years, I have continued to maintain my academic standards.
Nevertheless, I have also made sure that I am more than an academic person. I am an active one as well. In middle school, the most popular game during lunch was a basketball game called Salt and Pepper (white vs. black). The first day of school, I stepped onto the basketball courts and was greeted by cries of consternation, “Who is he? Is he salt or pepper?” But after the game, I had made a name for myself. From then onward, I would be known as Spice, and the game we played became Salt, Pepper, and Spice.
When I moved to California, things were no different. I continued to play an active part both academically and socially. My involvement with Cross-country, Speech and Debate, Ultimate Frisbee and numerous clubs guaranteed that I would not be only known as an Honors student.
Like myself, Duke is much more than an academic institution; it is a living institution. I feel that I will be given the opportunity to excel both academically and socially. Duke is a university known for its rich history and strong academic program. And, at the same time, it is also known for its innovation and progressiveness. These are qualities which draw me to the college.
In addition, Duke and I have a lot in common. The two most important extracurricular activities I have are a major part of Duke University. Duke’s Speech team is known for its strong Extemp squad. I remember the time when my speech coach asked me what schools I was applying to. When I had listed my top five choices, he frowned at me and said, “Out of all those schools, I will only respect you if you either join us at Berkeley or go to Duke and extemp.” I hope I will be given the opportunity to contribute my part in the Duke Speech team.
Equally important, the Duke University has a well-known Ultimate Frisbee team. I look forward expectantly to becoming a part of the team. Strange as it seems, Ultimate Frisbee is one of my top criteria for choosing my future college. It delights me that Duke places such great emphasis on the two extracurricular activities that mean most to me.
My first year at Duke should be a great one. Majoring in economics at Duke should allow me to both pursue my major studies and allow me time for personal interests in Chinese and the Humanities. Moreover, in my spare time, I plan to join the Speech team and the Ultimate Frisbee team. Hopefully, with my previous experience, I will have an early start in both Speech and Ultimate. Yet, I will never forget why I’m in college in the first place. As long as I give organic chemistry a wide berth, I should be able to continue my level of academic excellence. Overall, my first year at Duke promises to be exciting, if a bit hectic.
I find Hermann Hesse’s book, Narcissus and Goldmund, intellectually exciting. After reading the book last year, I remember putting it down and sighing contentedly. I had, after a sleepless night, finally finished. What I reveled in was not the fact that I could sleep, but that I had come away with an inexplicable something. It was not an understanding which could be pinpointed and explained. Rather, it was a sense I felt in the depths of my soul. And yet, what delighted me more was that I knew that I had only begun to understand the book; that there remained countless messages which I could only sense but not grasp. Here, finally, I had a book which could be re-read. And every time I finished, I would come away with a new understanding of something I could not put into words.
Unlike the normal academic, I do not want to find the final answer for everything. Throughout my life, I have always felt a sense of loss after succeeding in a long search. For me, it is not the ends I seek, but the means themselves. I am perfectly content to never find the final answer as long as I will always be able to find a better one.
Duke, Chinese Culture/Economics
Born in Taiwan, I came to the United States when I was five. Armed with only two words (“hello” and “popcorn”), I braved the uncertainties of a complex, new environment. Twelve years later, my vocabulary is considerably larger and I have adapted well to my surroundings. At the same time, I have neither forgotten my native culture nor its language.
My ties with my native Chinese culture remain as strong as ever. I visit my relatives in Taiwan regularly almost every summer and have traveled throughout China. And to everyone’s continuing surprise, I have yet to forget how to speak Mandarin. Nevertheless, twelve years in America has made its impressions upon me as well. I am as “American” as anyone my age. The songs I listen to, the sports I play, and the way I speak are all a reflection of that. In short, I am a combination of both East and West.
Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether speaking Chinese at home and visits in the summer are enough to maintain my ties with my native culture. Often, when I see my parents reading old Chinese literature or poetry, I feel that I am only in touch with half of what I am. This sense of loss has led me to seek out my old roots. I turn to the East to rediscover what I have lost.
Yet, I cannot resign myself to merely studying my own culture and language. I want to be able to apply my knowledge as well. To me, pursuing a career in business is a very pragmatic solution to my future welfare. My father is a businessman in Taiwan and I have had numerous opportunities to watch him work. Through him, I have discovered my own interests in the business field. I find the way business operates in the East to be very exciting. At the same time, my father has soothed my sense of morality by showing me that it is possible to be an honest businessman in Asia.
Before I learned about Duke, I had made up my mind to study economics and to ultimately pursue a career in international business. I had come to see this path as the best combination for fulfilling both my aspirations towards knowledge and my pragmatic goals of a future livelihood. China, my planned area of focus, is an expanding market with a dearth of skilled business professionals. But I had misgivings because I wanted a school with a strong focus on the humanities as well.
Thus, I find Duke University exciting and perfect for me. It gives me a strong economics curriculum, but still allows me to pursue my interests in the humanities. With economics at Duke University, I will have access to a wide array of studies both within and beyond my chosen major. I will have an edge in the business world by virtue of Duke
After attending Duke (if I am accepted, of course), I will have a clear path before me. My studies at Duke should virtually guarantee me for any graduate business school. And, after my graduate studies, I will be able to realize my dreams. Perhaps, I will be able to serve as a bridge between East and West.
These three well-written essays create a strong set. The first and the last would have been impressive on their own. Reading them all together magnifies their impact considerably. This student does an especially good job of targeting the school. This student focuses his first essay on his extracurriculars and relates them to why Duke would be perfect for him. He focuses the third on his Chinese background and how it relates to his career goals and academic interests. Then he also relates these interests to why Duke matches him perfectly. His favorite book provided the focus of the second essay. What makes this second essay better than others like it is that the applicant manages to put himself into the question. He does not just talk about the book, he uses it to talk about himself and stress the inquisitive nature of his personality-always a plus.
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SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 3:
Participating in my high school’s debate program has been my most meaningful activity these past four years. I have learned how to speak in front of a crowd without becoming nervous, how to think on my feet, and how to argue the merits of any side of an issue. Being on the debate team also allows me to educate myself on current topics of global importance such as the homeless problem, health care, and pollution.
Throughout the three years I have dedicated to the activity, (high school) has always maintained a successful squad and I am quite proud to know that I have earned many of the trophies and awards that have helped make the program so successful and (high school) well known on the debate circuit.
Because of the activity, I have learned that from education to communication, from argument to enlightenment, debate is necessary for two or more humans to transcend mere exchange of thought and achieve synergy instead. I now view success in debate as far more than a trophy; I now see it as evidence that I can successfully communicate my beliefs to others and have them logically accept them as their own, thus priming me for any future challenges involving human interaction.
Dartmouth, Honors and Awards
My most important honors since tenth grade have been winning the Brown University Book Award for my skills in English, being named as a National Merit Semifinalist (Finalist status pending), winning the Journalism Education Association National Write-off Award of Excellence in the Editorial division at a national conference, being selected as a Semifinalist in the NCTE Writing Contest for my work in prose, being named as an Illinois State Scholar for my academic achievement in high school and my high A.C.T. scores, being selected to the Spanish Honor Society for my consistent success with the language in the classroom, being selected as the Student of the Month in the Foreign Language/Social Sciences division two years in a row for my success in those classes, and in a culminating event, being featured in Who’s Who Among American High School Students for my overall scholastic success.
Dartmouth, Summer at Dartmouth
Most of my past summer was spent away from home. In that brief month in which I remained in (town name) I worked at (job) in order to earn the money I was going to spend on my trips. My first excursion was to the east coast where I visited several schools and took in the atmosphere of an area to which my midwestern self was somewhat unaccustomed. One school I was considering that I did not visit was Dartmouth. After all, I spent a month there later in the summer. As a participant of the Dartmouth Debate Institute I spent a lot of time in Feldberg, Dana, and Baker libraries; resided in the well-known Choates; attended sessions in Silsby; and dined in the Full-Fare section of Thayer. There was also time for recreational activities such as rope swinging, volleyball, frisbee, sleep (every little bit was cherished), and beautiful hikes up to Dana. I did manage to sit down and work in such a clean, open environment, however. The instructors made sure of that. The four-week institute honed my skills in speaking, researching, structuring arguments, and thinking. As a result, my partner and I were able to break into the elimination rounds at the institute-ending tournament which included the top debaters in the nation. Aside from the debate skills I learned, I found the institute very favorable because of the exchange of ideas taking place between the students and staff. What I learned from those exchanges enlightened me not only as a debater but also as a person.
Although I enjoy all of my subjects, I regard classes I have taken in the social sciences to be the most meaningful. Whereas some classes use formulas to describe natural occurrences, the social sciences show that not everything is explicable in such a clear-cut manner. The social sciences describe people; they describe the people who make up the formulas and how and why that was done. The social sciences also explain the past so as a society, people can avoid past catastrophes and build upon past successes. Not only do they describe how we act as we do, but why we act as we do.
I am not a student who always likes to follow someone else’s rules. While most subjects allow for free thought, the social sciences encourage innovative thinking. Those classes expect students to explain why something happened based on certain conditions. I didn’t learn that the Iron Curtain was an economic measure in any math class.
As a student my ultimate goal is to understand things. I feel the best way to understand is not by reciting another’s thought, but by formulating my own and debating it with people who disagree with me. I believe that exchange of thought is vital in every curriculum, but the social sciences do the most to promote that exchange. I highly doubt that anyone will be debating Einstein’s ideas in the near future-and be right.
This essayist dedicates the first essay to his involvement in debating. He manages to communicate quite a lot in a short amount of space (what he has learned, what he has achieved, and what debating means to him) without ever losing his focus. The second essay is an example of an answer to a list question (“List your honors and awards”). The third gets more personal by describing the summer he spent at Dartmouth. The strength of this essay is that he sells himself on his knowledge and familiarity of the school. The weakness of this essay is that he tries to do too much and loses his focus after the second paragraph. The conclusion does not seem to fit with the points he has made in the essay-the last line particularly seems to come from nowhere.
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SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 4:
Harvard, Favorite Books
The novel Black Like Me was the most stimulating book I have recently read. I was taken aback by the cruelty the narrator experienced when he was black compared to the hospitality he found as a white man. Possessing the same occupation, clothing, wealth, speech, and identity did not matter when his skin was another color. Given that this was a non-fictional piece, my reaction was even stronger. The book made me favor equality of opportunity for all in every endeavor so others’ opinions of them are based on performance, not preconceptions.
Harvard, Favorite Teacher
I selected Mr. (name) because he taught me more than U.S. History; he taught me how to think independently. This wasn’t done only to prepare me for the free-response section of the A.P. test, either. I know he did it to make his students responsible citizens and responsible adults. From the outset, he wanted to make sure that we knew how we stood in our political philosophy: strict constructionists or loose constructionists. He wanted to make sure that we didn’t gravitate towards empty categories like liberal or conservative, but rather focused on issues separately whenever we needed to take a stand on them. Imagine my surprise when I, the son of two very conservative parents who constantly bombarded me with their rhetoric, discovered that I had strong liberal tendencies on some issues. Aside from political affiliations, Mr. (name) taught us how to make sense out of history by trying to understand the personal motives that went in to any chain of historical occurrences. In his class, I came to the realization that history isn’t only a series of names and dates printed in a textbook, but a more complex subject that requires deep thought and analysis for full comprehension. Because of Mr. (name), history is now my favorite subject. He has also been a motivating force outside of the classroom. He always had faith in my ability and constantly encouraged me to do my best. I believe he respected my abilities and wanted to see them developed further. In fact, had it not been for his faith in me, I would have never applied to Harvard, the school I plan to attend in the fall.
Harvard, Unnoticed Accomplishment
It’s not that I’m a weak guy, just that I had been somewhat self-conscious about my strength early on in my high school career. My gym class didn’t help too much, either. Thanks to a demeaning test of strength appropriately dubbed the “Grip Test,” once each quarter I was provided the opportunity to squeeze a gadget, get a score, and have my teacher announce it out loud, no matter how high or (as in my case) how low it was. No matter how hard I tried, the cruel and callous scale never registered above 40. Almost every other male in the class could boast of a high-40’s or mid-50’s score. I hated that test with a passion. Until recently. When this semester rolled around and I had the gripper placed in my palm, I was prepared for the same old same old. I had been improving slightly from quarter to quarter, but nothing impressive ever happened. I drew in a deep breath, squeezed, looked at the scale, and almost fainted. Sixty-six! In a way only a teenager can appreciate, for an accomplishment only a teenager would find meaningful, I thought I was in heaven. My success was even sweeter as I watched jocks pale in comparison when they took the test. Sure, to some people my academic accomplishments seem fairly impressive, and I would agree. Yet the grip test situation was much more personal and represented success in an area I normally don’t pay attention to. Plus I learned two things. One: I can pride myself on the smallest triviality. Two: I’m glad we don’t measure strength in our gym classes with the bench press.
Harvard, Leadership through Dedication
To me, leadership does not necessarily mean accumulating as many titles as possible in school activities; I feel one leads through his dedication, actions, and contributions. I have always tried to lead in almost everything I set out to do. I feel I have been successful at that. Superficially, I have earned such titles as president of the National Honor Society chapter at my school, Editor-in-Chief, columnist, Investigative Editor, and Editorial Editor of the school newspaper, senior varsity leader in debate, and a Class Representative for Student Council. However, those titles don’t begin to tell the story of my abilities as a leader. They don’t reveal how I volunteered to help out at a handicapped lock-in at an unfamiliar youth center when no one else wanted to, they don’t reveal how I always sought to be on time for work and to avoid boondoggling, they don’t reveal how I aided younger debaters with their argumentation so they can have the same success I was lucky enough to enjoy, they don’t reveal how I became a role model for the JETS squad by studying my material often, eventually becoming the most medaled member on the team, and they don’t reveal all the effort I put into learning my lines and acquiring a good stage presence for Images, my first stage production ever, so I wouldn’t single-handedly jeopardize the whole show with my lack of experience. All those actions stress the quality I feel is most important in a leader, dedication. With dedication comes hard work and the ability to seek out solutions when problems get in the way, whether they are with a news page layout or in a student’s diction. Because of this dedication, taking charge is second nature for me. People are always willing to follow one with a clear sense of direction.
Harvard, Close-knit family
I don’t view my important characteristics as different from those my family has imparted on me throughout the years. The pride, care, dedication, effort, and hard-working attitude that I view as critical to any success I may achieve have all descended upon me courtesy of my close-knit, Italian family.
Born the child of two immigrants who came here with nothing, only one possessing a college degree, the importance of a good work ethic was stressed by my parents from day one. Through their actions in their jobs and through the verbal lessons on life I began to get from the moment I could communicate, they set an example for me to follow, one of being proud of what I do, no matter what it was, and above all, to care about everything I do as if everything had a big impact. This meant that everything had to be done right and be done well. Undoubtedly, following their own advice carried my parents from their status as blue-collar immigrants who labored as a factory workers to white-collar citizens, one of whom owns his own business while the other works as a bank officer. Those ascensions from nothing only served as other examples for me to follow, examples that delineated the ability for a person to improve through effort.
Another quotation from my father propelled me from the time I started school to today: “No matter what you do, you have to be the best.” This set up the inner drive that motivates all my actions. It was what forced me to try hard in school although I didn’t know English well enough to always understand the teacher. It’s the reason why I have developed my skills. It accounts for my dedication to all activities, and to the hard work I put into all of them as I strive to lead both in class and out. Essentially, my parentage was the first quality that distinguished me as a leader.
Despite all the talk of being a leader, I have never lost sight of the importance of my family. I know I owe my family everything, and as a result, I’ll always be close with it.
I pursue a variety of activities for fun and relaxation. I enjoy reading books and magazines (my tastes range from Time to Gentlemen’s Quarterly) on a regular basis, imitating Beavis and Butt-head, and most of all, spending time with my friends. Although I am fan of playing pick-up games of basketball, football, and roller hockey, the phrase “doing nothing with my time” doesn’t bother me since I can have a good time just hanging around. I think people, not places, make for a good time.
Harvard, Social Concerns
My major social concerns all revolve around the future. In other words, I’m concerned about what prevents people from rising above their disadvantages. Specifically, I am most concerned with the handicapped, education, and crime.
I feel society’s response to handicaps is what really hampers the potential of the disabled. It is important for the disabled to get a better sense of worth and to be able to adapt to, and survive in, today’s world. Through National Honor Society (NHS), I have done just that. I have helped out at a lock-in that was designed to foster interaction among the children of the organization, as well as at Special Olympics, where the children participate in sports on a competitive basis so their talents and abilities can be recognized. Whenever the disabled can be successful at an activity, the barrier between them and the rest of society is drastically reduced.
Education is key to other problems such as gangs, drugs, and crime because it can prevent and eliminate them. I try to get students in our school to maximize their opportunities by using the educational resources available. By setting up a tutoring program through NHS, I have matched up needy students with other students who can assist them with their problems in classes. More directly, I help students out with English and show them how to use the Writing Center Lab, an indispensable resource for English students at any level. The more educated a person is, I believe, the more able he is to be successful in the future.
I have dealt with criminal problems in my school by discussing solutions to gangs and other crime in the Student Advisory Committee. We have drafted several proposals to help reduce those problems in our school.
Educating people about such social concerns is also very crucial because they won’t fix what they don’t think is broken. That is one objective of our newspaper, in which we have written various editorials and news stories to educate the student body on social topics. Through debate, I myself have become knowledgeable on such topics as the homeless, poverty, health care, and the environment. That way I can practice what I preach.
Harvard is notorious for its long list of essay questions, as you can see from the seven essays this applicant had to write. The first essay is a standard favorite book essay. His second, about his favorite teacher, goes into more depth and reveals more about the candidate, that he enjoys learning, admires independent thought, and plans to study history.
The third essay in this set stands out from the rest. Had the panel who were grading the compositions understood the context of this essay in light of the six others in the set, they probably would have given it more credit. Its strength lies in its funny, lighthearted approach-it shows a completely different aspect of the candidate’s personality. Without it, he would have appeared deadpan serious and probably a bit dull. However, showing the wittier side of himself strengthens the set considerably. It is a good example of allowing yourself to take a risk in one essay, as long as more serious approaches in the others balance it.
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For other uses, see Sport (disambiguation).
Sport (British English) or sports (American English) includes all forms of competitivephysical activity or games which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. Usually the contest or game is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the other. Some sports allow a tie game; others provide tie-breaking methods, to ensure one winner and one loser. A number of such two-sided contests may be arranged in a tournament producing a champion. Many sports leagues make an annual champion by arranging games in a regular sports season, followed in some cases by playoffs. Hundreds of sports exist, from those between single contestants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. In certain sports such as racing, many contestants may compete, each against each other, with one winner.
Sport is generally recognised as system of activities which are based in physical athleticism or physical dexterity, with the largest major competitions such as the Olympic Games admitting only sports meeting this definition, and other organisations such as the Council of Europe using definitions precluding activities without a physical element from classification as sports. However, a number of competitive, but non-physical, activities claim recognition as mind sports. The International Olympic Committee (through ARISF) recognises both chess and bridge as bona fide sports, and SportAccord, the international sports federation association, recognises five non-physical sports: bridge, chess, draughts (checkers), Go and xiangqi, and limits the number of mind games which can be admitted as sports.
Sports are usually governed by a set of rules or customs, which serve to ensure fair competition, and allow consistent adjudication of the winner. Winning can be determined by physical events such as scoring goals or crossing a line first. It can also be determined by judges who are scoring elements of the sporting performance, including objective or subjective measures such as technical performance or artistic impression.
Records of performance are often kept, and for popular sports, this information may be widely announced or reported in sport news. Sport is also a major source of entertainment for non-participants, with spectator sport drawing large crowds to sport venues, and reaching wider audiences through broadcasting. Sports betting is in some cases severely regulated, and in some cases is central to the sport.
According to A.T. Kearney, a consultancy, the global sporting industry is worth up to $620 billion as of 2013. The world's most accessible and practiced sport is running, while association football is its most popular spectator sport.
Meaning and usage
The word "Sport" comes from the Old Frenchdesport meaning "leisure", with the oldest definition in English from around 1300 being "anything humans find amusing or entertaining".
Other meanings include gambling and events staged for the purpose of gambling; hunting; and games and diversions, including ones that require exercise. Roget's defines the noun sport as an "activity engaged in for relaxation and amusement" with synonyms including diversion and recreation.
The singular term "sport" is used in most English dialects to describe the overall concept (e.g. "children taking part in sport"), with "sports" used to describe multiple activities (e.g. "football and rugby are the most popular sports in England"). American English uses "sports" for both terms.
See also: Game § Definitions
The precise definition of what separates a sport from other leisure activities varies between sources. The closest to an international agreement on a definition is provided by SportAccord, which is the association for all the largest international sports federations (including association football, athletics, cycling, tennis, equestrian sports, and more), and is therefore the de facto representative of international sport.
SportAccord uses the following criteria, determining that a sport should:
- have an element of competition
- be in no way harmful to any living creature
- not rely on equipment provided by a single supplier (excluding proprietary games such as arena football)
- not rely on any "luck" element specifically designed into the sport.
They also recognise that sport can be primarily physical (such as rugby or athletics), primarily mind (such as chess or go), predominantly motorised (such as Formula 1 or powerboating), primarily co-ordination (such as billiard sports), or primarily animal-supported (such as equestrian sport).
The inclusion of mind sports within sport definitions has not been universally accepted, leading to legal challenges from governing bodies in regards to being denied funding available to sports. Whilst SportAccord recognises a small number of mind sports, it is not open to admitting any further mind sports.
There has been an increase in the application of the term "sport" to a wider set of non-physical challenges such as video games, also called esports, especially due to the large scale of participation and organised competition, but these are not widely recognised by mainstream sports organisations. According to Council of Europe, European Sports Charter, article 2.i, " "Sport" means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.".
There are opposing views on the necessity of competition as a defining element of a sport, with almost all professional sport involving competition, and governing bodies requiring competition as a prerequisite of recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or SportAccord.
Other bodies advocate widening the definition of sport to include all physical activity. For instance, the Council of Europe include all forms of physical exercise, including those competed just for fun.
In order to widen participation, and reduce the impact of losing on less able participants, there has been an introduction of non-competitive physical activity to traditionally competitive events such as school sports days, although moves like this are often controversial.
In competitive events, participants are graded or classified based on their "result" and often divided into groups of comparable performance, (e.g. gender, weight and age). The measurement of the result may be objective or subjective, and corrected with "handicaps" or penalties. In a race, for example, the time to complete the course is an objective measurement. In gymnastics or diving the result is decided by a panel of judges, and therefore subjective. There are many shades of judging between boxing and mixed martial arts, where victory is assigned by judges if neither competitor has lost at the end of the match time.
Main article: History of sport
Artifacts and structures suggest sport in China as early as 2000 BC. Gymnastics appears to have been popular in China's ancient past. Monuments to the Pharaohs indicate that a number of sports, including swimming and fishing, were well-developed and regulated several thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. Other Egyptian sports included javelin throwing, high jump, and wrestling. Ancient Persian sports such as the traditional Iranian martial art of Zourkhaneh had a close connection to warfare skills. Among other sports that originate in ancient Persia are polo and jousting.
A wide range of sports were already established by the time of Ancient Greece and the military culture and the development of sports in Greece influenced one another considerably. Sports became such a prominent part of their culture that the Greeks created the Olympic Games, which in ancient times were held every four years in a small village in the Peloponnesus called Olympia.
Sports have been increasingly organised and regulated from the time of the ancient Olympics up to the present century. Industrialisation has brought increased leisure time, letting people attend and follow spectator sports and participate in athletic activities. These trends continued with the advent of mass media and global communication. Professionalism became prevalent, further adding to the increase in sport's popularity, as sports fans followed the exploits of professional athletes — all while enjoying the exercise and competition associated with amateur participation in sports. Since the turn of the 21st century, there has been increasing debate about whether transgender sportpersons should be able to participate in sport events that conform with their post-transition gender identity.
Main article: Sportsmanship
See also: Gamesmanship and Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing
Sportsmanship is an attitude that strives for fair play, courtesy toward teammates and opponents, ethical behaviour and integrity, and grace in victory or defeat.
Sportsmanship expresses an aspiration or ethos that the activity will be enjoyed for its own sake. The well-known sentiment by sports journalist Grantland Rice, that it's "not that you won or lost but how you played the game", and the modern Olympic creed expressed by its founder Pierre de Coubertin: "The most important thing... is not winning but taking part" are typical expressions of this sentiment.
See also: Match fixing and cheating
Key principles of sport include that the result should not be predetermined, and that both sides should have equal opportunity to win. Rules are in place to ensure that fair play to occur, but participants can break these rules in order to gain advantage.
Participants may choose to cheat in order to satisfy their desire to win, or in order to achieve an ulterior motive. The widespread existence of gambling on the results of sports fixtures creates the motivation for match fixing, where a participant or participants deliberately work to ensure a given outcome.
Doping and drugs
Main article: Use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport
The competitive nature of sport encourages some participants to attempt to enhance their performance through the use of medicines, or through other means such as increasing the volume of blood in their bodies through artificial means.
All sports recognised by the IOC or SportAccord are required to implement a testing programme, looking for a list of banned drugs, with suspensions or bans being placed on participants who test positive for banned substances.
Violence in sports involves crossing the line between fair competition and intentional aggressive violence. Athletes, coaches, fans, and parents sometimes unleash violent behaviour on people or property, in misguided shows of loyalty, dominance, anger, or celebration. Rioting or hooliganism by fans in particular is a problem at some national and international sporting contests.
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See also: Women's sports, Women's professional sports, and Women's sports in the United States
Female participation in sports continues to rise alongside the opportunity for involvement and the value of sports for child development and physical fitness. Despite gains during the last three decades, a gap persists in the enrollment figures between male and female players. Female players account for 39% of the total participation in US interscholastic athletics. Gender balance has been accelerating from a 32% increase in 1973–74 to a 63% increase in 1994–95. Hessel (2000).[full citation needed]
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See also: College sport
Youth sports present children with opportunities for fun, socialization, forming peer relationships, physical fitness, and athletic scholarships. Activists for education and the war on drugs encourage youth sports as a means to increase educational participation and to fight the illegal drug trade. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, the biggest risk for youth sports is death or serious injury including concussion. These risks come from running, basketball, association football, volleyball, gridiron, gymnastics, and ice hockey. Youth sports in the US is a $15 billion industry including equipment up to private coaching.
See also: Disabled sports
Disabled sports also adaptive sports or parasports, are sports played by persons with a disability, including physical and intellectual disabilities. As many of these based on existing sports modified to meet the needs of persons with a disability, they are sometimes referred to as adapted sports. However, not all disabled sports are adapted; several sports that have been specifically created for persons with a disability have no equivalent in able-bodied sports.
Main article: Spectator sport
The competition element of sport, along with the aesthetic appeal of some sports, result in the popularity of people attending to watch sport being played. This has led to the specific phenomenon of spectator sport.
Both amateur and professional sports attract spectators, both in person at the sport venue, and through broadcast media including radio, television and internet broadcast. Both attendance in person and viewing remotely can incur a sometimes substantial charge, such as an entrance ticket, or pay-per-view television broadcast.
It is common for popular sports to attract large broadcast audiences, leading to rival broadcasters bidding large amounts of money for the rights to show certain fixtures. The football World Cup attracts a global television audience of hundreds of millions; the 2006final alone attracted an estimated worldwide audience of well over 700 million and the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final attracted an estimated audience of 135 million in India alone .
In the United States, the championship game of the NFL, the Super Bowl, has become one of the most watched television broadcasts of the year. Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto national holiday in America; the viewership being so great that in 2015, advertising space was reported as being sold at $4.5m for a 30-second slot.
Issues and considerations
Amateur and professional
See also: professional sport and amateur sport
Sport can be undertaken on an amateur, professional or semi-professional basis, depending on whether participants are incentivised for participation (usually through payment of a wage or salary). Amateur participation in sport at lower levels is often called "grassroots sport".
The popularity of spectator sport as a recreation for non-participants has led to sport becoming a major business in its own right, and this has incentivised a high paying professional sport culture, where high performing participants are rewarded with pay far in excess of average wages, which can run into millions of dollars.
Some sports, or individual competitions within a sport, retain a policy of allowing only amateur sport. The Olympic Games started with a principle of amateur competition with those who practiced a sport professionally considered to have an unfair advantage over those who practiced it merely as a hobby. From 1971, Olympic athletes were allowed to receive compensation and sponsorship, and from 1986, the IOC decided to make all professional athletes eligible for the Olympics, with the exceptions of boxing, and wrestling.
Technology plays an important part in modern sports. With it being a necessary part of some sports (such as motorsport), it is used in others to improve performance. Some sports also use it to allow off-field decision making.
Sports science is a widespread academic discipline, and can be applied to areas including athlete performance, such as the use of video analysis to fine-tune technique, or to equipment, such as improved running shoes or competitive swimwear. Sports engineering emerged as a discipline in 1998 with an increasing focus not just on materials design but also the use of technology in sport, from analytics and big data to wearable technology. In order to control the impact of technology on fair play, governing bodies frequently have specific rules that are set to control the impact of technical advantage between participants. For example, in 2010, full-body, non-textile swimsuits were banned by FINA, as they were enhancing swimmers' performances.
The increase in technology has also allowed many decisions in sports matches to be taken, or reviewed, off-field, with another official using instant replays to make decisions. In some sports, players can now challenge decisions made by officials. In football, Goal-line technology makes decisions on whether a ball has crossed the goal line or not. The technology is not compulsory, but was used in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, as well as in the Premier League from 2013–14, and the Bundesliga from 2015–16. In the NFL, a referee can ask for a review from the replay booth, or a head coach can issue a challenge to review the play using replays. The final decision rests with the referee. A video referee (commonly known as a Television Match Official or TMO) can also use replays to help decision-making in rugby (both league and union). In international cricket, an umpire can ask the Third umpire for a decision, and the third umpire makes the final decision. Since 2008, a decision review system for players to review decisions has been introduced and used in ICC-run tournaments, and optionally in other matches. Depending on the host broadcaster, a number of different technologies are used during an umpire or player review, including instant replays, Hawk-Eye, Hot Spot and Real Time Snickometer. Hawk-Eye is also used in tennis to challenge umpiring decisions.
Main article: Politics and sports
Sports and politics can influence each other greatly.
Benito Mussolini used the 1934 FIFA World Cup, which was held in Italy, to showcase Fascist Italy.Adolf Hitler also used the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, and the 1936 Winter Olympics held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, to promote the Nazi ideology of the superiority of the Aryan race, and inferiority of the Jews and other "undesirables". Germany used the Olympics to give of itself a peaceful image while it was very actively preparing the war.
When apartheid was the official policy in South Africa, many sports people, particularly in rugby union, adopted the conscientious approach that they should not appear in competitive sports there. Some feel this was an effective contribution to the eventual demolition of the policy of apartheid, others feel that it may have prolonged and reinforced its worst effects.
In the history of Ireland, Gaelic sports were connected with cultural nationalism. Until the mid 20th century a person could have been banned from playing Gaelic football, hurling, or other sports administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) if she/he played or supported football, or other games seen to be of British origin. Until recently the GAA continued to ban the playing of football and rugby union at Gaelic venues. This ban, also known as Rule 42, is still enforced, but was modified to allow football and rugby to be played in Croke Park while Lansdowne Road was redeveloped into Aviva Stadium. Until recently, under Rule 21, the GAA also banned members of the British security forces and members of the RUC from playing Gaelic games, but the advent of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 led to the eventual removal of the ban.
Nationalism is often evident in the pursuit of sports, or in its reporting: people compete in national teams, or commentators and audiences can adopt a partisan view. On occasion, such tensions can lead to violent confrontation among players or spectators within and beyond the sporting venue, as in the Football War. These trends are seen by many as contrary to the fundamental ethos of sports being carried on for its own sake and for the enjoyment of its participants.
A very famous case when sports and politics collided was the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Masked men entered the hotel of the Israeli olympic team and killed many of their men. This was known as the Munich massacre.
A study of US elections has shown that the result of sports events can affect the results. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that when the home team wins the game before the election, the incumbent candidates can increase their share of the vote by 1.5 percent. A loss had the opposite effect, and the effect is greater for higher-profile teams or unexpected wins and losses. Also, when Washington Redskins win their final game before an election, then the incumbent President is more likely to win, and if the Redskins lose, then the opposition candidate is more likely to win; this has become known as the Redskins Rule.
Sports as a means of controlling and subduing populations
Étienne de La Boétie, in his essay Discourse on Voluntary Servitude describes athletic spectacles as means for tyrants to control their subjects by distracting them.
Do not imagine that there is any bird more easily caught by decoy, nor any fish sooner fixed on the hook by wormy bait, than are all these poor fools neatly tricked into servitude by the slightest feather passed, so to speak, before their mouths. Truly it is a marvelous thing that they let themselves be caught so quickly at the slightest tickling of their fancy. Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naïvely, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.
Religious views on sports
The practice of athletic competitions has been criticized by some Christian thinkers as a form of idolatry, in which "human beings extol themselves, adore themselves, sacrifice themselves and reward themselves." Sports are seen by these critics as a manifestation of "collective pride" and "national self-deification" in which feats of human power are idolized at the expense of divine worship.
Tertullian condemns the athletic performances of his day, insisting "the entire apparatus of the shows is based upon idolatry." The shows, says Tertullian, excite passions foreign to the calm temperament cultivated by the Christian:
God has enjoined us to deal calmly, gently, quietly, and peacefully with the Holy Spirit, because these things are alone in keeping with the goodness of His nature, with His tenderness and sensitiveness. ... Well, how shall this be made to accord with the shows? For the show always leads to spiritual agitation, since where there is pleasure, there is keenness of feeling giving pleasure its zest; and where there is keenness of feeling, there is rivalry giving in turn its zest to that. Then, too, where you have rivalry, you have rage, bitterness, wrath and grief, with all bad things which flow from them—the whole entirely out of keeping with the religion of Christ.
- Related topics
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