Hard to say what the definition of ‘sport’ is

By Allyson Kloster

This weekend, I went home to the suburbs to watch my sister compete in her last pom poms competition of high school. As I sat in the crowded gymnasium watching squads shuffle in and out, it dawned on me that I kind of, sort of, may enjoy the competitions.

My knowledge of the poms world is a far cry from my high school years. I always respected the girls’ talents but never gave it a second thought.

But after hearing how hard my sister and her teammates trained to win first in state in poms last year, and after developing an eye for the discipline after three years of observation, I’ve come to appreciate poms for what it is: a sport.

Yes, I used the polarizing “S” word.

It’s understandable that the word is polarizing, since “sport” has always been hard to define. I’ve had discussions with several people about this, and most of them have an “I know it when I see it” mentality toward what constitutes a sport. Naturally, they all “know it” at different times, for different reasons.

I more or less had the same philosophy until recently. The first wake-up call came after I spoke with a friend of mine whose constricting definition made me uneasy.

He said a sport is a sport only if one unit competes against another unit, able to directly alter the opposing unit’s performance.

In other words, if you’re a gymnast the only thing you have control over is yourself, not your opponent. If the rules permitted sideswiping your competitor in the middle of her floor routine, then it would be a sport.

Under his definition, gymnastics, poms, golf, swimming, track and field, bowling and tons of other sports are simply ‘activities.’

That is sports elitism. For me, any competitive activity that requires physical coordination, skill and talent is a ‘sport.’

To say poms is not a sport because its athletes cannot directly affect each other ignores the impact of the competitive atmosphere. Like any sport, its athletes can get psyched out based on how well the opposing teams are doing, how the audience is reacting, and their own fears of failure, to name a few.

Remember how your junior high coach always used to say winning is 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical? Well, it applies here too.

Except poms is often more physical than your average sport. The athleticism required to do a good routine is baffling. For example, in kick routines, which many poms squads perform too, you have to do at least 50 kicks – think “Rockettes.” Not only that, but they better be above 90 degrees.

But with poms and kick, if you want to compete to be the best, you have to factor other things into the equation than pure athleticism.

If, as a spectator, I know not to wear skirts for kicks competition (black pants are the best because they make mistakes less noticeable), and not to have a confusing theme (hint: Don’t dress up as Alice in Wonderland and only play Gwen Stefani songs), imagine how much more the competitors have to keep in mind. You have to be creative, yet you must maintain extreme precision.

If you still aren’t convinced, let’s turn to the dictionary.

According to the first definition of “sport” that popped up on Google (The Free Dictionary), a sport is, “Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.”

Aha! Just as I thought.

I better not hear any snickering from people questioning the significance of my sister’s state championship. Don’t be a sports elitist.

But if you think I’m crazy, e-mail me your definition of a sport, and I may share your comment in my next column.

Allyson Kloster is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]