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“What Constitutes a Sport?”



Pre-Listening Question

Are birthdays celebrated in your culture and/or family, and if so, how are they observed (activities, food, guests, gifts)?

Vocabulary and Expressions

Here are some words and expressions that appear in the video:

qualify (verb): meet the necessary criteria or standards to be considered for a particular status or position

The discussion centered on whether volunteering at the local animal shelter could qualify for credit for this college class.

challenge (noun): a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities or strengths

People face many physical and mental challenges when they participate in sports.

criteria (noun): standards or principles used to judge or evaluate something

– Randall presented three key criteria—physical exertion, skill, and competition—for defining an activity as a sport.

borderline (adjective): on the edge or boundary, not clearly belonging to one category or another

The coach considered the player’s behavior on the field to be borderline, as it was right on the edge of unsportsmanlike conduct.

foster (verb): encourage the development or growth of something

– Our discussion aimed to foster critical thinking and reflection on the role of endurance in individual sports like ultrarunning.

Listening Comprehension Questions

Now, watch the interview and answer the comprehension questions. You can also turn on the automatically-generated captions for the video once you start it.


Randall: We’re going to talk about what constitutes a sport. Now, before we get into this, Emily and Aubrey, I want to define what it is. I found this definition: an activity involving physical exertion, skill, and competition. Think about that. Skill, exertion, and competition. So, let me throw out some ideas, and you tell me whether it’s a sport or not. For example, soccer. Is that a sport?

Aubrey: Do you mean football?

Randall: Yeah.

Aubrey: You know the game that’s played with your feet?

Randall: Okay, well, whether it’s American football or a football, uh, either one. Uh, would you consider that a sport?

Aubrey: Yes.

Emily: Yes.

Randall: Okay. And probably we would add in the element: Do you need a team to play it? Uh, just kind of keep that.

Aubrey: No, you don’t need a team.

Randall: Okay. How about this one? Competitive eating. Like, the person can eat the most hot dogs. Again, competitive eating, and the idea is physical exertion, skill, and competition. What do you think, Emily, Aubrey?

Aubrey: I think that’s its own category of thing.

Emily: I, I don’t know.

Aubrey: I feel like in my brain, a sport, burns calories.

Randall: Yeah, but you think about it. Physical exertion to get down 60 whoops. To get to get down 60 hot dogs. Wouldn’t that require physical exertion?

Aubrey: Yes, but by my definition that lives in my head, it didn’t burn any calories.

Emily: But would you . . . ?

Randall: Competition? What about the element of competition?

Emily: I guess it’s competitive, but . . .

Randall: Okay. How about the next one? Poker?

Aubrey: Nope.

Randall: Wait, wait. Uh, Aubrey, you said you had nothing to say about these topics as we were preparing for this video. What do you mean, poker? In what way does it not qualify?

Aubrey: Well, by the definition that you gave, it doesn’t involve physical exertion.

Randall: Yeah, but what if you [inaudable]

Aubrey: And by the definition that lives in my head, it doesn’t burn calories.

Randall: Just sitting there for hours and hours sweating, trying to guess what your, you know, the competition has in their hands. You wouldn’t say that requires physical . . . ?

Aubrey: I feel like by that definition, watching Jeopardy counts as a sport.

Randall: All right, Emily, any thought on that? Poker?

Emily: I don’t know, I don’t . . .  I would say it’s competitive, but I don’t know that I’d call it a sport.

Randall: Okay, how about this one? Cheerleading?

Aubrey: Yeah, that’s a sport.

Randall: Cheerleading

Emily: Yeah.

Randall: Do you think of that, uh, physical exertion, skill, competition?

Emily: Yeah.

Aubrey: Yeah.

Randall: Okay.

Aubrey: And it burns calories.

Randall: Okay, so that burns calories. So let’s talk about chess.

Aubrey: That doesn’t require physical exertion or calories.

Randall: Yeah, I mean, but sitting there hour after hour, you know, sometimes they, they move the pieces along. Wouldn’t that burn off some calories?

Aubrey: Yeah so does watching TV.

Randall: Well, maybe someone would throw that into the idea of what constitutes . . .

Aubrey: Well, like e-sports.

Randall: Like. Like what?

Aubrey: Well, like e-sports. If we’re going to say that chess is a sport, then e-sports are a sport. And okay, I probably move more playing my zombie game than I would playing chess ’cause I totally lean into those parkour jumps as if it makes a difference.

Randall: All right, well, thank you, Aubrey and Emily, for sharing your idea on what constitutes a sport.

Discussion Questions

Intermediate Level Discussion Questions:

  1. Based on Randall’s definition of a sport as involving physical exertion, skill, and competition, do you agree with Emily and Aubrey’s assessment of soccer (football) as a sport? Why or why not?

  2. Why do you think Aubrey considers competitive eating to be its own category of activity rather than a sport, despite the element of physical exertion and competition involved?

Advanced Level Discussion Questions:

  1. Analyze Randall’s attempts to justify activities like competitive eating and poker as sports based on the criteria of physical exertion, skill, and competition. How effective are his arguments, and what underlying assumptions about sports and physical activity do they reveal?

  2. Aubrey draws parallels between activities like chess and watching TV, suggesting they both lack the necessary physical exertion to be considered sports. Discuss the nuances of defining physical exertion in the context of sports, considering activities like chess, poker, and e-sports. How might our understanding of physical activity evolve in modern contexts?

Related Language Activities on Randall’s Web Site

The following activities deal with related topics to give you additional language practice.

Try More Free Listening at