Sport or Hobby? The Athlete’s Struggle for Recognition

Story by Abigael Smith

Photo courtesy of Natalie Haber

Senior environmental science major Camille Hyde reviews photos from her competitive horseback riding days of herself and her grey horse jumping over the brightly colored obstacles.

“People always try to convince me that riding is a hobby and the horse does all the work. They have no idea how competitive riding is and how much athletic and mental skill is needed by both horse and rider,” said Hyde.

The line between a collegiate sport and hobby are often blurred. Sports television broadcasting and news sources often focus on mainstream college sports such as football and basketball. More often than not, less popular sports are left unreported.

“I think no one knows about a lot of sports. I’m a raft guide and obviously know about the competition side of rafting but very few people do,” said senior psychology major Natalie Haber.

“If there isn’t a well known league or a major college team people assume it’s a hobby. They think we all do it just for fun and don’t put time and effort into learning the skills just as professional football players do.”  

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, sponsors 23 sports ranging from baseball to bowling. However, the sponsorship of the NCAA is not enough to convince some students that some activities should be considered a sport.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a sport is: “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.”

This definition is key to the argument of what is considered a sport or a hobby as it states an individual or team must “compete against another or others for entertainment” but does not specify if the competitions need to be direct.

Sports such as bowling and rifle do not involve contact with another team directly, which seems to be the root of the disagreement. Though they are both recognized by NCAA students are not fully convinced of classification of a sport.

“Just because something requires athletic ability does not make it a sport. I think it needs to be something played team on team or one on one with other players. I wouldn’t consider bowling a sport, its something you technically play against yourself and bowling pins even if your points go towards a team,” said film student Beau Moran.

“There are competitive rafting teams, the US even has one. Yeah you don’t have direct contact with the other teams but you don’t in Track or Cross Country either. It’s annoying that just because a sport isn’t recognized by the NCAA it is looked at as a hobby,” said Haber.

Colleges have taken on club sports as a way to foster athletic teams that are not sponsored by the NCAA. Club Sports are student run and receive less funding from the university or college itself.  An estimated 2 million students compete in club sports according to The New York Times.

As far as more recognition goes, Hyde believes more light is being shed on less common sports.

“The NCAA considers equestrian an emerging sport, so some schools can provide scholarships. It’s club at most schools so we compete against other colleges without NCAA. I think people are starting to see riding and more unique sports as popular for college kids more and more. They are seeing them less as just something people do for fun and realizing what actually goes into playing the sport.”

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