Sports involve any form of physical activity, from dancing to boxing. However, to most people sport means more than just a movement of the body. Sports can bring people together and give people a sense of identity. They also provide a unique insight for other people into the values held by sports-playing communities.
Certain sports are closely linked to particular communities and reflect the characteristics and traditions of people included. Sharing similarities with others by playing the same sport is an example of having a culture. However, most importantly sport breaks down barriers between people of different cultures. Sport allows people to define themselves in a non-confrontational environment.
Sports are adapted to culture. For example, some cultures do not play football with a leather ball because they believe it is wrong to kill animals for their skin. Sometimes, communities have completely unique sports, such as the Afro-Brazilian martial-arts-dance named Capoeira.
The sports we play are often determined by what is available to us. The sports we play are determined by our cultural environment too. Our ability to play sports is affected by any number of factors, for example by our environment, our equipment, the opinion of our elders, or our knowledge of rules.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Sports are also cultural because they bring a lot of people into one place. These people share an interest and develop a common skill, just like when playing or listening to music together.
Some people say that sports reveal something about those that play them. For example, individuals who engage with stick fighting may be seen to engage with warrior culture, or to share characteristic aggression, poise and a tactical mind.
INDIVIDUAL AND NATIONAL REPRESENTATION
Sports can be used to promote an agenda and represent an individual or country. Countries who play only non-contact sports might demonstrate a pacifist culture (non-violent). Individuals who dance might be considered with the artistic, aesthetic and spiritual elsewhere in life, as well as in their sport. Each of us have a view of certain sports and what it would mean to play them. This suggests that sports contain cultural values perhaps without us noticing.
A good example of sports representing values and breaking down cultural values can be seen in the South African rugby team. After apartheid, the black player, Chester Williams, starred on the team, representing a new era in South African culture for the rest of the world to see.
All in all, it is clear that sports are cultural in many ways. More than just keeping us fit and healthy, or gaining us prestige through winning, engaging with sports allows us to have and to share a culture. Through sports we have an identity and a community. Even more excitingly, we can share our culture with others. Sports is one of the few ways we can truly interact with the culture of another and understand it through participation. Understanding this fact means we can use sports to positive effect.