If you have ever watched the Olympics, you will remember seeing an endless list of competitions going on. From the more popular sports like soccer, basketball, hockey, boxing, golf, and so on to the rarer ones like trampoline and fencing are all seen in the Olympics. The wide variety of sports included in the Olympics gives us an idea of how varied it can be. There are many ways to classify it into different categories, some of which are:

Team vs Individual – Tennis, boxing, and wrestling are good examples of individual sports where a single player competes with another player. Soccer and basketball involve teams of multiple players competing as a single unit against each other. While some athletes like to be a part of a team, others prefer to compete alone. It is a personal choice depending on the individual. While team sports require qualities like teamwork and coordination, individual sports need an athlete to have the mental strength to take on the pressure of the competition alone by himself/herself.

Indoor vs outdoor – Sports played within indoor stadiums or courts like badminton, boxing, and squash are weatherproof. So, even if it is raining or snowing, it does not affect the game. Outdoor sports are played on a field, in water or air. External factors like wind and temperature can influence outdoor sports. In American football and soccer, rain or snow does not stop a game. While some athletes prefer this kind of exposure to the external environment, others like controlled indoor conditions.

Contact vs non-contact – Sports that involve physical contact between the players are called contact sports. American Football, soccer, and ice hockey are examples of contact sports. It makes the players a bit more injury prone as the collision between players increases the risk. Non-contact sports like tennis and badminton are played with players on different sides of the nets without any contact between them. Some prefer the physicality involved in contact sports. while others dread it. It depends on an individual on how comfortable he or she is with contact or non-contact sports.

Apart from these classifications, other aspects can make an athlete prefer a particular sport over another. Let us go through some of these:

Degree of difficulty – It is not easy to master any sport and be perform well in competitions. It requires great talent and practice. But it is easier to understand and learn some sports like badminton and golf. Sports like ice hockey and basketball require a higher level of adaptation for an athlete. They also need the player to possess some specific qualities like good reflexes, strength, and endurance to be able to perform well.

Here is an excellent article published by ESPN in which they have listed down the different sports based on their difficulty

Skills required – Each sport is different. Some require a lot of running, like American football and soccer, while others like golf, do not require running at all. Baseball requires good hitting power and hand-eye coordination, while soccer requires the athlete to be good at handling the ball with their feet. Below mentioned are some of the skills that are required by athletes:

Endurance: It is the ability to continue to perform a skill or action for long periods. Most sports, such as baseball, football, soccer, and hockey, require this skill.

Strength: The ability to produce force. The best example of this skill is American Football Linebackers.

Power: The ability to produce strength in the shortest possible time. It is best displayed by baseball hitters who are trying to hit as hard as they can.

Speed: The ability to move quickly. As an example, this is crucial to any sport which involves running like soccer and American football, in which running faster than your opponent can win you games.

Agility: It is the ability to change direction quickly. Soccer players exhibit more agility while getting past their opponents.

Flexibility: It is the ability to stretch the joints across a higher range of motion. Though flexibility is the key to most sports, gymnasts and divers exhibit it best.

Durability: It is the ability to withstand physical punishment over a long period. Boxers are great examples of being durable as they have to take on punches from their opponent round after round.

Coordination: It is the ability to react quickly to sensory perception. The hand-eye coordination of a baseball hitter is what determines the efficiency of his/her shot.

Ease of Playing (Facilities, Time, Travel, Team …)

Different sports present different challenges when you want to play or practice that sport. Team sports often need more people to play in. To play a team sport, somebody needs to coordinate and pull together people at the same time and same place. 

Individual sports don’t have that issue as you may just need one more partner to play the sport with you. 

Then you need facilities, equipment, and officials to play the sport and these needs vary by sport. 

So the four components that are needed to play a sport are players, facilities, equipment, and officials. 

Let’s see how the major sports fare in those 4 areas to make the play happen.

SportPlayersFacilitiesEquipmentOfficials
BasketballMediumMediumEasyEasy
TennisEasyMediumMediumMedium
BaseballHardMediumMediumMedium
SoccerMediumEasyEasyMedium
American FootballHardHardHardHard
Ice HockeyMediumHardHardMedium
VolleyballMediumEasyMediumEasy
SwimmingEasyHardEasyEasy
GolfEasyHardHardEasy

Accessibility and equipment – Each sport require its own set of equipment and other resources. While volleyball requires just a ball and a ground with a net, ice hockey needs a lot of equipment. To play ice hockey, you need a rink, skates, hockey stick, puck, goal posts, and protective gear for the player. Sports that need lesser equipment are more popular for leisure playing with family and friends. Badminton can be played at a park or your backyard with just a couple of racquets and a shuttlecock if the weather conditions are favorable. Of course, a more serious game or competition would require an indoor stadium with proper nets and markings.

There are many clubs and organizations which allow you to use their ground or court for a fee. Some of them even offer memberships that can work out to be cheaper. You can easily find basketball courts and golf courses where you can practice with others. Similarly, there are facilities available for badminton, soccer, cycling, skating, and other sports as well that are

mostly owned by private management. Some of these facilities provide equipment as well, but some of them will not, so you might need to buy it for yourself and carry it for the game.

So, as you can see, each sport would require you to spend some money on the venue or membership and equipment. But the cost depends on what you choose to play. Additionally, if you want to hire a trainer or coach and play in competitions, you might need to spend more.

Health benefits and injuries

Some sports offer more health benefits than others. For example, basketball involves a lot more physical activities, such as running and jumping. It helps in improving a person’s athletic abilities much more than a person who plays golf. The training performed by a football player makes him/her stronger and faster as well. Though baseball requires a lot of arm strength for the pitcher and hitter, it does not require the kind of agility in soccer. Though the degree may vary, each sport will help you become physically fit.

Sports not only helps with enhancing physical fitness but also helps in improving mental health as well. It can help reduce stress and anxiety and refresh your mind. Team sports will require you to work on aspects that will help you become more effective as a unit together, like trusting and supporting a teammate. At the same time, individual athletes will need to work on aspects to hold on in tough situations. As an individual athlete or as a part of a team, practicing and improving will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Sports also help you develop your social skills.

Injuries are also part of sports. But if you are into contact sports, then you will be more prone to injuries due to its physical nature. Injuries in golf might be a rare scenario, but football and ice hockey players are known to get injured frequently.

Career opportunities

Sports provides great career opportunities. These opportunities are not just as a player. You can even choose to be a trainer, coach, or even a dietician. The number, kind, and quality of career opportunities depend on the popularity of the sport. In general, sports that are more popular present more career opportunities than the less popular ones. Professional athletes get paid staggering amounts as their salary.

Some careers like trainers and coaches are very sport-specific and require extensive knowledge about the sport. Other career options like event coordinator and sports photographer are very generic and are not limited to one. Then there are some careers like sports dietitian and sports administrator which require some sport-specific knowledge but also allow to work with other sports. A lot of kids dream of becoming a professional athlete in their respective sport only to find out later how difficult that is. Some of them still stick to their sport by taking on some career opportunities available, while others move on to other careers.