illustration of sporting equipment in a bubble for an article about overlooked sports
Lesser-known sports include variants on boating, archery, sledding and more. (Illustration by Julie Chow, University of California, Berkeley)
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illustration of sporting equipment in a bubble for an article about overlooked sports

The athletic world has offerings for recreational and seasoned players alike that go far beyond football and soccer.

Surfing the internet for sports is a sure way to find activities both absurd and entertaining. The definition of a sport, “An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature,” leaves space for just about anything. From tractor racing to parkour, the limit is your imagination. With an inexhaustible supply of sports, it is understandable some are more popular than others; big names like soccer and American football often overshadow lesser-known activities that can be just as fun and competitive. So, if you’re looking for something to watch on YouTube, or you’re just bored and you have an exorbitant amount of free time, look through the selection of oft-overlooked sports below for a new activity to discover.

Gaelic Football

A combination of rugby and soccer, Gaelic football is an Irish sport that is intense, high-speed and requires a lot of skill.

The game’s objective is to put a ball above or below the opposing team’s H-shaped goal; above the bar is worth one point while below is three points. After the two 30-minute halves are up, whoever has the highest score wins.

Each side has 15 players who can use their hands and feet to move the ball across the rectangular field. The ball itself is like a stiffer version of a volleyball. Players can check each other and get physical like rugby but cannot tackle, and to move with the ball, a player needs to have either passed, bounced or “solo-ed” every four steps. Soloing is similar to juggling a soccer ball and can be done once to complete the required action on the fourth step.

Skeleton

The name “skeleton” brings to mind images of death and decay, which doesn’t provide much confidence in the sport’s safety. This is understandable because skeleton is highly dangerous and takes a particular type of individual to do — specifically, a daredevil. You’ve probably seen it on TV, as it is an Olympic sport.

In skeleton, a single person lays flat on their stomach on a skeletal bobsled and goes through an ice-track headfirst, reaching speeds above 80 mph. Each bobsledder is timed, and the person with the fastest time through the course wins.

The sheer amount of courage needed to compete, as well as the risks involved, makes watching this sport a thrilling experience.

Street Luge

Skeleton’s antithesis is another one of the overlooked sports. Street luge is a sport where a person lays on their back on a wheeled board. The person lets gravity do its thing and goes feetfirst down roads and tracks, racing against others and time. While riding on a street luge board down a road, racers can reach speeds higher than 70 mph. On YouTube, there are some awesome videos where people filmed themselves using GoPros as they race.

Steinstossen

Even if you don’t speak German, you can probably guess what kind of sport Steinstossen is based on the name, as it sounds like the word stone-tossing. And it’s precisely that.

Steinstossen is the Swiss version of the stone put and a relative of the shot put. Instead of a small ball, though, contestants use a giant boulder, weighing a whopping 83.5 kg. or 184 lbs. A turn consists of a person lifting the boulder above their head, running a short distance down a track until they reach a sandpit and tossing the rock, usually with a loud grunt. Whoever throws the boulder the farthest distance wins.

Tchoukball

An international sport played predominately in Europe, tchoukball is played indoors with no contact involved; the game’s creator wanted an activity with fewer injuries and aggression than other sports, while still retaining competitiveness. The game is relatively simple and requires little to no experience or equipment to play, making it highly accessible.

Tchoukball consists of two teams on a rectangular indoor court. Depending on the court’s size, the sides are made up of six to nine players. At each end is an angled square trampoline within a half-circle. Players need to bounce the ball off the trampoline without touching inside the half-circle.

If the ball touches the ground, a point is gained for the team that bounced the ball. The other team’s job is to catch the ball, but they cannot interfere when the opposite side is throwing. Players can pass a maximum of three times, but the other team cannot disrupt possession before a shot; otherwise, the side that lost the ball gains a point.

Kyūdō

Out of all styles of archery, kyūdō is the most elegant. Using a Japanese yumi (bow), arrows and glove and wearing traditional clothing, kyūdō archers go through a series of eight steps to complete a shot. Scores are based on where the arrow lands downrange and how well the archer went through the steps — archers attempt to achieve Zen while shooting, and strict rules and traditions must be followed.

No unnecessary movements and actions are taken when entering, shooting and exiting. Kyūdō is considered an art and used as a meditation. The lack of noise within the dojo gives a calming and spiritual aspect to the sport. The ritual element associated with the technique makes kyūdō a martial art, and in some instances, ceremonial kyūdō is performed.

Racewalking

If you can race while running, then you should try racewalking as well. Racewalking is a long-distance sport where people have to walk without letting one foot ever leave the ground. Referees follow the walkers and make sure a foot maintains contact with the ground.

Racewalking is another one of the overlooked sports, maybe because the way the racers walk is a bit comical, but scientific research has been done regarding walking methods and mechanics. Surprisingly, racewalking is also an Olympic event and has been since 1908.

Iceboating

Sailing is well known as a sporting and recreational activity, but its derivative, iceboating, also known as ice-yachting, is often another one of those overlooked sports. Iceboating involves, as it sounds, a boat sailing across the ice. The boats are very light and minimalist, with a sail, two metal runners and a steering mechanism. With the right technique, sailors can reach speeds of over 40 mph. Usually, a boat is occupied by a single person, but there are models for doubles.

When doing iceboating as a sport, sailors race across a stretch of ice using an internationally accepted iceboat model called the International DN class. The first to cross the finish line wins.

Writer Profile

Joseph Gorzka III

University of Virginia
English and East Asian Studies

A student at the University of Virginia, an avid reader and a dabbler in the writing arts.

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