Alphabetical Guide to Sports Terminology

Sports terminology has been an established and vital part of sports for a long time; for athletes and sports fans, terminology is a key part of the game. But it can be puzzling, especially to those who are not involved within sports. Fortunately I’ve constructed a thorough, A-Z guide to basic sports terminology and sayings for those who are foreign to sports terms.

  • Broken Ankles (all sports) – When a defensive player loses balance or falls to the ground. This is a result of an offensive player performing an effective move on the defender.
  • Cheap shot (all sports) – A dirty and sneaky foul on an unsuspecting player.
  • Chip (rugby, soccer) – To kick or strike a short lobbed ball.
  • Cross (basketball, soccer, lacrosse) – A long pass from the wide area of a field to the center, usually near the opponents goal.
  • Dive/Flop (all sports) – When a player pretends to be fouled and falls to the ground.
  • Drop Back (soccer, basketball, rugby, football, lacrosse, hockey) – A term used to tell a player to fall back and help on defense.
  • First Touch (rugby, soccer) – The first touch of contact you have with the ball.
  • Footwork (all sports) – How quick and agile your feet are, or how skilled your feet are with the ball.
  • Foul (all sports) – An illegal action performed by a player during the game. These will often result in punishments decided by the referee(s).
  • Get up (all sports) – A term used to tell players to advance forward towards the opponents side.
  • Hat trick (all sports) – When a player scores three times during a single game.
  • Home advantage (all sports) – Used to describe the advantage a home team has over an away team.
  • Interception (football, rugby, basketball) – When a player intercepts an opponent’s pass and a turnover occurs.
  • Man on (all sports) – A term used to inform a teammate that an opposing player is approaching them.
  • Mark up/man up (all sports) – A term used to tell teammates to pair up on an opponent.
  • Offsides (all sports) – Has to do with players positions on the field during specific times. Depending on which sport it is, offsides is ruled in many different ways.
  • Pressure (soccer, basketball) – When you apply pressure you are in a close match situation with an opposing player. This is an attempt to help gain possession.
  • Running out the clock (all sports) – When in the final minutes of the game, the winning team wastes time by performing pre-set plays.
  • Starters (all sports) – Players who begin the game on the field/court. Often times this is a compliment, as coaches usually put their best players as starters.
  • Strike (all sports) – When you hit a ball.
  • Time-Out (basketball, football) – When there is a halt in the game; this allows the coaches and players of each team to talk.

This simple guide will be effective in helping define some popular sports terminology. The list of sports terms is a long one; there are hundreds of terms specific to certain sports as well. Expanding your knowledge allows you to further understand what is occuring in games, different calls the referee is making, and words used in commentary. But for starters, learning universally common terms is your best bet.

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