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Cornhole (Debate): A Sport? Or Just a Game? (10 Reasons For & Against)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Is cornhole a sport or just a game? This is a question that is hotly debated amongst cornhole players and fans. There are differences between sports and games, so let’s break down the arguments for both sides. 

We’ll explore different arguments and ideas to understand whether cornhole is a sport or just a game and which side you agree with.

10 Reasons Cornhole Is a Sport

1. Cornhole Fits the Definition of a Sport

In the Oxford Dictionary, a sport is defined as “an activity that you do for pleasure, and that needs physical effort or skill, usually done in a special area and according to fixed rules.” It ticks every box described. Therefore, according to this definition, cornhole fits the criteria to be considered a sport.

2. Cornhole Is a Physical Game

Regardless of the debate, the fact that cornhole does require some physical effort is indisputable. Players must stand and throw bean bags 27 feet to reach the other side. While the bags are relatively lightweight, cornhole does require physical ability, skill, and target practice to play. 

3. Cornhole Involves Competition

Sports generally involve an element of competition which is what makes them entertaining enough to have spectators. Cornhole is a competitive sport because it includes two teams on either side battling it out against each other. While games can also have competition, it is not a necessity, and many are cooperative.

4. There Is a Cornhole League

Sports generally have leagues, and cornhole is no exception as it has its own league– yet another reason it’s a sport. The American Cornhole League oversees the rules and regulations of the sport. It also connects players with international tournaments and keeps track of rankings.

5. There Is an Official National Governing Body for Cornhole

National governing bodies of sports are non-profit organizations that work to promote and develop a specific sport. Since 2019, Cornhole has its own official governing body in the United States called USA Cornhole. Its goal is to help cornhole become more accessible by providing access to leagues and supporting a national team.    

6. You can watch Cornhole on ESPN

ESPN is known for being the big sports channel, and cornhole has a contract with them. This really puts cornhole on the map as a more mainstream sport. The channel shows cornhole games and tournaments for entertainment which is another classic attribute of an official sport.  

7. Cornhole Has Scores and Statistics

One thing that is known about sports is that they have official scores and statistics. Scores generally imply that the rules are organized, so there is a loser and a winner. The American Cornhole League records the scores of official games and analyzes the data to create cornhole statistics nationwide.  

8. There Are Professional Players

Along with any professional sport comes professional players. The American Cornhole Organization has specific requirements for professional players and keeps a log of the rankings. Players must compete and score within the top 80 of the ACO Singles Rankings or the top 96 of the ACO World Championships to be considered a professional. 

9. People Watch Cornhole for Entertainment

A key component of any sport is its entertainment value. Even people who do not play the sport can be avid spectators, following certain players or teams. 

Cornhole is a physical game with tournaments viewed both on TV and in person, just like other sports. While some games are also watched for entertainment, they lack a physical element and are the exception rather than the rule.    

10. There Are Efforts To Make It an Olympic Sport

There have been discussions on ESPN as to if and when cornhole will be an Olympic sport. The American Cornhole League, which has displayed tournaments on ESPN, is also pushing to make it one. If cornhole were to be an Olympic sport, which it very well may be, it would be hard to dispute that it’s a sport.

10 Reasons Cornhole Is Just a Game

1. Cornhole Fits the Definition of a Game

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary describes a game as “an activity that you do to have fun, often one that has rules and that you can win or lose.” Cornhole fits this definition well, seeing how it’s a fun activity with rules and a clear winner and loser. Some may even say it is a more accurate definition than a sport.

2. Cornhole Is Almost Always Described As a Game

If you google cornhole, most descriptions will refer to it as a game. Even when you hear people speak about it or perhaps speak about it yourself, chances are you use the word game. When discussing actual sports like soccer, baseball, or football, we often use the term sport instead and reserve the word game for actual competitive matches. 

3. The Game Is a Tailgating Activity

Cornhole is famous for being played as a tailgating activity outside significant sporting events. Spectators set it up to kill time while waiting for actual sports games to begin as a fun way to kill time with friends. Not many official sports would be treated in such a manner, but games would. 

4. Cornhole Is a Drinking Game

Cornhole first became known as a drinking game, and you’ve probably seen it played as such. It would likely require more focus and physical effort if it were an actual sport. It would not be common to see the players holding a beer while playing a sport, but it’s commonplace with games, especially the drinking ones.

5. The Game Is Mainly Played for Fun

While there is an element of competition in many games, the purpose of cornhole is usually to have a good time. It is not the type of game most people take too seriously or set out to compete in. It is more often something people stumble upon in bars or at events and decide to give it a go.

6. Cornhole Requires Only Light Physical Exertion

Let’s be honest; you don’t have to be a professional athlete to play a game of cornhole. It’s beginner-friendly and requires only light physical exertion. Most people wouldn’t consider it actual exercise, but just a minor movement to toss a lightweight bag across the game to the other side.

7. Cornhole Is Primarily a Social Activity

When most people gather and play a game of cornhole, the primary purpose is the people, not the game itself. Cornhole brings people together well, and just about anyone can play. However, when people play sports, they are often dedicated to that sport and prioritize it over just hanging out with the players. 

8. Cornhole Is Meant As a Party Game

Cornhole is a great game to liven up a party! While you don’t generally go to parties to engage in intense sports, you often play games at parties to help guests socialize and feel at ease. Therefore, you can see how people would view cornhole as a game rather than an actual sport.  

9. Cornhole Is Played More Casually Than Formally

Some social circles may have their weekly cornhole game, and some members may take it quite seriously. However, this is the exception, not the norm. Most people see cornhole as something you play very casually from time to time. They probably don’t seek it out and aren’t on any intramural teams.

10. High Schools and Colleges Don’t Typically Have Cornhole Teams

A big part of high schools and universities are sports teams and competitions. However, these establishments rarely have cornhole teams or official games. Instead, you’ll probably find cornholes in the college bars, parties, or events where other fun, social games would be found.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.