Is Scrabble a Sport? | The Case For & Against (Let’s Debate)

Students playing a Scrabble game in the classroom
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In my family home, Scrabble was always a major event. The family prepared for it, we all gathered around, and we all got into heated debates over words and non-words. Throughout the years, Scrabble has been a source of great entertainment, but I never really gave much thought to what type of game it is to us. 

I was recently asked whether I would consider Scrabble a sport or not – so, I thought it would be a good idea to consider both arguments for and against, in order to make an educated decision. 

Many consider Scrabble to be a sport, while many do not. There are arguments for and against Scrabble being a sport.

Is Scrabble a Sport?

YES (FOR)NO (AGAINST)
Scrabble is competitive. 
Scrabble is played sitting down, without physical exhaustion. 
There is an agreed set of rules for Scrabble.
Players benefit from being in good shape, but it is not essential.
Playing Scrabble is an exercise for the brain.
Having a good physical condition is beneficial for players. 
Regular Scrabble practice increases skills.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when trying to decide if Scrabble is a sport or not. Officially, there seems to be no answer to this question. After doing a bit of research online, I came to the conclusion that there are just as many people arguing in support of Scrabble being a sport as there are against it. 

Two different groups of people are arguing
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Read on if you want to learn a bit more about the arguments for and against Scrabble being a sport. I go into the arguments in a bit more detail below. 

Definition of Sport

Before we can decide whether Scrabble is a sport or not, it is essential to know precisely what a sport is. I took the time to look it up, for clarity. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “sport” as follows: 

“an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”. 

Lexico – Powered by Oxford

That seems like a straight forward definition and one that we can work with.

When you look at the definition of sport, do you think that Scrabble fits in with that definition? I must admit that people who claim Scrabble is a sport do make valid arguments when you consider the actual definition of the term sport. Now that we have the meaning of the word in mind, let us take a closer look at the two arguments. 

Why Scrabble Could be Considered a Sport

Many people argue that Scrabble is a sport. The people who seem most passionate about this seem to be active Scrabble players – and there’s value in that. Surely if the pro players consider it a sport, there is some weight to that argument? It was food for thought for me. 

Those who are for Scrabble being a sport make some decent arguments in favor of the concept; some of which I mention below. If you are looking for reasons that support Scrabble being a sport, here they are:

Scrabble is Competitive. 

Scrabble word game is played on an oversized board
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Scrabble is a highly competitive game, even though it is only designed for 2 to 4 players. Players compete, not only to create the longest list of words, but actually to earn the highest possible points from building words on the board. The player with the higher points at the end of the game wins. 

Scrabble has Official Rules and Annual National Championships. 

Let us talk about the nature of sports. Both games and sports have rules, but it seems that sports rules go into a little more detail. All sports have an official set of rules that must be followed, and it is much the same with Scrabble. These rules are strictly adhered to during the International Scrabble Championships (WESPA). 

Also, there are national championships held for Scrabble each year in various countries. In the United States, the biggest tournament is the North American Scrabble Championships, and in the UK, the biggest is the UK National Scrabble Championships. One could argue that if Scrabble is not a (mind) sport, why would there be a need for national championships word wide. 

Scrabble is a Workout for the Brain. 

You might be wondering, but is Scrabble really a physical workout? As the definition goes, a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion”. You might wonder if this fits in with Scrabble as players are not out of breath or suffering sore muscles at the end of a game. This is because they are not physically spent. 

If you think about it, the brain (which most of us are taught to treat it as a muscle) is a part of the body, and when you use it during a Scrabble game, it is consistently worked out. Therefore, technically speaking, Scrabble can be an effective workout for the brain. This is certainly something that someone could argue. 

Good Physical Condition Can Make Players Better at the Game.

In sports, sportsmen (women) must keep fit and healthy in order to get ahead. You might have noticed that physically healthy people seem to do better at mind games like Scrabble. According to a Harvard Medical School article, regular exercise can boost memory and thinking skills. This means that pro-Scrabble players need to focus on keeping healthy and exercised. If you are in good physical condition, your brain will be primed for learning and working. 

People on Good physical conditions
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Practice Makes Perfect (Skills Increase With Practice).

Sportsmen and women require sporting skills to play their chosen sport. These skills are learned over time, and then they are honed and perfected. Some sportsmen and women become so skilled in their chosen sport that they become world champions. Of course, their lives have been filled with many hours of practice. 

In any sport, a player has to practice, practice, and practice some more, in order to hone and perfect their skills. It is only through practice that they are able to become the best that they can be. In Scrabble, it is much the same as in sports when it comes to practicing and developing skills. Players have to focus on practicing, game after game, to ensure that they keep increasing their knowledge, skills, vocab, and spelling abilities. 

The more a Scrabble player practices the game, the better they get at it, and the more chance they have at winning game after game (or even becoming a world champion). 

Why Scrabble Should NOT be Considered a Sport

Of course, there are many compelling reasons why Scrabble can be considered a sport, but what are the arguments against the idea? If you are looking for reasons that support Scrabble not being a sport, here they are:

Scrabble is a Sit-Down Game with Minimal Physical Exertion. 

When you think of a sport, you undoubtedly think of sportsmen and women spending time outdoors (or indoors), getting active. In your mind, they are probably bounding up and down, running, breaking a sweat, and becoming physically exhausted – that is just the nature of playing a sport, isn’t it? When you watch a game of Scrabble, none of this is happening. 

Scrabble is quite a sedate game. People sit around a board, placing lettered tiles down. They do not even break a sweat, and no one leaves the room feeling physically exhausted and immediately needing a shower, do they? They certainly do not! For argument’s sake, this provides evidence against Scrabble being a sport. 

Group of four people sitting down at the table
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It is Not Essential for Players to be in Good Shape.

Yup, you guessed it. It is tricky to say that players who are in great physical condition are the best at the game, but that does not mean that being in shape and being fit is essential or compulsory. It is often said that Scrabble players benefit from being in good physical condition, but how often are they? If players can play the sport of Scrabble, while overweight, eating badly, and not getting enough sleep and exercise; are they really sportsmen at all? Probably not! 

The fact that there are no official requirements to be in shape makes people doubt that Scrabble is a sport at all. 

The Conclusion: Is it a Sport or Not?

Of course, whether you consider Scrabble a sport of not really comes down to what you personally think and believe. Which argument do you feel is the strongest and most compelling? After considering the evidence and my personal points of view, I must admit that I am prone to believing that Scrabble is indeed a sport. 

Last Word 

Hopefully, with a bit of clarity on the arguments for and against Scrabble being a sport, you will be able to decide for yourself. Is Scrabble a sport? Isn’t it a sport? You decide!