Individual Sports: Definition, Examples & Skill Development

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  • 0:03 Individual Sports
  • 0:41 Skills
  • 1:34 Critical Elements
  • 2:50 Techniques
  • 4:44 Equipment
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Do you like the idea of playing an individual sport and being the master of your own destiny, win or lose? In this lesson, we discuss individual sports, give examples, and review the skills, techniques of training, and motivation.

Individual Sports

There are certain sports, such as golf, bowling, and tennis that, for the most part, are considered individual sports, which are sports played alone without teammates. Yes, there are exceptions, such as the Ryder Cup in golf, in which two teams from either side of the Atlantic Ocean compete, but often the competition is for an individual trophy. A sample of the thousands of individual sports includes:

  • Badminton
  • Bowling
  • Boxing
  • Cycling
  • Figure skating
  • Golf
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Track and field
  • Wrestling


There are thousands of individual sports, and the skill requirements for each vary greatly; however, there are certain skills that apply to most individual athletes. Most have high levels of cardiovascular fitness to allow for long hours of practice and play. Most have well-toned muscles and are flexible.

One major advantage of competing in an individual sport is that the athlete can progress at her own pace to improve skills. The skills she needs are more mental than physical. She needs autonomy, self-discipline, focused thinking, and passion. She must work on a specific skill over and over until it is mastered. She is able to practice as early or late as she wants. She gets to take all the credit for winning, but she is on her own and can blame no one but herself for any lackluster performances.

Critical Elements

Individual sports also allow athletes to aim for personal goals without worrying about hurting the team. For example, in distance running, an athlete will commonly shoot for a personal best (known as a PB) several times per year. In fact, individual athletes are often said to be competing against themselves. They do have competitors to beat, but they also attempt to improve on their previous best performances as well.

There are two basic types of motivation. They are external motivation and intrinsic motivation. External motivation comes from someone else or involves gaining a reward. Examples of external motivation include a coach yelling at you to do pushups, winning a medal, or a parent telling you to clean your room. Intrinsic motivation literally means that the desire comes from within. This is a trait that many individual sport's athletes possess. Examples include deciding to run a personal best in a 5K race or attempting to qualify for a big tournament. In individual sports, there are no teammates to please or to put peer pressure upon you, as the pressure comes from yourself.


There are four basic principles that govern training for an individual sport:

  • Overload - You must train harder than normal to force your body to improve.
  • Progression - You must start slowly and build up to overload.
  • Reversibility - If you stop training, you will lose some of your gains, but, if you start training again, you can get back to your peak.
  • Specificity - You must train the muscles specific to your sport.

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