Nontraditional Sports & Activities: Uses & Examples

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.

In this lesson, we will discuss nontraditional sports and activities. We will learn how these activities promote the ever so important seven principles of collaboration, communication, cooperation, critical thinking, decision making, leadership, and problem solving among participants. We will discuss the king of the nontraditional sports, the X Games, as well.

Who hasn't been fascinated by an amazing athlete climbing up the sheer face of a cliff with no equipment or been enthralled by a motorcyclist doing a backflip? Nontraditional sports are becoming more popular, and parents are enrolling their children in activities other than the traditional fare such as baseball, football, basketball, and soccer.

Traditional Versus Nontraditional

While it is difficult to find dictionary definitions for traditional sports and nontraditional sports, most experts consider traditional sports to be the ones with long histories and strict sets of rules. Of course, this can vary from one country to another. In America, baseball is often called the 'national pastime' while in Scotland, the caber toss (heaving a giant pole) has long been a respected part of the Highland Games. Most experts consider nontraditional sports to be 'extreme sports' that we might see at the X Games competitions. There are dozens of these competitions, and in fact, in just twenty years or so, the events at the summer and winter X Games themselves have changed quite a bit.

Team Juggling

Team Juggling is not what one typically thinks of when the words nontraditional sports come to mind. However, it has become quite popular among schools and corporations as a method of facilitating the three principles of collaboration, communication, and cooperation between employees and as a way to break through personal and creative barriers. There are many forms of this exercise, but one of the most common is to gather the group into a circle and have them toss a beanbag or other light object. The object is tossed around and then gradually more and more beanbags are added as the group improves at the skill. Furthermore, leadership often comes into play here as one person may prove himself or herself by stepping up to be in charge of the group.


Pickleball was invented in the mid 1960s, but in recent years, it has caught on in much the same way as lacrosse. The game combines themes of tennis, badminton, and table tennis and is played with a ball similar to a whiffle ball, so people of all ages can play. Critical thinking is a big part of the appeal as the points develop much slower than table tennis, and communication as well as cooperation among the players are necessary in order to work together.


Who doesn't love hearing a story about secret buried treasure? Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game with a modern twist. Participants use GPS devices to navigate to a predetermined location and find a treasure (geocache) hidden there. One of the big appeals of this nontraditional activity is the family friendly nature of the game. Since there are no extreme athletic movements involved, even mom and dad can participate in the fun. This can build up self-confidence, cooperation, and critical thinking skills as well.

geocache kit

Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing may be the most grueling of all the nontraditional sports. It combines intense athleticism with grave danger, and participants must possess a high level of fitness. Involving great heights, rock climbing is not for the faint of heart, and trust in one's climbing partners in a possible life or death situation is a must. Critical thinking and decision making are of the utmost importance to survive.


Parkour is not for the person with a weak stomach to say the least. It rivals rock climbing as the most challenging and dangerous of the nontraditional sports. Athletes run and jump off walls and across ledges oftentimes right in the middle of a large bustling city. In addition to the very real risk of serious injury, there is again the risk of death. Once again critical thinking and decision making determine if the athlete stays alive.

Stand-Up Paddling

Like geocaching, stand-up paddling can be enjoyed by family members of just about any age. Unlike the incredibly difficult and dangerous sport of surfing, it can be learned in about thirty minutes. Here decision making is required, but the sport tends to be less demanding and dangerous.

Summer and Winter X Games

The king of nontraditional sports is now the X Games, and we would be remiss to have a lesson without including the festivities that have inundated our culture since the 1990s. Many of the sports are too dangerous or expensive for the average person to participate in, but who didn't love to watch Shaun White nail a perfect score in the halfpipe? There are both women's and men's competitions.

Shaun White

These sports demand all seven of the skills in this lesson: collaboration, communication, cooperation, critical thinking skills, decision making, leadership, and problem solving.

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