Top 20 Most Popular Sports in the United States

By James Folsom Continued...
Number Seven (7)
Snowboarding/Skateboarding- Number 7 and 8
The X Games and video game popularity created the popularity of competitive skateboarding and snowboarding. Tony Hawk not only became a household name because of his skill, but also through the world of video games. Hawk put the sport on the sports map in the 2000s and now the X Games and Winter X Games feature athletes such as Shaun White and Travis Pastrana performing spectacular stunts on skateboards, snowboards, skis, motorcycles and snow mobiles.
Skateboards have been around for decades. Much like bicycles and roller skates they were part toy, part transportation. Bicycles have been used for racing for a long time, but now they are used for tricks. Skateboards are now used for them as well. 
All over America, skateboard parks are opening and kids are learning how to do jumps on ramps. The best of these may someday appear in the X Games are perhaps one day, the Olympics.
Lacrosse- Number 9
Lacrosse is a sport that has been around for centuries. It is a sport first played by Native Americans as a part of a celebration. Games were known to last for hours, and sometimes days and may have up to 1000 competitors.
Lacrosse today is a sport played by many high schools and colleges and even some professional leagues. It is a cross between soccer, field hockey and football. It is a contact sports played with a rubber ball and sticks with a mesh end. The object, much like hockey and soccer is to put the ball in the opposition’s goal. 
College lacrosse is becoming a popular sport, especially on the east coast. Many ACC schools such as Virginia, Duke and North Carolina are always in contention for the NCAA championship along with Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame. 
It is a fast paced, physical game that requires speed, strength, stamina, accuracy and skill. The sport has yet to catch on with younger children on the local level. Most players do not pick up the game until high school. Perhaps this is because the game is very physical.
Fishing and Hunting- Number 10 and 11
Fishing has always been a way of life in America. But it is hard to imagine that it could be a sport more popular than golf, tennis, bowling and bicycling. But with the exposure from cable TV, fishing tournaments have become extremely popular. 
Competitive fishing tournaments can bring in thousands of dollars for the best anglers in the country. Large sums are brought in from sponsorships, much like in NASCAR. 
Fishing is a sport that anyone can participate. Anywhere in the country wherever there is water, you can find someone trying to catch the fish in it. 
Fishing and hunting licenses raise millions of dollars for the preservation of wildlife areas in the US. It is estimated that they have raised billions of dollars across the U.S.
It is estimated that 40% of residents in the State of Alaska participate in fishing and that in South Dakota, 21% of its residents are hunters.
Tennis-  Number 12
Tennis is a sport that can be played by anyone. It has the reputation of being a sport for the wealthy, played at expensive country clubs. And while tennis is a popular sport among the well off, in actuality, all which is required to play is a racquet and some tennis ball, which can be purchased rather inexpensively at any Wal-Mart in the country. 
Tennis courts exist at any city owned park or high school in the country. Tennis can be played with two or four players. It is a game that requires quickness, endurance, power and speed. It is also a game of strategy where each shot is intended to put the opponent in a defensive position. 
Tennis is played in nearly every country on earth. Unlike other sports, men and women compete at the same venues in the same tournaments. In mixed doubles, they even play together. The “Grand Slam” of tennis consists of Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open and the U. S. Open. Theses tournaments are considered “majors” and are of more importance than the others. Players who have won them all have won the “Grand Slam” of tennis. Some of these include:
Rod Laver, who won all four in the same year on two occasions, Don Budge, who won all four in the same year once, Roger Federer, who has a record 17 major singles titles, and Rafael Nadal who won three of the four in 2010. 
On the women’s side, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf have won all four in the same year. Court leads with 24 singles titles, Graf had 22. Serena Williams is the active leader with 16.
Tennis is growing among young kids. It is estimated that 9.5 million American children are playing tennis, up from 6.8 million in 2003. Tennis did a smart thing. They took a cue from baseball and designed a one quarter sized court to start young kids off with. Little League is not played on a regulation sized field, so why should young kids learning tennis pay on an adult sized court? This could really grow the popularity for generations to come.
Golf- Number 13
Like tennis, golf is a singles sport. Like tennis, both men and women can compete and turn pro. Like tennis, golf has a “Grand Slam”. Unlike tennis, men and women compete at different venues. Unlike tennis, golf is a rather expensive sport and therefore rather exclusionary. 
This may explain why golf participation is on the decline, especially among young people. With the economy suffering, golf is a more difficult game to take up. 
Another factor is as the players and equipment get better, course designers build longer and tougher golf courses, which in turn makes it an even more difficult game for beginners and young kids. 
Golf could take a lesson from tennis and design smaller, easier courses for young children to learn the game. 
Golf had an explosion among young people with the ascent of Tiger Woods to superstar status. But it seems that while he brought the interest from non-white people into the sport, he was so good that courses are now designed to be more challenging to players like him. So he has been a “good news-bad news” for the growing of the game.
Track and Field-  Number 14
Track is an interesting sport. It is almost a collection of similar but different sports, rolled into one. You have your sprints for the really fast runners. You have distance running for the runners with great endurance. You have your events for high jumpers such as the hurdles, high jump and pole vault and you have events for the strong athletes such as the shot put, hammer throw and discus. 
Track and field is the highlight of the Summer Olympic Games every four years. Legends such as Bruce Jenner, Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersey have made their names at the Olympics as track athletes.
Every high school and college in the country fields a track team. There is really something for every type of athlete on the team. It is also not an expensive sport to get into at a young age. You really only need a good pair of shoes. 
It is estimated on that an outstanding 53% of girls and 49% of boys ages 6-17 participate in running/jogging. These are your future track athletes. 
Track anf field is held in the spring at most schools which allows participants in other sports such as football, soccer and basketball to compete in the sport. It is a great way for athletes in those sports to stay in shape during their off-seasons while keeping their competitive edge. 
Swimming and Diving- Number 15 and 16
If track is not the biggest event in the Summer Olympic Games, then it has to be swimming and diving. Some of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time have been swimmers. Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, Johnny Weismuller, Ryan Lochte, Janet Evans and Dara Torres have made themselves household names all over the country with their great Olympic exploits. 
Swimmers can leave an Olympic Games with enough gold around their necks to start a mini-Fort Knox. Spitz and Phelps are among the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time. This is because in swimming, each event is a separate event. So medals may be awarded to the same swimmers in different races such as the 100 meter backstroke, 50 meter backstroke, 200 meter backstroke, etc. 
So if a certain style, such as the butterfly is a swimmer’s forte, he or she has several opportunities to medal at different distances. 
Bicycling- Number 17
Is Bicycling a sport or an activity? What is the difference? A sport is an activity where there is competition. An activity is done for fun with no winners or losers. Bicycling is often both. 
The largest bicycling sporting event in the world is the Tour De France in which every summer, bicycle racers compete on the roads of France for nearly the entire month of July. The sport hit its peak when American Lance Armstrong became a household name with seven win in a row. However, the sport has taken a huge hit after it was revealed that Armstrong and many others in the sport were illegally taking performance enhancing drugs and then lied about it. 
But as an activity, bicycling has always been very popular especially among the young. What kid hasn’t had his or her best Christmas when they found a new bicycle under the tree? A kid’s bike is his prized possession. Much like a car is to an adult, a bike tells a kid that he is now independent. He can travel to a friend’s house or to the local convenience store without mom having to take him. 
Bicycling as a competitive sport can be in several forms. BMX (bicycle moto-cross) is similar to moto cross where racers go through mud holes, over jumps, etc. Competitors typically move on from bikes to motorcycles as they get older. 
Road racing is normally done on 10-speed bicycles as is oval track, high banked racing which is a popular Olympic Sport. 
It is estimated on that over 33% of boys aged 6 17 compete in bicycling.
Bull Riding (rodeo)- Number 18
Rodeo is a popular sport in the Southwestern United States. It it a very dangerous sport where riders compete in riding wild bulls and horses. A typical bull ride lasts about 8 seconds before the competitor is thrown off of the animal. 
Not many people have what it takes to compete in this sport. It takes a lot of strength, skill and a large amount of dare-devil to a rodeo performer. Therefore participation is very limited, much like racing. But, as a spectator sport, it is very popular. 
CBS Sports Network televises bull riding several times per week. 
Boating- Number 19
Much like bicycling, boating is mostly an activity. Millions of Americans enjoy summertime by getting out on their boats and skiing or fishing or sometimes just taking a ride out on the lake or ocean. Boating is often a sign of affluence. People with money like to spend it on their boats. Many of these boats are so luxurious that one can actually live in it. Living on a boat is many people’s idea of an ideal retirement.
Boating is also often times done as a sport. The America’s Cup is awarded to the champion sailboat racers every four years. It is competitive yachting most prestigious trophy. 
Powerboat racing is also a very popular sport with speedboats racing each other at speeds approaching that of a race car. As one can imagine, that is a very harrowing sport. One wave and it could be all over for the boats and its driver. 
Bowling- Number 20
Bowling is a sport that nearly every American has tried at one time or another. The game is played by rolling a heavy ball down a wooden lane at 10 wooden pins. The object is to knock down as many pins as possible, preferably on the first attempt. The bowler is allotted two attempts per frame to knock as many down as possible. Once a bowler becomes proficient, he or she will be able to knock all ten down on the first attempt most of the time. It is rare that a good bowler doesn’t get all ten down in two attempts. These “open frames” often determine the outcome of games. 
The PBA is the Pro Bowler’s Tour in which the best players in the world compete for prize money and sponsorships, often on television. 
Earl Anthony, Dick Webber, and Pete Webber are among the most famous bowlers in the world. 
A 300 game is a perfect score. It is achieved by going a perfect 12 strikes in a row in one game. These games are a rarity even among the pros. estimates that 47% of girls and 48% of boys 6-17 have participated in bowling. 
Paint Ball- 
Paint ball is a new sport in which guns that shoot pain filled pellets are used to shoot competitors. The game is a game in which teams are in a quasi-military scenario where they try to shoot the opposing team’s players. If a hit is made, the pain pellet explodes on the hit player at which time he is out of the game. 
The team with the last players standing with a player with no players hit is the winner. 
Some complain that the sport encourages gun violence while others would argue that the sport gives young people an alternative to guns in a game where nobody is actually hurt, yet the thrill of the battle is real.
Roller Derby- 
Roller Derby is a team sport in which skaters compete in a team race around an oval track. In this sport, it is part of the game to knock opponents down or off the track to prevent them from completing laps. The sport is very violent and in many cases, like wrestling, the outcome is scripted. 
Roller derby is often most popular when attractive females participate in a scripted event. They are often scantily clad and appear to be fighting when in actuality it is all acting. The sport is still a popular one although it reached its peak back in the 1960s when it was a big televised event. 
Free Running (Parkour)- 
Parkour is a sport of extremely fit individuals running an obstacle course that requires running, climbing jumping, etc. If you’ve ever watched a chase scene on a police show or perhaps the video that the rock band “Three Doors Down” made a few years ago called “Not My Time”, then you get the idea. If you have not seen the video, here is a link to it.
The athletes that do this are amazingly agile to do what they do. As this sport catches on, look for this to become a big sport in the future. Any sport that requires great athletic skill such as parkour has a great chance to succeed. People want to watch athletes do things that few can do. This certainly qualifies. 
The Facebook page for Parkour has over 16,000 “likes” so far and is growing. The sport was created in the late 1980s by David and Raymond Belle. Throughout the early 1990s and up into the 2000s, many ads and TV shows have featured Parkour athletes. 
Tricking is part gymnastics floor routine and part martial arts. The athletes use a dizzying display of flips, spins, kicks, and twists, in a high speed gymnastics routine.
As you can see in this video, this sport requires amazing quickness and agility. One would think an athlete is this sport should be a very good kick boxer or gymnast. This sport looks like it may be on the fast track to becoming an Olympic sport in the future. With the growing popularity of martial arts and the tradition of Olympic gymnastics, it would seem to be a natural fit.
Tricking as a sport is very young. It has only been around since the early 2000s.
As you can see, it is a very exciting sport. The athletes in this sport often find themselves in movies where they participate in fight scenes. 
Extreme Break Dancing- 
Many of you may be too young to remember Break Dancing as it became a national and even worldwide dance craze. The style was made popular by urban youth in the days of portable “boom boxes” where dancers used many spinning types moves which utilized athletic skill and quickness as well as rhythm. In the early days of MTV in the 1980s, break dancing became hugely popular. It was featured in countless commercials, TV shows and movies such as “Footloose”
The Author of this article James Folsom, is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and has lived his entire life in Central Florida. He is a big fan of the Florida Gators, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Orlando Magic. He's been a sports journalist since 2008, writing for several prestigious publications, online and in print.
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