Magoosh English Class: Introduction to Sports in America

Overhead shot of different sports equipment representing different American sports

Buckle up for our second series of free English classes! This is the first lesson in our Sports in America series. Get ready to learn more about American sports, including the history, terminology, and types of sports you’ll find in the United States.

Goals:

  • Learn how to speak about sports
  • Learn new sports-related vocabulary
  • Learn how to use the adverbs to begin a sentence
  • Discover interesting facts about sports in America

Difficulty Level:

Intermediate

Time:

Approximately 15 minutes

Sports in America

Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.

Sports are a fun pastime around the world, but they take on a special significance in the United States. From baseball in the spring and summer to football in the fall and winter, America loves to watch sports year-round. Additionally, Americans love basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, and a number of other fun and entertaining spectator sports!

Americans don’t just like to cheer their teams on from the sidelines, either. Nearly 20% of Americans participate in sports or some other form of physical activity every day. Despite its reputation as an obese nation, America does like to stay fit with the help of sports! Even those who are 65 or older often participate in low-impact sports and workouts like aerobics, golf, cycling, jogging, and aquatic activities.

However, America is also the perfect place for fans of high-intensity contact sports. One of the most brutal and popular sports in the United States is American football. Players must wear helmets and thick padding to avoid concussions or other serious injuries. Despite the risks involved, millions of viewers tune in each week to watch professional football teams compete to appear in the biggest game of the season—the Super Bowl!

While the NFL (National Football League), NBA (National Basketball Association), and MLB (Major League Baseball) are the three most popular sports leagues, there are plenty of non-professional sports teams that get a lot of attention as well.

In fact, the United States is one of the few countries in the world where college sports are just as popular as the professional ones! You can turn on the TV on any given day and watch your favorite collegiate teams compete in football, baseball, basketball, and more! Watch this clip to get a better idea why Americans go crazy for college sports.

Finally, America has a lot more to offer than the major sports you see on TV. Plenty of recreational sports have niche appeal, while still allowing the athletes to showcase their impressive strength, skills, and dexterity. For example, many hardcore American athletes participate in triathlons, which combine the sports of running, cycling, and swimming into one intense competition!

Here’s a great video on sports vocabulary you’ll need to learn to understand sports in America.

Word Focus

Let’s take a closer look at some important vocabulary from the passage:

  • Pastime – (noun) – A hobby or activity that is entertaining.
    • Baseball is considered to be America’s favorite pastime.
  • Spectator sport – (noun) – A sport that many people like to watch.
    • Soccer is the most popular spectator sport in the world.
  • Sideline – (noun) – The side or boundary of a sports field.
    • Thousands of cheering fans gathered along the sidelines.
  • Obese – (adjective) – Extremely overweight, with a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher.
    • Regular exercise can help obese individuals lose weight.
  • Low-impact sport – (noun) – A sport that does not put significant pressure on the body, particularly the knees, hips, ankles, and elbows.
    • My father only plays low-impact sports since he broke his hip.
  • Aerobics – (noun) – Exercises designed to improve cardiovascular health.
    • I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to build a lot of muscle; that’s why I joined an aerobics class.
  • Aquatic – (adjective) – Related to water; sports played in the water.
    • My friend prefers aquatic sports like water polo.
  • Contact sport – (noun) – A sport in which there is strong physical contact between players.
    • Contact sports like football have a high rate of serious injuries.
  • Brutal – (adjective) – Violent, rough, or harsh.
    • The player was knocked unconscious by a brutal tackle.
  • Concussion – (noun) – A minor brain injury, usually caused by an object colliding with the head.
    • Though the player felt dizzy, he did not suffer a head concussion.
  • Tune in – (transitive verb) – To watch or listen to a specific event via television, radio, video stream, etc.
    • Millions of viewers will tune in to the big game next week.
  • Recreational sport – (noun) – Competitive sports that are played for fun; non-professional sports.
    • I had a lot of free time in college, so I played recreational sports with my friends.
  • Niche – (adjective) – Having the interest of a small or particular group of people.
    • While hang gliding is fun, it is still a niche activity that hasn’t achieved mainstream popularity.
  • Dexterity – (noun) – The ability to perform tasks (usually physical).
    • He doesn’t have the dexterity to play baseball at the professional level.
  • Hardcore – (adjective) – Extremely committed or passionate.
    • I am a hardcore soccer fan.
  • Triathlon – A long-distance competition consisting of running, swimming, and cycling.
    • You’ll need to train for at least a year before signing up for a triathlon.

Grammar Center

Take a look at the following sentences from the passage:

  1. Additionally, Americans love basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, and a number of other fun and entertaining spectator sports!
  2. However, America is also the perfect place for fans of high-intensity contact sports.
  3. Finally, America has a lot more to offer than the major sports you see on TV.

Do you notice any similarities? All three of these sentences begin with an adverb. Starting a sentence or independent clause with an adverb allows you to connect two or more ideas. However, the kind of adverb you use will depend on the idea you want to express.

Here are a few common adverbs and how they are used:

  • However, but – These words introduce an opposing statement or idea.
    • Football is fun to watch; however, it is very dangerous to play.
  • Additionally, moreover, also – These words introduce new, relevant information that complements the original idea.
    • My sister plays basketball in her free time. Additionally, she enjoys several other competitive sports.
  • Unfortunately, sadly – These words introduce an idea that is sad or upsetting.
    • My dad played professional football. Unfortunately, he had to stop playing when he injured his knee.
  • Frequently, usually, generally – These words introduce a related idea that happens regularly or often.
    • The fans don’t like the coach. Usually, they will yell when he walks onto the field.
  • Finally, ultimately, lastly – These words introduce the conclusion or final idea in a sequence.
    • I woke up this morning and I went to work. Then, I came home to eat dinner. Finally, I went to the park to play basketball with my friends.

*Note: Adverbs at the beginning of a sentence or independent clause must be followed by a comma.

Quiz

Now, let’s look at a few questions to review the passage, vocabulary, and grammar:

  1. Which of the following is considered a contact sport?A. TennisB. Football (American)

    C. Golf

    D. Cycling

  2. How many different sports are involved in a triathlon?A. 1B. 2

    C. 3

    D. 4

  3. What does “NBA” stand for?A. National Baseball AssociationB. Nation’s Best Athletes

    C. Northern Basketball Athletics

    D. National Basketball Association

  4. You can tune in to which of the following?A. A good bookB. A board game

    C. A radio program

    D. A video game

  5. Fill in the blank: I love to watch basketball on TV. _______, none of my friends like to watch the games with me.A. UnfortunatelyB. Additionally

    C. Finally

    D. Moreover

  6. Fill in the blank: This morning, I ate breakfast. Then, I did a few chores around the house. _____, I left for work.A. HoweverB. Frequently

    C. Unfortunately

    D. Finally

Show Correct Answers:
  1. B
  2. C
  3. D
  4. C
  5. A
  6. D
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