Those activities known as “alternative sports” fall into various subheadings. Some are oriented toward play, self-challenge, risk-taking, or social affiliations. Others are associated with distinct nations or specific subcultures—groups of people whose identities and values contradict those of the mainstream society. Despite the various types of alternative sports, they are typically played by a small group of people, relative to the number of people who play and watch mainstream sports such as association and gridiron football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and cricket worldwide. Alternative sports are played by athletes whose focus is on participation, not passive consumption. People interested in skateboarding, ultimate, power kiting, mountaineering, and capoeira are more likely to engage in the activity than to watch it. These five sports and physical activities differ in many ways from those team sports regularly seen on television and taught in schools.
These alternative-sport subcultures are in fact not separate or counter to hegemonic society. The participants choose to accept some aspects of the dominant social value system when it suits them and reject others when it does not fit with their beliefs. The structures, spaces, and communities surrounding alternative sport rely on mainstream sport for their definition. The proliferation of alternative sports can be accounted for by advancements in technology, individual creativity, international migration, and capitalist markets. People will constantly seek out novel ways to use their bodies, and once those ways become mainstream, a new distraction will be discovered, invented, or appropriated.