There exist competitive board games (e.g. Chess, Scrabble, Battleship) and cooperative board games (e.g. Pandemic, Hanabi). It appears to me as all popular sports are competitive in nature (competition among individuals or among teams).

  • Are there sports that are uniquely cooperative?
  • Are there very popular cooperative sports today?
  • Were cooperative sports more popular at some point in our history?
  • Cooperation in professional cycling is not uncommon, where members of different teams work together in breakaways or trade stage wins for other goals, e.g. GC standings.
    – jlb
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 3:14
  • Sure just like cooperation within a soccer team. But I am wondering if there are uniquely cooperative sports just like pandemix is a uniquely cooperative game. The question is inspired from this video (in french) where it is claimed (my translation) several civilizations used to perform sports without competition.
    – Remi.b
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 4:58
  • 2
    Solo sports often foster cooperation since they do not have active competition. Hindering other participants is either unsportsmanlike or prohibited: i.e. marathons are not inherently competitive among the participants. Even though there is a first place winner, no one "loses". I cannot think of a modern popular sport that is purely cooperative like Pandemic where the participants are competing against a situation. interestingly, questions on non-traditional sporting activities like solo sports are often voted as off-topic here. They are not viewed as sports.
    – Val
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 14:22
  • chess is in the same category as battleship and scrabble? hmmm....
    – BCLC
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


Certainly depends on your definition of sports, but...

Are there sports that are uniquely cooperative? YES

I can think of several examples where a team accomplished a goal of sport that was not exclusively against an opponent.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first confirmed climbers of Mt. Everest in 1953enter image description here

Any time a team climbs a mountain, circumnavigates the globe or rows across a body of water - this is a cooperative sport. If you remove the constraint of first or fastest, it becomes non-competitive. (Conversely you could make a game like pandemic competitive by having teams see who can complete it fastest)

For a silly example:

Highest trampoline bounce (team) - You could argue they are competing against the previous record holders, but I'd argue they are competing against gravity.

Are there very popular cooperative sports today? YES

The ones mentioned earlier, but any action sport where teams work together to accomplish a goal - Think endurance sports, group activities that conquer nature, or other team building exercises like Ropes Courses.

Were cooperative sports more popular at some point in our history? HARD TO SAY DEFINITIVELY

Because this is not an established category of sport, it's hard to say that one time period showed more popularity - we can probably say that these types of activities where there is no competition require both time and money - as such these activities were probably limited to the ultra-rich in the past or those that funded such feats. Today people have considerably more leisure time. According to The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Americans appear to be working less. Numerous economic studies suggest that the number of hours that the average American works in a year has fallen by about 550 hours from 1900 to 2005." This suggests that modern people have more time to partake in such activities.

  • 2
    "Edmund Hillary being the prototypical example" of the ultra-rich?! Surely you're joking.
    – Nij
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 3:41
  • 1
    +1 for comment from @Nij. The financing for the 1953 expedition was organized by a british committee with various backers, rather than from the climbers themselves: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Himalayan_Committee
    – Fillet
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 6:35
  • Hillary himself was born to an average rural family, worked like hell to get where he ended up, and was never possessed of notable personal wealth.
    – Nij
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 7:47
  • I've edited this to be more clear and discussed people who fund such projects. Either these things were done in the past by wealthy people or funded by wealthy people. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 22:21

As Bryan mentioned, depends on the definition of 'sport', but some additional candidates:

  • FIRST robotics competitions take what they call "coopertition" as a principle. The games usually involve teams working together to get a high combined score, sometimes distributing the points differently (e.g. a subtask will lead to one team getting 110% of the combined score). These are ultimately competitive, as the games take place within a tournament and the highest scoring teams win the tournament.
  • Certain eSports might be examples, though the ones I can think of that have cooperative elements are also the least likely to qualify as sports (e.g. EVE Online has significant cooperative economic activity, but it isn't really a sport; more sport-like ones like CS:GO and Starcraft have few cooperative elements).

It might be that part of the definition of "sport" is the competitive nature of it. I think something like FIRST's 'coopertition' is the closest you'll get where it still qualifies as a sport.

  • These are not sports for the purpose of topicality here on Sports Stack Exchange, and should not be considered an answer to the question.
    – Nij
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 18:12

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