Around the world, hundreds of thousands of athletes compete in domestic and international leagues. Many rotate from representing their club to competing on national teams in the events like the Olympics. In fact, this year’s Tokyo Olympics saw over 11,500 athletes fly in from around the world in hopes of winning a gold medal.
According to Spanish publication Marca, over 115 million viewers watched the games from around the globe. Clearly, there’s plenty of interest in seeing how the world’s greatest athletes stack up—even if those watching from their couch won’t be going pro in their favorite sport anytime soon.
Despite razor-thin odds that a sports fan will someday become a professional athlete, that doesn’t stop countless fans from pursuing sports as a hobby. With the advent of mobile technology, there have never been more ways to interact with a favorite sport, team, or athlete.
Ready to try something new, whether related to your favorite sport or in an entirely different lane? Here are the top ten ways to get involved without hiring a personal trainer and attempting to go pro yourself.
Fantasy Leagues & DFS
Fantasy leagues are one of the most common ways for fans to get closer to their favorite league. Traditionally, fantasy leagues run tandem to the real league, letting fans build a fantasy team and see how it performs as live stats from real games are announced.
DFS is a condensed, day-long version of the action. It combines elements of sports betting, as there are payouts for daily contests. Many sportsbooks also offer DFS. For example, one FanDuel sportsbook review highlights the mobile app’s popularity, which also works for their DFS services.
Start a Co-Ed Team
Playing in local leagues can be about developing skills—or it could be about making new friends. In places like the US and Canada, co-ed teams are a popular way for adults to get exercise and spend time with friends. Players are usually at a wide range of skill levels, meaning co-ed leagues are all about building relationships based on a shared sporting interest.
Organize a Fan Club
Unsurprisingly, football has the greatest number of fans and fan clubs than any other sport in the world. Some of these clubs are based on team loyalty, while others are hyper-specific. For example, football club Manchester United has 262 registered support groups in 89 countries.
Starting a fan club, whether virtual or in-person, is a great way to create a unique fan experience. Some groups get together after big games to break down the action, while others might instead create kitschy collectibles, like hand-crocheted puppets of their favorite players.
Get Into Collectibles
Recently, the NBA launched its own NFT collectibles called Top Shot. The service lets users buy and trade digital trading cards with top moments from basketball history. Though local fans won’t have the time or technology to do the same, there are plenty of ways to participate with collectorship.
The easiest way is to keep a lookout for special deals from clubs. Usually, anniversaries or great season records are enough for a special line to come out.
Fantasy leagues give sports fans the chance to put themselves into the position of head coaches and team officials. However, some fans prefer to player GM games (General Manager) on mobile devices. Fantasy leagues are bound to live results from a league, but GM games are often simulated.
Games like Football Manager, Motorship Manager, and Cricket Captain let users slide into the shoes of upper management to lead their team to victory. With a range of modes available, the action never ends.
Attend Live Games
Clearly, sports fans prioritize attending live matches. But for fans of international leagues or mega-popular clubs, finding tickets can be impossible. Many fans instead choose to support a local team from a minor league. Tickets are cheaper, crowds tend to be thinner, and there’s still plenty of excitement to sink their teeth into.
Follow an Athlete or Club
Following a favorite player or club via social media is often one of the most unique ways to get closer to a sport. Many athletes hire publicity groups to curate their feeds, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t heartfelt peeks into the lives of top athletes, which shed light on their lifestyle and priorities.
Another way to get closer to the action is to subscribe to a club’s newsletter. Some clubs will provide exclusive content or offers to subscribers who regularly support them. In some cases, clubs will provide breaking news to their followers first.
Watch a New Sport
This year’s Tokyo Olympics coverage highlighted interest in a new range of sports and breakout stars. For example, new offerings like skateboarding and speed climbing spread across news sites around the world. Meanwhile, classics like track and field and swimming commanded large viewing audiences.
Clearly, there’s curiosity in viewing new or fringe sports. Branching out to watch major events in a new wheelhouse can be a rewarding experience that diversifies a sports fan’s interests.
Try a VR Version
The Nintendo Wii is as close to virtual sports simulations as many will get. Though VR is becoming more popular, accessing headsets and gaming consoles can be costly. However, some stadiums are now providing VR experiences for attendees, which are placed in booths and kiosks around the grounds.
Those who aren’t able to catch live games aren’t out of luck. Some leagues, like the NHL and NBA, provide unique VR experiences on their websites. To dive in, all a viewer needs are VR-ready goggles, whether cardboard or state-of-the-art.
Check out the Classics
Most sports have a long and storied history, and many fans are accustomed to hearing tales from older generations about star players and major wins. Those looking to dive deeper into their favorite team and figure out what all the hype is about can typically access older games online.
At the moment, many leagues (and clubs) are looking to preserve and highlight their histories. As more and more antiquated games and highlight reels are available online, there’s a nearly endless amount of content for fans to uncover.