For the sport comprising cross country, road running and track and field, see Sport of athletics. For other uses, see Athletics (disambiguation).

Athletics is a term encompassing the human competitive sports and games requiring physical skill, and the systems of training that prepare athletes for competition performance, Athletic sports or contests are competitions which are primarily based on human, physical competition, demanding the qualities of stamina, fitness, and skill. Athletic sports form the bulk of popular sporting activities, with other major forms including motorsports, precision sports, extreme sports and animal sports.

Athletic contests, as one of the earliest types of sport, are prehistoric and comprised a significant part of the Ancient Olympic Games, along with equestrian events.The word “athletic” is derived from the Ancient Greek word άθλος (athlos) meaning “contest.” Athletic sports became organized in the late 19th century with the formation of organizations such as the Amateur Athletic Union in the United States and the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques in France. The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (later the NCAA) was established in 1906 to oversee athletic sports at college-level in the United States, known as college athletics.

Athletics has gained significant importance at educational institutions; talented athletes may gain entry into higher education through athletic scholarships and represent their institutions in athletic conferences. Since the Industrial Revolution, people in the developed world have adopted an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. As a result athletics now plays a significant part in providing routine physical exercise. Athletic clubs worldwide offer athletic training facilities for multitudes of sports and games.

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