List of US states that claim official sport

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The diversity of people and cultures is part of what makes the United States of America such a wonderful nation. America’s vast geographic landscape translates into many different symbols and cultural identifiers for each of the 50 United States. While many are familiar with official state markers such as flags, slogans, birds, and even flowers, it may be surprising to learn that several US states also claim official sport.

The inspiration for this article actually comes from my personal life. Over the past couple of months, I’ve done quite a bit of research on a few different cities and states as I prepare to relocate in the upcoming New Year. After reading in depth the rich history of a state’s unique “official sport”, my curiosity peaked.

So, I set out to compile a list of official state sports for all US states that claim one. Readers might be surprised to learn that less than half of the 50 states actually have a designated state sport. Even more surprising is the fact that a handful of those who claim an official state sport actually list more than one! I hope you enjoy reading this fun little article as much as I did putting it together. If you’re like me, you’ll definitely learn a thing or two too!

Credit: World Atlas

List of official state sports

Note: The list is organized in chronological order from old to new based on when each state recognized its first official state sport.

Maryland – Free State

Sports: Jousting; The Crosse
Years of recognition: 1962; 2004
Official designations: State sport; State team sport

Talk about an appropriate sport to be the first recognized as an official state sport. Jousting dates back to medieval times, of course, and have been a part of Maryland sporting life since the colony’s founding before the War of Independence. Today, the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association still hosts regular competitions throughout the year. The state also hosts the annual National Jousting Championship in Brunswick.

Maryland would later recognize lacrosse as the state’s official team sport in 2004. College Park and Baltimore have teamed up to host the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship 17 times.

Credit: Explore Fairbanks AK

Alaska – The Last Frontier

Sport: Mushing
Recognition year: 1972
Official designation: Sporting State

Despite being one of the last to be recognized as a U.S. state, Alaska was quick to recognize mushing as its official state sport. Throughout history, dog sledding was more than just a recreational activity. For many Alaskans, it was a vital form of transportation before the state developed a road network. Today Alaska hosts the North American Open Championships each spring. Dog sledding is also a popular activity among visitors to the state.

Michigan – Wolverine State

Sport: Wakeboard
Recognition year: 1972
Official designation: Sporting State

Michigan certainly has one of the most unique state sports when it comes to wakeboarding. Considering Michigan’s location in the Great Lakes region, this certainly does the trick. The Michigan Waterski Association even hosts sanctioned competitive events in what’s known as the National Wakeboard League (NWL). If you’ve never tried wakeboarding, let me be the first to tell you a lot harder than it looks!

Hawaii – Aloha State

Sports: Outrigger canoe; Surfing
Years of recognition: 1986; 1998
Official designations: State team sport; State Individual Sport

The 50th state also wasted no time adopting not one but two official state sports. The outrigger canoe paddle differs from other forms of canoe by side floats (called outriggers) which are attached to the hull of the boat.

12 years after Hawaii made outdoor canoeing its official team sport, surfing has rightly been adopted as the state’s official individual sport.

Credit: C&I Magazine

Texas – Lone Star State

Sport: Rodeo
Recognition year: 1997
Official designation: Sporting State

Texas’ decision to recognize rodeo as its official state sport certainly matches the personality of Lone Star State. It also made Texas the first state to claim rodeo as its own (as we’ll see later, others eventually followed suit). What some may not know is that rodeo competitions are actually made up of a variety of skills ranging from horseback riding to roping.

New Hampshire – Granite State

Sport: Ski
Recognition year: 1998
Official designation: Sporting State

New Hampshire was the last state to declare an official sport before the turn of the century. Skiing is appropriate given that New Hampshire has 19 ski resorts in total. Most are located within a 30-minute drive of each other, making it a great place for skiers who like to explore multiple terrains.

South Dakota – Mount Rushmore State

Sport: Rodeo
Recognition year: 2003
Official designation: Sporting State

Six years after Texas adopted rodeo as a state sport, South Dakota has followed suit. A sport grounded in the working skills of 19th-century American cowboys certainly holds an important place in the history of this Midwestern state. The South Dakota Rodeo Association (SDRA) was founded in 1955 and hosts several competitions each year.

Wyoming – State of Equality

Sport: Rodeo
Recognition year: 2003
Official designation: Sporting State

Oddly enough, Wyoming adopted rodeo as its official state sport in the same year as South Dakota. The Jackson Hole Rodeo is by far the most popular rodeo event in the state, spanning its history spanning more than 100 years. Of course, the rodeo was an essential part of the working life of Wyoming cowboys who were among the early settlers in the state.

Massachusetts – Bay State

Sports: Basketball; Volleyball
Years of recognition: 2006; 2014
Official designations: Commonwealth Sport; Commonwealth Recreational and Team Sport

With the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame located in Springfield, the sport was an obvious choice to represent Massachusetts. Of course, the Boston Celtics are an important part of the state’s rich basketball history as well.

While basketball is recognized as the official sport of the state of Massachusetts, volleyball was added as a recreational / team sport in 2014. The Northeast Women’s College Volleyball Program has become one of the best in the country.

Minnesota Secretary of State

Minnesota – North Star State

Sport: Ice Hockey
Recognition year: 2009
Official designation: Sporting State

Minnesota’s geographic location and proximity to Canada, the birthplace of ice hockey, make it an appropriate selection for its official state sport. The success of various college hockey programs in recent years is undeniable. Knowing that hockey is Minnesota’s state sport, the move of the NHL franchise formerly known as the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas becomes all the more curious.

North Carolina – Tar Heel State

Sport: Stock car races
Recognition year: 2011
Official designation: Sporting State

Although NASCAR has its roots in Daytona Beach, Florida, the city of Charlotte has become the hub of the sport over time. The prestigious Coca-Cola 600 is staged every Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. North Carolina is also home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and home to the vast majority of racing teams.

Credit: Marty France – CopperArea.com

Colorado – Centennial State

Sport: Burro Racing Pack
Recognition year: 2012
Official designation: Summer heritage sport

The sport of burro pack racing was founded in Colorado and is deeply rooted in the state’s mining heritage. The sport consists of a runner and a burro who travel together a prescribed course. Unlike horse racing, it is forbidden to ride on pack burros. Instead, runners lead the burros by a rope, running alongside them. The burros carry a bag containing 33 pounds of mining equipment along the road.

Delaware – First State

Sport: Ride a bike
Recognition year: 2014
Official designation: Sporting State

When it comes to America’s best states for biking, Delaware is hard to beat. The First State has a statewide bicycle lane system just like any other state today has extensive freeway roads. From various state parks to miles of coastal ocean trails, Delaware cycling enthusiasts can take in spectacular scenery.

Credit: TheTravel.com

California – Golden State

Sport: Surfing
Recognition year: 2018
Official designation: Sporting State

From top to bottom of the huge state of California, the beaches are teeming with surfers. While most people automatically associate surfing with the SoCal regions of San Diego and Los Angeles, the sport is also very popular on the beaches of Northern California. The only additional requirement is a thicker wetsuit to stay warm in colder waters.

New York – Empire State

Sport: Baseball
Recognition year: 2021
Official designation: Sporting State

No Major League Baseball franchise has as much history and lineage as the New York Yankees. Add to the fact that Cooperstown is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame and it was a fitting choice to serve as a New York State sport. Rather adorable, the bill recognizing baseball as a state sport was brought to lawmakers in New York City by the Grade 4 class at Cooperstown Elementary School.


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