Famous writers and the sports they played

The Olympic Games in Rio can inspire many writing pros to flex their muscles. See if these authors’ feats of athleticism can motivate you to move.


Inspired by the Olympics and the daily displays of athleticism and achievement, I began wondering what sports (if any) some of my favorite authors played.

I made quite a few surprising discoveries.

Jane Austen

As a woman of the regency era, Jane Austen “was not expected to unduly exert herself while exercising.” Swinging, playing hoops, seesawing, archery and bowls and nine pins were the “acceptable” sports and were the ones she most likely would have played.

(Source: Regency Ladies at Play)

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Agatha Christie

While living in South Africa, Christie was introduced to surfing. “It was occasionally painful as you took a nosedive down into the sand, but on the whole it was an easy sport and great fun,” she said. She became adept at the sport and surfed along the coasts of Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

(Source: Agatha Christie’s surfing secret revealed)

Ronald Dahl

At 6-foot-6, Dahl played football, boxed in the heavyweight division and was captain of the fives and squash teams at his secondary school.

(Source: https://kidskonnect.com/people/roald-dahl/)

Charles Dickens

Dickens reportedly described himself “no great sportsman,” but his daughter Mamie—in her book “My Father As I Recall Him”said he had a “passion” for the sports he played. Those sports were bar-leaping, bowling and quoits.

(Source: The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens)

Arthur Conan Doyle

After moving to Switzerland, Doyle learned to ski and helped popularize the sport. He described it as “getting as near to flying as any earthbound man can. In that glorious air it is a delightful experience.”

When he was living in the U.K., Doyle also played goalie for an amateur soccer team.

(Source: Arthur Conan Doyle: 19 things you didn’t know)

Jack Kerouac

Kerouac ran track and played baseball, but he excelled at football. He received a football scholarship to Columbia University, but a tibia injury in his second season ended his football career.

(Source: Jack Kerouac Biography)

Stephen King

According to Wikipedia, Stephen King is a fan of baseball, especially the Boston Red Sox. He attends their games and occasionally mentions the team in his writing. In 2009, he threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. He also coached his son’s Little League team.

George Orwell

George Orwell never played a competitive sport, but he expressed very strong views on the subject in his 1941 essay “The Sporting Sprit.” He wrote: “Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play, it is bound up with hatred and jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all the rules and sadistic pleasure in unnecessary violence. In other words it is war minus the shooting.”

J.K. Rowling

The inspiration for Quidditch in her Harry Potter novels came from basketball. In an interview with Amazon she said, “I wanted a sport for wizards, and I’d always wanted to see a game where there was more than one ball in play at the same time. The idea just amused me. The Muggle sport it most resembles is basketball, which is probably the sport I enjoy watching most.”

(Source: Poof! 5 Little Known Facts About How J.K. Rowling Brought Harry Potter to Life.)

William Shakespeare

Several popular Elizabethan sports are mentioned in his plays: archery, bear-baiting, billiards, bowling and fencing. It’s unclear, though, which of those he played.

“The fact that Shakespeare mentions nearly fifty different games and sports in the plays does not mean that he was a folklorist or a specialist in games. … Nor is it necessary to assume that he was a sports enthusiast. No doubt he did participate in some, perhaps all, of the games and sports mentioned.”

(Source: Games and Sports in Shakespeare)

JRR Tolkien

Tolkien was a lifelong tennis player, and it was a tennis injury at age 40 that led him to begin writing his famous fantasy series. He was “confined to his rooms with an ankle injury. Thus marooned, with nothing better to do, Tolkien started sketching out ideas for ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings .‘”

(Source: ” Out With Tennis Injury, Tolkien Wrote Hobbit “)

PR Daily readers, what sports do your favorite writers play?

Laura Hale Brockway is writer and editor from Austin, Texas. She is also the author of the writing/editing/random-thoughts blog, Impertinent Remarks.

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