7 Sports where height matters

7 Sports where height matters

Authored by Mary
Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 14:00

If you've ever sat down to watch the Olympics or the Winter Olympics and wondered if you'd be any good at the sports on display, one thing you may not have considered is how much height affects the athletes and their abilities.

Sporting Abilities

For many sports, athletic ability and dedication is the main factor, but there are few sports where the top athletes in their group are all within a relative height of each other, usually on the higher height percentile or on, the shorter height percentile to the rest of the population.

If you're not thinking of going into a sport to be a professional, it probably won't matter too much about your height, but if you are, it's definitely something to consider.

Here are seven sports where height matters and how tall or short the top athletes usually are.

Horse Riding

Horse riding is probably one of the most famous sports that is affected by the height of the rider and general, especially in horse racing, smaller riders are usually proffered.

This isn't something that correlates across to other horse-related sports such as polo or dressage, but for sports like racing and showjumping, smaller riders that are shorter and lighter are usually preferred and give a competitive advantage over their competitors.


Right on the other end of the spectrum, basketball is a sport where all of the top professional players are very tall!

The advantage here comes from taller players being closer to the basket, which gives them a competitive advantage when it comes to getting the ball down the court and scoring.

Just for comparison, the average man is around 5'9" tall, whereas the average professional basketball player is a full 8 inches taller at 6'6"!


Swimming may not be a sport that springs to mind when you're thinking about height, but professional swimmers actually tend to be on the taller side of life, but the best swimmers are usually those with longer arms and legs and bigger feet!

Of course, anyone can learn to swim and be good at swimming, and there are plenty of professional swimmers in the Paralympics who are not tall, but the average professional swimmer does tend to be long and lean.


Gymnastics is a popular sport for children to learn at school in gym class and as part of after school extracurricular clubs; it's also become quite a popular post for adults to take up as gymnastics focusses on whole-body conditioning, improving strength and resilience as well as flexibility and it's great for toning the body.

While it may be hard to tell on the TV when watching the Olympics, professional gymnastics do tend to be smaller and lighter than the average person. There are many reasons behind this, but the prevailing theory is that having a smaller body to strength ratio is a huge benefit to professional gymnastics, which has meant that the average professional gymnast is around 5'2" or under.

As a side note, many professional gymnasts don't continue the sport far into adulthood, with the average professional gymnast actually taking retirement at 18.


Soccer players come in all shapes and sizes, and the popularity of the sport across the world means that people from all backgrounds, of all shapes and all heights, will play and enjoy football.

To be a professional soccer player, athletes need to have great endurance, be physically strong, and fast. Soccer players are usually light on their feet and very nimble too.

For most soccer positions, an average height of 5'11" is usually preferred, but goaltenders do tend to be a lot taller with especially longer arms.


Athletics covers a wide variety of sports, but one of the main sports for athletics is running, and if you're on the taller side of life, you may be good at both sprinting and hurdling.

For runners who are doing longer runs, such as cross country and long-distance, height isn't usually much of a consideration, endurance is the main worry, but taller runners are generally proffered across the spectrum; shorter legs are good too.


While it may be hard to believe, most Olympics rowers are actually very tall, mostly over 6 feet for both men and women!

The reason that taller people make better rowers aren't set in stone, but it's most often assumed that rowers who are taller with a longer body and arms ratio make better use of the power and strength to row longer.


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