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19 Sports Idioms You Need To Know For Work

Whether you’re sporty or not, sports idioms are extremely common in the business world. Here are some of the most common ones. Check out the meanings and examples and start using them both at work and in your everyday life and download our free guide with 70+ idioms you need to know for work.

1) Let’s get the ball rolling!

Meaning: Let’s start!

Sport: Soccer


  • Let’s get the ball rolling and start with the list!
  • Who would like to get the ball rolling? (=Who would like to have the first word?)

2) A game changer

Meaning: A new idea or event that makes a significant change in the way things are done.

Sport: Any sport


  • The new parking system is a game changer.
  • When it comes to transport, the invention of the wheel was a real game changer.

3) To be on the ball

Meaning: To be aware and quick to take action.

Sport: Soccer or baseball


  • I didn’t sleep well last night, and I’m not really on the ball today.
  • The new candidate has to be someone who is really on the ball.

4) To know the score

Meaning: To understand and accept the reality of the situation, or to know the facts.

Sport: Any sport


  • I know the score -my job could be easily replaced in the future by Artificial Intelligence.
  • You know the score, we can’t afford a big house right now.

5) To get a kick out of something

Meaning: To get a feeling of enjoyment, amusement or excitement from something.

Sport: Soccer (presumably)


  • I always get a kick out of watching stand-up comedy.
  • She got a kick out of seeing her book published.

6) To take sides

Meaning: To choose one person or party whom you support, defend or agree with in an argument.

Sport: Any sport


  • The argument has nothing to do with me, so I refuse to take sides.
  • When they passed the new law, the citizens were quick to takes sides.

7) To watch from the sidelines

Meaning: To be in a position where you are not directly involved.

Sport: Any sport


  • Every time I am in trouble, you never support me. You just watch from the sidelines!
  • The Government should start doing something, they can’t continue to watch from the sidelines.

8) To score an own goal

Meaning: Something that you do that gives you disadvantage and helps someone else.

Sport: Soccer


  • Their speech was supposed to get them more supporters, but they actually scored an own goal once they started ranting off-topic.
  • The president thought the new law would be beneficial for his party, but it has generated such strong opposition, that it has become an own goal.

9) To move the goalposts

Meaning: To unfairly change the rules or conditions of a procedure during its course.

Sport: Soccer


  • You always do the same. As soon as I start winning the argument, you just move the goalposts on the whole thing!
  • Every time I meet the required conditions, they seem to move the goalposts.

10) At this stage of the game

Meaning: At this point, or at a certain point in a process.

Sport: Any sport


  • There is nothing we can do at this stage of the game, we should have started before.
  • I’m not sure we’re ready to launch the product at this stage of the game.

11) A whole new ballgame

Meaning: A completely different situation, often one that is difficult or that you know little about.

Sport: Baseball (presumably)


  • We’d done a lot of small in-person events but that massive convention was a whole new ballgame.
  • We feel confident in European countries, but the United States is a while new ballgame.

12) To throw in the towel

Meaning: To quit in defeat.

Sport: Boxing, where a fighter indicates surrender by throwing a towel into the ring.


  • He was fired, but he never threw in the towel and ended up getting a great job.
  • I know perfecting your English is hard, but don’t throw in the towel. It will be worth it.

13) To touch base

Meaning: To make quick contact with someone.

Sport: Baseball


  • I just wanted to touch base and make sure you hadn’t changed your mind about seeing me.
  • I just wanted to quickly touch base with you: did you get an email from my secretary about the meeting?

14) The ball is in your court

Meaning: It’s your turn to make a decision or do something.

Sport: Tennis


  • I’ve done what I can. Now the ball is in your court.
  • Everybody in this company will support you if you decide to move to another country but the ball is in your court if you decide to change your mind at the last minute.
  • I’ve already told you that Talaera is a super cool option to learn English, but now the ball is in your court.

15) To call the shots

Meaning: To make the decisions.

Sport: Billiards


  • While the CEO is on maternity leave, Anna will call the shots.
  • I fully trust your judgement -you can call the shots here.

16) It’s a long shot

Meaning: An attempt or guess with very small chance of succeeding or being accurate.

Sport: Basketball or golf


  • I know it’s a long shot, because there are many candidates, but I’m going to apply for the manager’s job.
  • It’s a long shot, but well worth trying.

17) Front runner

Meaning: The person that is leading in a race or other competition and is expected to win.

Sport: Track


  • Don’t say anything, but you are a front runner for the new regional manager position.
  • She’s the front runner for the presidential nomination.

18) (Hit) below the belt

Meaning: To do or say something that is unfair or cruel.

Sport: Boxing; martial arts


  • He’s usually a great negotiator, but those comments hit below the belt.
  • Their lawyers are ruthless; they always hit below the belt.

19) Out of someone’s league

Meaning: Someone or something is too good or expensive for someone to have.

Sport: Any sport


  • Becoming their global partners would be a dream come true, but they’re out of our league.
  • In the advanced English class I felt completely out of my league but the upper intermediate class has been perfect.

Are we missing any? Tell us in the comments.

Keep improving your business English

At this stage of the game, we know the score – it’s easier to just watch from the sidelines and do nothing, but seriously, we always get a kick out of seeing your comments and likes on LinkedIn, so get the ball rolling and pay us a visit!

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The 70+ Idioms You Should Know - Talaera

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