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10 Common Sports Idioms for the ESL Class


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  1. 1

    To do an end run around

    — American football; when a player goes around a teammate to score instead of passing the ball.

    Idiomatic Meaning: To leave a key person out of a process.

  2. 2

    To hit it out of the ballpark

    — baseball; a ball that is hit out of the ballpark will allow everyone on base to score.

    Idiomatic Meaning: to meet a goal more than was expected.

  3. 3

    A slam dunk

    — basketball. To score in one shot by evading blocking to shoot the ball through the hoop.

    Idiomatic Meaning: to meet a goal easily and without opposition.

  4. 4

    Out in left field

    — baseball. Left field is “out,” where the game is not played and no scores made.

    Idiomatic Meaning: A person who is out in left field makes off-topic or outlandish remarks, that don’t seem part of the “game.”

  5. 5

    The home stretch

    — baseball, the very last part of the game at the end of the ninth inning.

    Idiomatic meaning: The “homestretch” of a project is the final phase.

  6. 6

    To strike out

    — baseball. A player who swings at a ball three times and does not hit it properly strikes out and must go to the end of the line.

    Idiomatic Meaning: To strike out in a business deal is to fail after trying.

  7. 7

    To not get to first base

    — baseball. A player who strikes out cannot go to first base to attempt to score but must go to the end of the line.

    Idiomatic Meaning: To try at a venture or project but fail to even complete the first stage.

  8. 8

    A home run

    — baseball. To run around the plates to home plate and score.

    Idiomatic Meaning: a big success.

  9. 9

    To pass the ball

    — American football and basketball. To hand off the ball to a teammate rather than trying to score oneself.

    Idiomatic Meaning: To give a task, usually undesirable, to a colleague.

  10. 10

    To drop the ball

    — American football. Accidentally dropping the ball allows the other team the possibility of scoring.

    Idiomatic Meaning: To make a serious mistake, usually through inattention or carelessness, that affects a whole team or group.