Sound native when talk about sports

Sports Phrases


Hi everyone! In today’s lesson, we are going to look at Phrasal Verbs talk about sports and fitness!

Playing sports is one of the best ways to get active, be healthy, even get to know new people! And I would know:

I’ve played sports my whole life! American football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, baseball, I’ve done a lot…and I’ve also been a sports coach! Today I will share some of the most essential phrasal verbs when it comes to playing, coaching, or watching sports so you can talk about sports like a native speaker. 🙂


Let’s Start With A Warm-Up during playing sports!


Today’s first phrasal verb is essential before any sports activity:

To warm up. Warming up is simply the gradual activation of the body. And by this, I mean bringing more blood and oxygen to the muscles! This helps improve performance and decrease injury during playing sports!

I need to warm up before the game.”

“It is best to warm up before exercising.” The best way to warm up is active! So it is better to warm up with active shoulder circles than static shoulder stretch during playing sports! 


After you warm up, it’s time for sports! If you just want to throw or kick a ball or play very casually, you would say to play around with how you talk about sports. Adding around means the action is more casual and fun! To kick around the ball would mean to lightly pass the ball to each other.

  • In basketball, to shoot around would be to just practice some jump shots.
  • In soccer, to kick around would mean you just wanna pass the ball.
  • In American football you could ask, “Hey, do you want to toss around the ball?”

They all imply a very relaxed style of play!


Number 3: To work out. No list of phrasal sports verbs would be complete without this one! To work out = to exercise or physically train! “When it’s leg day I work out by doing squats and jumps.”

You can ask your friend: “Hey Alex, do you wanna work out tomorrow?”

Working out is a very common and natural way to say exercise. If you want to get faster or stronger, you need to work out!


Then, after you finish working out, you need to cool down!


To cool down = gradually deactivate the body. To slowly return the body to its resting state. This is the opposite of warming up but includes some of the same methods for sports. You might do some static stretches or a 10-minute relaxed walk.

“I always cool down after sports to help decrease muscle soreness.” Without a proper cool down, you might experience dizziness. “Anni cools down with some yoga poses.”

#5 & #6

Numbers 5 & 6 are related, but we will start with: to heat up! We already learned to warm up, which happens before the game, but heating up happens in the game, and it means you are starting to play very well! This is very common in basketball in sports:

Lebron missed his first 3 shots, but now he’s starting to heat up!” So Lebron is playing better.

If you continue heating up, then eventually you’ll be number 6…on fire! To be on fire means that you have been playing VERY WELL for a long time in a game!

  • “Booker made 10 shots in a row…he is absolutely on fire!”
  • If a golfer is making many putts in a row..he or she is on fire!!


Number 7 is to fall behind! This means to start losing in a race sports or having fewer points in a game. Imagine that I am running 5k against our other English Teacher Luke!

In the beginning, I use all my energy to go fast. I am way in front, but I become very tired and Luke passes me.

  • I can’t keep up, and I fall behind and lose.
  • The Phoenix Suns fell behind early, but won the game in the end!”

Of course, you never want to fall behind…but you should never quit when you start losing..


This takes me to number 8: To give up. This means to quit or actively choose to stop playing. And because of this, there is a negative connotation when it comes to this phrasal verb.

  • “John did not finish the race. He gave up.”
  • “After Tim fell behind, he gave up and left.”

This is why coaches, parents, and supporters will always say “Don’t give up!” They do not want you to be quieter. If you do your best and give all your effort then you can be happy with the result..but if you quit, if you give up without giving your best, you’ll always limit yourself.


Number 9: to keep up. This phrasal verb means to achieve and stay at the level of the other players or teams you need to talk about sports. For example, if you are competing in a triathlon, maybe you will think:

  • I need to be fast. I need to keep up with the other athletes.”
  • As a coach, I would often say: “Keep up!” during team sprints and conditioning.

This is a common phrase used to push and motivate players during practice. You might also hear parents saying this to their kids if the child is moving slowly: “Come one! Keep up!”


If you do your best and try to keep up, but you simply can’t…you are burned out! This is number 10. If you burn out, it means you can no longer physically perform at your best!

  • “After running 48 miles, Carlos burned out!”
  • I am so tired after football; I am burned out!

Think of it as a candle; there is a small warm up, and then the fire starts! And you go and go, and go until eventually the fire is gone and the candle burns out.


Number 11: To step up. This is a great phrasal verb that you can use when an athlete really improves their performance.

  • “If I want to win the championship, I need to step up!”

This verb is often used when athletes are in danger of losing and need to be better in order to win. 

  • “Roger Federer must step up if he wants to win the Australian Open.”
  • “My girlfriend really stepped up and won her judo match.


Finally, we reach number 12: To bring it/us home. This phrasal verb means to finish a game or event with a victory!

“It is a tie game with 5 seconds left. It’s time to bring us home..” which means it’s time to win this game! You will normally hear this phrase used in the final moments of a game when a team or player has the chance to win with 1 move!

We can win the title on this play. Let’s bring it home!”


And That’s It!

So that wraps up today’s learning journey! I hope you were able to keep up with all the new words! 

Did you learn something new? What phrasal sports verb will you use next time you play? Let me know in the comments below!


I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson! And if you’d like to continue on your English journey, you check out one of our other fun lessons HERE!



Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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