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English Sport Idioms Part 2

Being able to speak and understand English can give you a real advantage in the business world. Whether it’s with international clients, or within your own business, it can often be the difference between a promotion and staying still for years.

Check out this article and see how you can use some of the most common idioms used in business and university life.

At RKA Valencia we love to teach English that can be used in real life. English that helps people to develop in their personal and professional lives. See our classes, or find out more about us here.

Call the shots

This first idiom is a great one to talk about leadership. The person who ‘calls the shots’ is the one in charge of everything. This idiom comes from the world of snooker/pool, when you finally want to ‘pot’ the black ball, you have to say which ‘pocket’ you plan to put it into. Therefore to ‘call the shot’ is to know what you are going to do and do it with accuracy!

Example 1 – “I really want to call the shots on this project, I think I’m ready and I’ve been preparing for it for weeks now”

Example 2 – “Jim shouldn’t have called the shots for that campaign, he really messed it up and now we’ve lost a client”

Make the cut

This idiom is all about being good enough, or not. If you ‘make the cut’ then you are in the group that is successful and has performed well in some capacity. Those who don’t ‘make the cut’ are left behind or not selected. In most sports teams, there is an opportunity for people to try to get into the team, in a selection process. They will then ‘cut’ the people who they don’t think are good enough.

Example 1 – “I really wanted that job, but I didn’t make the cut in the second round of interviews”

Example 2 – “I thought Miriam was great, and so I recommend that she makes the cut for this round”

Throw in the towel

This idiom is about defeat and victory, and comes from the boxing world, as does the next one too! To ‘throw in the towel’ means to give up, or stop trying. In boxing, if one fighter is taking too much damage, or doesn’t want to continue, their coaches can literally throw a towel into the ring, telling the referee to stop the fight.

Example 1 – “I don’t want to throw in the towel, but I don’t see how we can compete with those rates”

Example 2 – “It’s not time to throw in the towel yet, we still have lots of options we can try out”

Go the distance

The second boxing idiom, ‘going the distance’ talks about being able to continue and persevere even when things are difficult. In boxing, there can be up to 12 rounds, each one lasting three minutes.

Fighting for 36 minutes is incredibly exhausting and difficult, as is known as ‘going the distance’. We can use this idiom to talk about finishing a project, pushing towards an important goal or competing against a competitor for a long time.

Example 1 – “We’ve gone the distance with this marketing campaign, and it’s finally starting to bring us some great rewards”

Example 2 – “We can’t go the distance on this project, we will just keep losing money and time”

Set the pace

This final sporting idiom comes from the running and athletics world. To ‘set the pace’ means to decide what speed you will move at, and be the one pushing people to keep up that speed and intensity, on the athletics track, or in the business office!

In professional running, there can often be runners whose job is to run at a certain pace per kilometre or per 400m loop, to give the actual competitors a good idea about how fast they should run. These are called ‘pace runners’ or ‘pacers’. To set the pace means that you are at the front of the group, showing other people how to do it.

Example 1 – “It’s time we set the pace, and showed our competitors what we can do”

Example 2 – “Ok Jane, I want you to set the pace for your finance team, make sure they keep up, and help anyone that starts to fall behind”

Try adding some of these sports idioms in your English, and you’ll be able to talk about success, accuracy, failure, speed and determination like a native!

If you want to improve your English, learn how to communicate with native speakers or boost your international employment chances, get in touch with RKA Valencia at, or contact us here.

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