What's the attraction?
We live in an era where sport has never been more prevalent. From the corporate glint of football to the willow thwack of cricket, it seeps from our televisions on a near-constant basis.
The question when it comes to a holiday is whether you want to free yourself from this athletic jamboree, or throw yourself further into it. If it's the latter, you have plenty of options: many specialists offer breaks where you can be coached at your chosen game, test yourself on the stage where professionals play, or just let your kids exhaust themselves. Either way, coming home tired could be the new relaxation.
It is rare to have the chance to be coached by champions. But with the Rugby World Cup set for New Zealand in September, junior guests at the Forte Village Resort in Sardinia can sign up to be taught the gist of the sport by three of England's victorious squad from the 2003 tournament: Will Greenwood, Jason Leonard and Jason Robinson. The "Rugby Academy" runs across five separate weeks (the first starting 28 May), each week costing €500 (£435) per child (aged from five to 16). A week's half-board stay for a family of four costs from £7,567, including flights, via Classic Collection (0800 008 7299; www.classic-collection.co.uk).
Footing the bill
For families whose kids adore the beautiful game, the "Soccer Stations" run by Keycamp (0844 406 0200; www.keycamp.co.uk) at four of its French campsites will appeal. Aimed at children aged from five to 16, these coaching schools offer sessions where the focus is on learning a certain player's skills. Happily, this means "Passing like Beckham" and "Defending like Beckenbauer" rather than abusing the referee or filing for a super injunction.
Sessions start at €3 per child, or £25 for a block of 10 during July and August. A week's break for a family of four in July, at St-Avit Loisirs in the Dordogne in a three-bedroom mobile home is £1,261, with ferry from Dover to Calais.
What's out there for couples whose opinions on sport are divided? Perhaps a getaway with Tuscan Tennis Holidays (0141 576 7205; www.tuscanytennis.com) has the answer. This offers court-based tuition amid glorious Italian scenery. And while Mr or Ms Energetic knuckles down to 10 hours of coaching over a week (from £270), their lazier half can do cobbled streets or high art (the firm has two Tuscan bases, Lucca and Florence). It is also possible to book villas. La Gatta, in San Ginese, which sleeps five, starts at £1,850 per week. BA (0844 493 0787; www.ba.com) and easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) are among many airlines that fly to nearby Pisa.
All above par
Golf is one of the few sports where you can tread the same turf as the pros (if not actually at the same time as them). Golf Breaks (0800 279 7988; www.golfbreaks.com) can arrange a night's break at the Celtic Manor Resort in Gwent, including two rounds – one on the Twenty Ten course, the 18 holes where Europe won the Ryder Cup in September (from £244). Further afield, a week at Pebble Beach in Monterey, California, costs from £2,295 via Sport Abroad (08456 803086; www.sportabroad.co.uk), including return Virgin Atlantic flights, transfers and a tussle with the fairways where Graeme McDowell became the first UK winner of a major in a decade (the US Open) last June.
There is an argument that says the Tour De France is the planet's most demanding sports event – three weeks of hell in the saddle. Those fit enough can assess this theory via the Classic Cols of the Tour de France trip run by Exodus (0845 287 7610; www.exodus.co.uk). This eight-day trek (from £899 including flights) sees cyclists tackle several of the most tricky Pyrenean peaks to have hosted stages (the Col d'Aspin; the Col de Peyresourde; the Col du Tourmalet, where a duel between cycling's current leading stars Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck decided the 2010 Tour) – albeit at a pace where they can also enjoy the views.
It might seem a long way to travel – but if sailing is a passion, authenticity is important; and if you are visiting New Zealand for a longer break, Auckland's Sail NZ (0064 9 359 5987; www.explorenz.co.nz) issues a siren call. Working out of Viaduct Harbour, the marina that was the centre of the America's Cup in 2000 and 2003, these fast-tacking types are the owners of two racing yachts that have seen America's Cup action. They regularly race them in the bay, with customers able to join the crew (two-hour sessions cost NZ$155/£77).
What Google will tell you...
For those who want to mix sport and culture, the glorious city of Valencia has mini-break appeal this year. Spain's third-largest city is European Capital of Sport for 2011. And while most of the listed events are for spectators rather than competitors – the Formula One European Grand Prix in June; ATP tennis in November; a beach rugby tournament in July – the city's coastal position means it boasts terrain for cycling, hiking, windsurfing and sailing. Details on this, as well as the many museums and fine restaurants, at www.turisvalencia.es.
What Google won't tell you... until now
If tennis and golf sound somewhat sedate – and you want to take up a more cutting-edge sport – you need to fling yourself into the air attached to a piece of fabric. "Kite-surfing is the fastest-growing adventure sport in terms of new people learning it," says Luke Rees of AdventureSportsHolidays.com. "Speed-flying also has enormous appeal. It's a high-octane mix of skiing and paragliding. But it isn't something everyone can try, as you need to be an expert at both disciplines."
Perhaps there is time for that one last game of tennis first.
Who said that?
"In love as in sport, the amateur status must be strictly maintained." Robert Graves
"It's good sportsmanship not to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling." Mark Twain
"You don't suffer, kill yourself and take the risks I take just for money. I love bike racing." Greg LeMond, three-time Tour de France winner