Sports and Athletics


Figure 1.--The popularity of field hockey varies widely from country to country. It is popular for boys and girls in several European countries, but primarily a girls game in America. Boys do play it at some private schools that are influenced by British schooling and traditions.

Sports and athetics are primarily a modern phenomenon. The most notable ancuent tradition came from the classical world--ancient Greece where the Olumpics were born. It is notable that the birth place of freedom was also the birth place od sports and athletics. There is a relationship here which is observavle in our modern age. The idea of atletics and sport largely came from Britain and America, the two countries which most imbodies Capitalism (economic freedom) and democract (political freedom. The reason fir this is that capitalism generated wealth and economic prosperity. This mean tht ordinary individuals had the fee time and leasure to practice and enjoy sports and athletics. People living in poverty have to devote all their energy to mere subsitence. There are also fashion ramofications. Some of the most popular clothing worn by boys are sports uniforms. Organized sport for boys is a relatively recent phenomenon. Many modern sports have a history dating back to the 18th century or ealier. Organized professional teams attracting spectators and with uniformed players, however, did not appear until the 19th century. This was in part a result of the economic expansion of industrial Europe which generated increasing income and more leisure time. School teams began to be organized by British private schools after the mid-19th century. But organized youth sports for the most part are a 20th century development.

Popularity

Some of the most popular clothing worn by boys are sports uniforms. They are so popular, that many boys woul wear suitable uniform garments for casual wear after the games. Eventually boys and girls woul wear sports style clotes even if they di not actually participate in the sport. The bestr example of this of course is the baseball cap.

Historical Background

Sports have ancient origins. We do not have information about early civilizations in Mesopotamia and Europe. Most historians begin the history of sport with the Greeks and the famed olympics which began 776 BC. Many revere the olympics and put the ancient Greek olymics on an unrealistically high plain. Some complain that the modern olympics are somehow tainted with a desire for material gain and commerlization of the events. Historians now tell us that the ancient Olympics were hardly free of the desire for fame and commercial exploitation. In addition the canard that a truce was declared for the games appears to be some kind of ancient urban legend. [Perrottet] The ancient games for us or of less interest than modern events because the atheletes performed nude, thus providing us little information about costume. Our modern word gymnasium comes from the Greek word gymnos, meaning in the nude. The Romans seemed less interested in sport, except for chariott races held in the circusses of thevmajor cities. Glaitorial events eclipsed sport for public spectacle. Organized sports in Europe disappeared when the Olymics were closed after Christianity was adopted by Constantine as the state religion (4th century AD). Apparently they were too conected with public spectacle of thec gladitorial contests. Sport was not just a European phenonenon. We note that native Americans had ball courts, but these seem to have been events of a religious nature. Organized sport is a relatively recent phenomenon, ad even more so organized youth sports. Many modern sports have a history dating back to the 18th century or in some cases earlier. Organized professional teams attracting spectators and with uniformed players, however, did not appear until the 19th century. This was in part a result of the economic expansion of industrial Europe which generated increasing income and more leisure time. School teams began to be organized by British private schools after the mid-19th century. But organized youth sports for the most part are a 20th century development. Interestingly sport was first persued by wealthlt individuals able to devote themselves to athletics. Many modern sports emerged from British private schools or universities attended by affluent boys. This is in contrast to the modern approach where sport is often persued most intensely by boys from poor neighborhoods who may play for universities with no hope of graduation.

Organization

Organized sports for boys, especially outside of the structure of exclusive private schools, is a very recent phenomenon. Most boys until reltively recently did not have much opportunity for organized sports. They were interested in sports. Boys in large American cities as early asthe formation of professional teams were following the exploit of their heros in the lte 19th century. Sport for boys were at the time informal. Boys played pick-up games of baseball in fields and vacant lots. City boys might play stick ball. It was wealthy kids in their athletic clubs that had the greatest opportunity for organized sports. An example here is the Westmoreland Athletic Club. The YMCA played an important role in brining sports to middle-class children and the Boys Clubs to working-class children in the early 20th century. After World War II (1939-45), as America moved to the suburbs, many American boys played Little League Baseball. American boys, now joined by their sisters, in the 1970s began playing in soccer leagues and the term "soccer mom" entered the English language. By the 1980s there were more kids in soccer leagues than in Little League Baseball, although soccer has not yet made the transition to a major professional sport in America.

Specific Sports

Quite a number of specific uniforms and necessary equipment has been developed for various sports. For many sports the basic uniform was all that was needed besies the ball to play the sport. Other sports, especially American football require elaborate equipment. We have collected information on quite a few specific sports. We notice some differences among countries. Some of these sports are country specific, but many are played in countries all around the world. There are of course chronological changes over time.

Gym Clothes

An important element of school uniforms and schoolwear is the gym uniform. Even schools that did not have school uniforms had gym suits as they were called in America. Here thre were initinally very substantial differences between boys and girls gym uniforms. One popular early gym uniform for girl was middy blouses, long bloomers, and long black stockings. We notice American girls wearing rompers for gym into the 1960s. Boys generally wore "T"-shirts and colored boxer shorts. In recent years differences between boys and girls gym uniforms have generally declined. Another trend has been dropping or cutting back on the physical education program. This is occiring at the same time juvenile obesity is becoming a serious problem.

Casual Clothes

Sports uniforms were once strictly restricted to the games field. They would be worn oinly for the event itself. Gradually sports uniforms began to influence casual clothes. Short pants were once, for example, primarily worn for sports, but gradually became a major garment for boys--in part because boys were already wearing a similar garment--kneepants. Today sports uniform items as well as clothing with team logos have a major impact and are the inspiration for many casual styles.

Country Pages

Some sports like football (soccer) seem almost universal. Other sports are very specific to certain countries. Many athletic competitions were developed by the ancient Greeks in the Olympic competitions. No country is more important to the development of modern sports than England. Many sports have English origins (rugby footbal, soccer, cricket, and hockey). These sports were spread around the world because of the importance of the British Empire so that now England often looses international competitions to its former colonies. Ctricket is very popular in South Asia and the Caribbean, Rugby is very popular in Ne Zealand and Fiji. American has developed some important sports, some based on English influences (baseball and football) and others entirely unique (basketball). Canada originated ice hockey, based on the English sport of hockey. France played an important role in tennis. Scotland played a major role in golf. Only Australians play Australian rules football or "footy". We are developing country sports pages in the activity area of each country section. Currently we only have separate pages on America, Australia, Canada, and Japan, but we are working on several other country sports pages.

Unknown Sports Images

We have some images, but we are unsure just sport is involved. Some uniforms are easy to identify. Some are more complicated as there are some similarities between some sports. Identifting the sports is particularly difficult in parades or team portraits where the equimpment and ball is not always shown.

Sources

Jones, Martin. Hockey's Home: Halifax - Dartmouth - The Origin of Canada's Game (Nimbus Publishing).

Perrottet, Tony. The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games (Random House, 2004), 214p.






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Created: April 5, 2001
Last updated: 10:44 AM 8/4/2016