History of Sports

The inventors behind the games and the history of sports equipment.

Where do we begin with the history of sports? When the history of sports is as old as humankind. To begin with what has been recorded or documented in the history of sports, takes us back at least 3,000 years. The early history of sports often involved the preparation and training for war or hunting. Hence there were sports games that involved the throwing of spears, stakes, and rocks, and of course lots of play-fighting.

Ancient Greece introduced formal sports, with the first Olympic Games in 776 BC, that included sports such as human and chariot races, wrestling, jumping, disk and javelin throwing, and more.

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Soccer player kicking ball in stadium
Bernhard Lang/ The image Bank/ Getty Images

Alexander Cartwright (1820-1892) of New York invented the modern baseball field in 1845. Alexander Cartwright and the members of his New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, devised the first rules and regulations that were accepted for the modern game of baseball.

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Basketballs floating in air
Basketballs floating in air. Thomas Northcut/Getty Images
The first formal rules were devised in 1892. Initially, players dribbled a soccer ball up and down a court of unspecified dimensions. Points were earned by landing the ball in a peach basket. Iron hoops and a hammock-style basket were introduced in 1893. Another decade passed, however, before the innovation of open-ended nets put an end to the practice of manually retrieving the ball from the basket each time a goal was scored.

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The cricket bat was invented around 1853, the blade made of willow, and a cane handle layered with strips of rubber, tied with twine and covered with rubber to make a grip.

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The Pigskin aka Playing Ball
The Pigskin aka Playing Ball.
Derived from the English game of rugby, American football was started in 1879 with rules instituted by Walter Camp, player and coach at Yale University.

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Golf originated from a game played on the coast of Scotland during the 15th century. Golfers would hit a pebble instead of a ball around the sand dunes using a stick or club. After 1750, golf evolved into the sport as we recognize it today. In 1774, Edinburgh golfers wrote the first standardized rules for the game of golf.

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Hacky Sack or Footbag, as we know it today, is a modern American sport invented in 1972, by John Stalberger and Mike Marshall of Oregon City, Oregon.

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Ice hockey is played with two opposing teams wearing ice skates. Unless there is a penalty, each team only has six players on the ice rink at a time. The aim of the game is to knock the hockey puck into the opposing team's net. The net is guarded by a special player called the goalie.

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Around the 14th Century, the Dutch started using wooden platform skates with flat iron bottom runners. The skates were attached to the skater's shoes with leather straps. Poles were used to propel the skater. Around 1500, the Dutch added a narrow metal double edged blade, making the poles a thing of the past, as the skater could now push and glide with his feet (called the "Dutch Roll").

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A milestone in the history of Paintball occurred in 1981 when twelve friends played a version of "Capture the Flag" using the tree-marking guns. The twelve friends decided to buy into a tree-marking gun manufacturer called Nelson and started promoting and selling the guns to the public for use with the new recreational sport.

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Although the sport of skiing in America is little more than a century old, but researchers have dated a rock carving of a skier, found on the Norwegian island of Rodoy as being over 4,000 years old. Skiing was so revered in Scandinavia that the Vikings worshipped Ull and Skade, the god and goddess of skiing. In the US, skiing was introduced by Norwegian gold miners.

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In 1887, George Hancock, a reporter for Chicago Board of Trade, invented softball. He invented the game as a form of indoor baseball on a cold winter day inside the warm Farragut Boat Club.

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Swimming pools did not became popular until the middle of the 19th century. By 1837, six indoor pools with diving boards were built in London, England. After the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 and swimming races were among the original events, the popularity of swimming pools began to spread

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Tennis originated from a 12th century French game called paume (meaning palm); it was a court game where the ball was struck with the hand. Paume evolved into jeu de paume and rackets were used. The game spread and evolved in Europe. In 1873, Major Walter Wingfield invented a game called Sphairistikè (Greek for "playing ball) from which modern outdoor tennis evolved.

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Volleyball Playing
Phil Dalhausser blocks a shott against Sean Scott during the mens volleyball finals at the AVP Crocs San Francisco Open on August 16, 2009 at Pier 32 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
William Morgan invented volleyball in 1895 at the Holyoke, Massachusetts, YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) where he served as Director of Physical Education. Morgan originally called his new game of Volleyball, Mintonette. The name Volleyball came about after a demonstration game of the sport, when a spectator commented that the game involved much "volleying" and game was renamed Volleyball.

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water skiing
Pyramid" traditional show-closer was first performed in 1947, but with only three water-skiers!. LOC Cypress Gardens
Water skiing came about on June 28, 1922 when eighteen-year-old Ralph Samuelson of Minnesota, proposed the idea that if you could ski on snow, then you could ski on water.

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David N. Mullany of Shelton, Connecticut invented the Wiffle ball fifty years ago. A Wiiffle ball is a variation of a baseball that makes is easy to hit a curveball.

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Windsurfing or boardsailing is a sport that combines sailing and surfing and uses a one-person craft called a sailboard. The basic sailboard is composed of a board and a rig. In 1948, twenty-year old Newman Darby first conceived of using a handheld sail and rig mounted on a universal joint, to control a small catamaran. Darby did not file for a patent for his design, however, he is regonized as the inventor of the first sailboard.