The History of Sports

Activities similar to today's sports have been around since the earliest times. After all, even cavemen knew how to run and jump while getting away from sabre-toothed tigers! The idea of sports being friendly competition took a little bit longer to arrive. Wrestling, boxing, and running were probably the first competitive sports thousands of years ago. In 750 B.C., the ancient Greeks held the first Olympic Games to celebrate sports. Of course, a lot has happened in the years since. Let's take a look at the history of competitive sports!


Baseball was said to have been invented in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York. According to legend, the rules were first drafted by Abner Doubleday, who later become a Union general in the Civil War. Although Doubleday gets a lot of credit, versions of a game very similar to baseball were played in America before 1839. The first professional U.S. baseball team was formed in 1869 and was called the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Just a little bit later, in 1876, the National League was launched. It had eight teams. Now, Major League Baseball draws millions of fans to ballparks every year.


Basketball is one of the most recent major sports to be invented, and it was created in the United States. This time, the inventor was YMCA teacher James Naismith. While looking for things for students to do indoors in his native Springfield, Massachusetts, Naismith hung up the first basketball baskets, which were actually peach baskets. The year was 1891. Basketball had its first outing as an Olympic event in 1936, and the NBA was founded in 1949.


Cricket is one of the oldest and most beloved sports in the United Kingdom. It started as a children's game back in the 16th century and soon became very popular. Even though it was widely played, it didn't have official rules until 1788. Likewise, the cricket bat we know now didn't come around until 1853. In 1909, three countries came together to form the International Cricket Association. The group grew quickly, and the first Cricket World Cup took place in 1975.


Every year, businesses spend around $4 million to air a commercial for just 30 seconds during the Super Bowl. That goes to show how popular football is. Football first started to appear at colleges in both the U.S. and Canada in the 19th century. College students loved to combine the traditional English sports of rugby and soccer into something even more challenging. The new game was so popular that just 70 years after the sport's invention, the NFL was formed in 1943.


Golf has existed since the 1400s and was first developed in Scotland. There, it is still considered the national sport. To this day, the United Kingdom has more than 3,000 golf courses! The first golf balls were made of wood, and so were the clubs. People in the U.S. didn't get together to play golf in an organized way until 1786, when the South Carolina Golf Club was formed. More than 30 million people play golf worldwide now, and it's even been in the Olympics. Want to try golf? Golf Digest has great golf tips to help kids get into the sport.


Hockey has been around for as long as there have been sticks and ice, with records of similar games coming from Canada, Norway, Sweden, and many other places. The game's professional history kicked off in 1917 with the founding of the National Hockey League. In the early years, there were five Canadian teams and no U.S. teams, but this started to change in 1926, when the New York Rangers became the first U.S. team. Now, there are 23 U.S. teams and 7 Canadian ones. If you work on your skills, maybe someday, you can play for one of them!


Rugby is hugely popular with kids in Australia. Like American football, rugby developed at colleges, especially the Rugby School in Warwickshire, United Kingdom. The very first Rugby Football Union was formed in the UK in 1871. There was a big split in 1892, starting when some rugby clubs were accused of paying team members for missing time in their day jobs. This was a big deal back then. To this day, there's still a "Rugby League" and a "Rugby Union" as a result.


Swimming is great exercise for kids. It's one of the oldest athletic events ever and was practiced in prehistory. In the modern day, the first organized swimming happened in 1828 in England. The National Swimming Society, founded in 1837, was one of the first groups to own swimming pools: It had six all around London. By 1880, there were more than 300 local swimming clubs. Competitive swimming, aimed at breaking records, grew popular in the World War II era. The official USA Swimming program recognizes several levels of swimming, including swimming for kids.


Over the past few years, tennis stars have joined the ranks of the most celebrated athletes. Surprisingly, though, tennis has not always been popular. The very first version of tennis was invented in France in the 1100s. King Louis X of France, who was king from 1314 to 1316, was one of its biggest fans and built the first indoor tennis courts. Another king who was very fond of tennis was Henry VIII, who led England from 1509 to 1547. It wasn't until 1874 that a young lady introduced the game to wealthy U.S. women after seeing it played in Bermuda. The first professional tennis tour wasn't until 1926. These days, youth tennis is played all over the U.S. and in many other countries.