History and development of physical education and sport
Throughout history, sports have played a variety of important functions in society as a form of recreation; preparation for war or the hunt; or later, as a substitute for war. Sports have undergone many changes; some have stayed much the same (e.g. wrestling); while others have adapted with the times. New sports are always being invented and developed.
Sports in ancient times
One of the oldest recorded forms of sports was bull-leaping in the Greek island of Crete, where slaves jumped over the horns of a bull. The ancient Greeks were lovers of sport and taught it to their children at school. The main activities were wrestling, running, jumping, discus and javelin, ball games, gymnastics, and riding as well as military skills. Sporting competitions took place regularly as part of religious festivals.
It was also in Greece that the Olympic Games started in 776 BC and were linked to religious festivals. Each athlete had to take part in all the events. Many of the sports were linked to the training given to soldiers, and many such as discus and javelin are still in the modern Olympic Games.
Roman sports were influenced by the Greeks, but they added their own emphasis. Chariot racing and gladiator fights were held at large sporting events. Individuals or teams of men would fight animals or each other to death. The Roman Games were big occasions, usually paid for by the emperor, making them popular with the people. The gladiator fights were extremely violent and were normally done by slaves and prisoners.
Roman sporting activities also included animal hunts, wrestling, running, boxing, pentathlon (which consisted of running, jumping, discus, spear throwing, and wrestling) and pancratium, which was a combination of wrestling, boxing, and martial arts.
The competitors were called athletae and trained full time as professionals. They became celebrities in the Roman society and enjoyed many privileges.
After the fall of Rome came the Dark Ages. It was a time of much religious change and political conflict around the world. There was increase in wealth and interest in the arts and the sciences. In Europe, social class determined the sport in which one participated. Royalty and the aristocracy hunted, played cricket, watched horseracing, and fenced. The most famous sports in medieval times were jousting on horseback with lances. This was done by knights practising their fighting skills in mock battles.
Sports were mostly associated with the Church and were played by peasants on holy days and festivals. An activity such as mob football was a chance for the entire village to get together and let off steam. The games had very few rules, if any, and were more of a free for all and were not played very often because they could be extremely violent and people even died.
At the start of the 19th century, sports became more organised and the development of modern sports started. Machinery was developed and used in the production of goods. This resulted in movement of the population from rural areas to towns to seek employment in these industries, and this had a great impact on sport.
There was not enough space in the industrialised towns to play the sports they knew from their villages. Also, working for long hours did not leave them with much energy to play sports they knew from their villages. The village games died and new sports took their place. This new breed of labourers became watchers of sports instead of participators.
The development of railways allowed for spectators and teams to travel around the country to watch and compete in sports, leading to the development of competitive leagues and cup competitions.
Several factors have had an effect on sports since the start of the 20th century. More persons are not only playing, but also watching. Sports have become more organised. New rules have been developed, and some sports revised to formed new ones.
The value of games on the development of character was recognised as learned sportsmanship and leadership, and a willingness to abide by rules emerged.
One of the most significant developments is the growth of televised sports. Sports will continue to change and develop in the future as technology progresses. The standard of sports has continued to be influenced by social change, commercialisation, media, sponsorship, government, and education.
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