Essay: History of Sport in the USA


Sports became establish in the 1890s as the embodiment of everything new, youthful, and wholesome in the USA. Men turned to baseball, boxing, calisthenics, and swimming. Women took up bicycling, tennis, and golf. The sport quickly assumed an important place in the public culture of the region, appealing to people in town and country. For a while in the 1880s black men boxed white men and black baseball teams played against white ones. Those days quickly came to an end, though, when White decided that victories for blacks on the playing field or in the boxing ring seemed to violate the racial order being so carefully constructed in other parts of life.  Sport segregated by race and gender and, increasingly, class, became a place for the social order to be buttressed, not challenged, a place for the white south to show the rest of the country what it could do.

Historical development

It is important to note that the highly structured and organized sports world in America begun from very humble backgrounds. In the onset of 19th Century, (Riess, 2003) the US residents spent a significant amount of time playing folk games as well as simple past time activities like hunting and bowling. The developments in the social, economic and political arena caused a change in the norms as well as the nature of humble games. In essence, virtually all American games in the modern day have one attribute in common, that is, they historically used to be simple no scoring or record keeping games. It was not until the 1800s (Riess, 2003) that the sporting matches became a famous affair more so in games between Americans and Europe. The most common games involved wrestling, cockfighting, gouging, billiards, and foot racing. A little much later with developments in industrialization, the American society begun to adopt a new face in the sports industry. (Ward & Burns, 2004)

Most importantly was the influential twist of American sports more so in the mindset of America’s religion and moral leadership. For instance, the ‘muscular Christianity got hold of almost the reform-minded Americans in the 1880s (Riess, 2003). From the inspiration of Olympic competitions as practiced among the ancient Greece, those advocating for muscular Christianity were of the idea that engagement in builds character, improves health, produces fit Christians and boosts moral behavior. As a result of muscular Christianity, there was a drastic rise in sporting activities in America. Consequently, more sporting activities gained prominence including horse racing that was only popular in the south. Sports history correlation to religion dates backs long time. The design of sports stadia to the likeness of religion cathedral portrays just the same of the examples. The massive following and idolize of the sports games witnessed in the arena like chanting, ululations and singing creating form of worship to those of churches. (Sheinin & Project Muse, 2014)

The idolatrizing concept brings more of religion  fanatism.sports has  brought fascination and venting out emotional possession just like in religion sanity. The popularity of the sports has played a substantial part in lives of the most citizen of America. The wearing various teams attire and carrying various accessories to boost their team members plays out ritualistic associated with religion .e.g. Islam wearing of kanzu and in Christianity wearing of uniform during baptism e.g. the playing of songs on a sporting events or arenas has big emotional possessions as that of saint songs in religionism.just like religion has massive following the sporting fraternity has big following as well .e.g. .people prefer to sit in the front row. The theatrics experienced in games are similar to those in religion. The sports history remains relevant with culture and traditions as those of religion. The sports history is very conscious of happening and are passed to the members when they registered and passed to incoming generation.E.g., rivalry experienced by particular team existent to century. The traditions and culture of sports history are relevant to the emotional attachments that American people have for the religion. The   sports history has played a big part in bringing out patriotism and loyalty in American’s people heart.

The wealthy Americans had in the past before the civil war adopted yachting as a popular pass time activity. Later John Stevens formed the New York Yacht Club, which was engaged in competition with fellow Royal Yacht from Britain and with the Americans winning, the sport slowly became popular (Lapchick & Slaughter, 2007). On the other hand, the Americans living within lesser means focused on the new baseball sports. There was, however, a notion that baseball was initially invented in Cooperstown, but researchers have found it to be a refinement of English game of rounder. The less privileged Americans promoted boxing into becoming very popular especially during the antebellum era. Maybe due to limited funding or special effects, the boxing fights were waged undertaken with bare knuckles but governed by a set of guidelines initiated by Jack Broughton (Wiggins & Miller, 2009). The rules stipulated that it was foul to grasp and punch below the belt, and the fight was declared over whenever the boxer was incapacitated to stand after 30 counts. Nevertheless, there were no defined scoring systems, and, therefore, a fight could continue for many rounds.

The African Americans have a fantastic contribution towards the evolution of sports. This goes beyond the fact that slaves in those days organized own foot races, boxing games, and athletics that were slowly gaining prominence among the whites. For instance, Tom Molineaux, who won a number of early prize fighters, was of African-American origin (Lapchick & Slaughter, 2007). In the nineteenth century, jockeys were characteristically black and coupled with a host of African American baseball renowned persons. By 1890s, football, hockey and basketball had been launched into sporting world and also the chapter on modern American sports was already opened. With sports evolution into systematic as well as organized events, there was a rise in diversity of fans. Initially sports were perceived as a ‘man’ activity without considering children and women. With time, though, sports have become unisex and indeed the whole activity is more exciting. Moreover, whatever appeared as the casual setting is improved to becoming conventional in its appeal. Safety measures have been put in place and hence mitigated the eventualities of sporting accidents. With all these developments sponsorship has risen and greatly defines the evolution of games. The popular brand companies are in massive competition in airing the events with a hope that with massive media attention, the companies is destined to earn millions of revenue.

Over time, sports would be a fundamental arena of the war against separation and discrimination due to one’s race. Boxing and field two sports, in the 1930s, in which there was no complete separation as it was the case in baseball that gave two athletes who were black who later became sports heroes in America. For example, Jesse Owens and Joe Louis, who won victories against Nazi Germany, (Gerber, 2004) a nation whose theories of race are stigmatized most of the populations of America’s immigrant as racial subordinate. The victories of Jesse Owen’s in Berlin Olympics in the1936 and the victory of Joe Louis at Yankee Stadium against Max Schmeling in 1938 marked America history for the first time that many white Americans recognized an athlete who is black as their fighters and happily celebrated the Blacks triumph. It helped in setting the stage for the steps gradually taken by school and college coaches to recruit black athletes because of their basketball and football teams and for larger processes taken to integrate national old times.

It is mandatory that Americans significantly enjoy their rights and engage in sporting activities of choice. Belonging to a minority race that has taken a different side on a war, and then one can no longer provide sufficient support in sports. This makes a soft landing implication for racism on the sporting activity as compared to 40 or 50 years ago. It, therefore, becomes interesting to look at a number of Americans that hail from the minority groups and having been given the opportunity to participate in sports. For instance, Jim Thorpe (Gerber, 2004) is an example of sports person of Indian ancestry but went ahead to overcome racial injustices and hence winning a gold medal for the decathlon. He was however stripped of his medal mainly owing to his ethnicity affiliations and despite reinstating the medal it was already very demoralizing. Thanks to race restrictions and stereotyping that the House of Congress finally recognized him as the 1999 hero. Also in the boxing arena, the American boxing sport exhibits racism and aspects of ethnicity. By the virtue of America pugilist being from Irish origin, it was almost determined that boxers and other prize fighters ought to adopt Irish naming modes (Lapchick & Slaughter, 2007). Moreover, a dominance of racism in America’s sports is evident by the tag attached to Italian immigrants as being fighters who only know how to use knives rather than fists. On this regard, the Jewish immigrants have been branded as being very peace loving but it seemingly that their offspring has become rough and turbulent with a good number joining the boxing profession.

The history of how sex barriers were demolished following a different course in sports. For women, they didn’t mind about how the talented women were placed out of the competition. Rather they mind about any powerful gender that keeps insisting in participating in sports. Most women in the twentieth century had believed that the competitions of sports were men domain, and they had small opportunities to make their own athletic talent developments. Women’s sports have an expansion to become a part of the athletics who are organized at all levels by protesting, having legal challenges and by having campaigns in the community levels. Until the women liberation movement in the 1970 and they passed the right of Title IX, (Gerber, 2004) and from there they made organized groups where women started defining the competition of sports as their right and insisted that women had the same opportunity in participating in sports as men.

Contributions of sports

Sports have been found to play a crucial role in defining the America society. America has continuously received popularity because they have not transformed the sports industry but also been drivers for transmitting values like teamwork, fair play, and justice. Furthermore, sports have greatly contributed towards racial and social integration that bonds the country as well as establishing good relations with international partners. As pointed out by early Americans like former President Thomas Jefferson, the need for fitness is promoted by excess in activities such as swimming and athletics. Other presidents have also encouraged participation in physical activity. For instance, Eisenhower is the founder of President’s Council on Youth Fitness (Gerber, 2004) in a bid to encourage the youth to take serious fitness exercises. In order to include people of all ages and different abilities, the Council was changed to the council for physical fitness and sports. To date, the council has been awarded for contributing towards fitness and healthy living. In realizing the council’s objectives, United States has continued to offer massive opportunities that engage sports either in direct participation or spectators. The Native Americans participated in playing a variety of ball games such as baseball and football that arose from sports games introduced by Europeans during the 17th century. After undergoing a transformation, these games have been refashioned in the 19th century to become the most popular. For this reason, numerous social forums are developing around sports contests. For example, high school basketball is a major event for communities in the US. Besides the social advancement, these games bring along economic benefits to the country.

Culture influence

The sports evolution is associated with increased influence. In the last century, sports have continued to affect the modern culture and thereby reflecting on change for social attitudes alongside the advancement in techniques and development in sports power. The fashion industry has advanced in a way that reflects proper sports clothing owing to the resources pumped in by fashion designers and with a desire of emulating our heroes. Political influence is also an inevitable effect affiliated with popular culture (Gerber, 2004). For this reason, athletes have used their popularity to seek political mileage or other political contestants using famous sports persons to boost their candidacy. However, there is a negative use of sports in politics as experienced in Munich Olympics whereby terrorists took advantage to achieve their course.

Evolution in sports has indeed led to the development of the education sector through scholarships. (Riordan & Krüger, 2001) Although a number of college sports persons leave school to join their professional sports areas, a good majority graduate and get into other fields besides their sport. Most American children have now not only adopted participation in myriad afterschool activities but also engage in competitions. According to National federation of High School Associations, there were more than 7.8 million (Lapchick & Slaughter, 2007) of school children who participated in different sports teams. The middle class kids are also trying to play in star teams for regional tournaments in games such as youth soccer. This has not been the trend in the past decades. In the past decades it was the lower class children engaging in competitions without parental supervision while the middle and upper class children were involved in less competitive activities like dancing. Indeed, children tournaments were first introduced by poor immigrants’ children who lived in the cities. After World War II such competitions began to be dominated by children from the upper classes. It is sad that the forces associated with inequality in other sectors such as education and other professions have been introduced into sports. It is however interesting to note that the transformation happened gradually especially in the 19th century during the mandatory schooling movement era. With compulsory education, leisure was also brought into focus now that school time was deemed obligatory, leisure time was now identifiable.


In the previous decades, sporting equipment was handmade since the modern ones were prohibitively expensive with exclusively the rich being able to afford. Slowly with advances in mass production, middle-class Americans could now accommodate the equipment in their budgets. Moreover, advances in urbanization played a paramount role in the transformation of American sports (Gerber, 2004). Though will urbanization comes crowding in cities and hence denying Americans the much needed fresh air, it also promotes a conducive environment for inventing an opportunity for appreciating sports. The sports organizers were obliged to make encroachment for the open spaces for this regard and hence prompting the need for formality to meet the need for organizing players into teams and leagues.


Gerber,  E. W. (2004). The American woman in sport. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Lapchick,  R. E., & Slaughter,  J. B. (2007). The Rules of the game: Ethics in college sport. New York: American Council on Education.

Riess,  S. A. (2003). Sport in Industrial America, 1850-1920. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson.

Riordan,  J., & Krüger, A. (2001). The international politics of sport in the twentieth century. London: E & FN Spon.

Sheinin,  D., & Project Muse. (2014). Sports culture in Latin American history. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Ward,  G. C., & Burns,  K. (2004). Baseball: An Illustrated history. New York: A.A. Knopf.

Wiggins,  D. K., & Miller,  P. B. (2009). The unlevel playing field: A documentary history of the African American experience in the sport. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.