Any precise definition of sport can be very controversial. In simple terms, sport refers to any activity in which the participants engage in a physical contest or activity designed to enhance social standing, resolve conflict, or even to identify and demonstrate skill. In more practical terms, sport is operationally defined as an organized set of physical activities undertaken for various recognized competitive, athletic, military, sporting, and other purposes, with defined sets of rules specifying the conduct of the competition and the participants’ qualifications. The most famous examples of this are swimming, golf, baseball, wrestling, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, racquetball, surfing, sailing, and track and field.
Sport has had a profound impact on the evolution of society. Its development contributed greatly to the moral foundations of modern society. It created national and international sporting competitions such as the Olympic Games and the Olympic Committee. The spirit of sportsmanship spread throughout the world, helping to build a sense of social equality and responsibility. It also contributed to the evolution of political, economic, and religious organizations. In the United States, the popularity of amateur athletics such as baseball and softball encouraged the establishment of professional baseball teams in 1875.
The spirit of sports was used in the war effort. As the army required athletes, the Army Academy at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, started a program that required athletes to meet rigorous physical demands in order to become accepted into the military. This included rigorous swimming drills, rifle practice, and fieldwork. This was a tremendous help for the troops as they were required to be physically fit to withstand rigorous training and fight in any combat situation.
Sport also influenced American society in other ways. Not only were soldiers inspired to fight for their country by participating in physical activity, but the growing popularity of professional sports helped create a more socially tolerant culture. Professional sport was able to put on the colorful uniforms that it does today. The sport of boxing was introduced in the year 1875 to a mixed martial arts competition. Many Americans began watching the sport and participating in the competition. Over the years, the popularity of professional sports across the United States ballooned and became an international sports event.
The modern day American sport is much different than the traditions of past decades. Today, people participate in physical activity as a lifestyle. The Olympic Sports Programs seek to support these new trends by providing financial support, public relations support, and educational programs for teams and athletes. Today, Americans have a sport for everyone: from the highly dedicated rower and synchronized diver to the family-friendly softball and baseball. The Olympic movement continues to celebrate the development of new sports and encourage participation in sports of all kinds.
There are many examples of American sports that started as an athletic endeavor but have turned into a more extracurricular activity. The sport of track and field, long considered a men’s sport, has become a national pastime; and now more women are enrolling in track and field competitions. The growth of lacrosse as a secondary school sport led to the development of men’s lacrosse. The growth of baseball and basketball, initially for professional and college athletes, turned the game into a predominantly a non-contact sport; and today, basketball and baseball play a major role in American sports culture.