Competitive sports have roots in early times of settled communities. Egyptian wall paintings from 1850 B.C. display wrestling moves that are actually still used today. The Olympic games originated with the Greeks, who held competitive sports events at Olympia, the sanctuary of the Greek god Zeus. The sports events started with a running race, and later expanded to include wrestling, discus and javelin, the long jump, boxing, chariot and horse racing, and a pentathlon, which tested fitness in four of these areas. Hockey also originated with the Greeks, and the Persians are thought to have created polo.
Rugby and football have origins in the ancient Roman game of harpastum, or hand ball, in which a ball is thrown up into the air in the middle of a field and players from two teams struggle with each other to get possession of the ball and take it across the opposing team’s line. Tennis became a popular sport among French royalty in the 14th century and the English aristocracy started to take it up in the 16th century. It is unclear who invented baseball, but it has roots in early games in England such as cricket and rounders. Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith, who created it as sport that would cause fewer injuries than those caused in football.
The job of coaching athletes in any number of sports dates back to early Greeks, who defined the sports coach as someone who had strong knowledge of anatomy and nutrition, similar to a medical doctor’s knowledge. The term “coach,” which initially referred to a horse-drawn carriage, also became a slang word used in the 1800s by Oxford University students to describe a private tutor who guides a student through examinations, comparing it to horse driving. By 1861, the British were reportedly using the term “coach” to include athletic trainers and instructors.
During World War I and World War II, sports coaches helped the men in military units improve their physical conditioning and build their morale. General interest in physical fitness as part of everyday life grew throughout the 20th century, with physical education being added to school curricula. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower started the President’s Council on Youth Fitness, which President John F. Kennedy renamed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Television and cable TV programs brought fitness programs into people’s homes, with on-air instructors such as Jack LaLanne, Richard Simmons, and many others leading people through exercise routines. In the 1960s, Dr. Ken H. Cooper introduced the idea that exercise could be used as a way to prevent disease; he helped get more people interested in jogging and exercising regularly.
It was in the 1980s that personal training started to become recognized as a professional occupation. By the mid-1990s, the National Strength and Conditioning Association offered the first nationally accredited certification program in personal training. There are now many national associations and universities that offer training programs and certification in personal training.
Professional sports have grown the past 50 years to become a major contributor to the world’s economy. The market research group IBISWorld reports that sports franchises in the United States alone contribute $38 billion in revenue. This includes professional and semiprofessional sports teams in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, and other team sports. The commercialization of professional sports, which includes major corporate sponsorships, continues to make it possible to build newer, better sports arenas, and to pay top dollar to athletes, coaches, trainers, and others who work in the field.