The recreational sport field has existed for quite some time now. Now we see it as a subset of both the recreation and leisure and the sport management industries. Those working in this field are tasked with providing sport opportunities to the widest range of participants. The idea behind recreational sport is that sport should be available to everyone and that all of us should engage in active, participatory sport experiences for many reasons. However, in order for us to be able to enjoy all the benefits now, recreational sport has had to develop and it continues to do so even today. So, why don’t we take a look back at the history of this noble and healthy idea?
Recreational sports as a formal collegiate program originated in the US, where in 1913 two Bit Ten universities, the Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, created new departments dedicated exclusively to intramural sports. It was actually at Michigan that back in 1860s students set up exercise equipment on the campus grounds and began organising club sports. This humble beginning has been developing constantly.
It needs to be said that throughout 19th century sports activities grew, developed and started diverging towards varsity sports, club sports and physical education programs. The late 19th century saw the first gymnasium buildings for both men and women built for physical education, club sports, as well as for some varsity sport activities. The beginning of 20th century saw the introduction of outdoor playing fields and that’s when the concept really took off.
Before and after WW I
The number of students was constantly rising and so did the need for more control over club sports. The University was looking for new ways to improve the facilities and management of all sports, exercise and physical education activities in order to provide general student exercise and well-being. The “athletics for all” philosophy adopted at Michigan soon spread all over the country.
In 1913, the Department of Intramural Sports was founded with an aim to oversee all student sport activities, except varsity sports and physical education courses. The program was, expectedly, put on hold when World War I broke out, but it was revived in 1919. Nine years later, the first intramural sports facility in the country opened: the Intramural Sports Building at the University of Michigan.
What else changed?
We know that recreational sports’ main purpose is participation with the related goals of improved physical fitness, fun and social involvement. They are less stressful, both physically and mentally on the participants, which means there are lower expectations regarding both performance and commitment to the sport. However, as more and more competitions started leaving the recreational sphere, there was a noticeable trend to keep up with them in terms of the conditions for practicing sport.
This doesn’t refer only to pitches, courts and pools, but also to the equipment used. Professional athletes may still benefit from using the best gear, such as rackets, boots or fancy swimsuit bottoms, but almost all that is also available to those who practice sports recreationally, too. After all, it would be foolish to disregard the most popular type of athletic activity undertaken throughout the world.
Where are we today?
Although professional leagues and glamorous international sport festivals are the events that get most media attention, we can say that for every professional athlete there are thousands of amateurs who use the same sport for the satisfaction of the personal fitness needs. These enthusiasts are most commonly engaged in running, cycling, soccer, basketball or slow-pitch baseball, but it’s also true that every sport is represented among recreational ones. With some sports, such as American football, baseball, volleyball and football (soccer) globally popular now, you can find people playing them for fun in almost every part of the globe. The popularity of recreational sports will only continue to rise, as it seems.
The benefits of recreational sports have been proven time and again and it’s only up to us to find the activities we enjoy to help us improve our physical and mental health. Chances are, there is already at least one group of like-minded people somewhere near you, ready to welcome you.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.