Sports in American History

How Modernity has Influenced Sports and Leisure in the 19th and 20th Century

Over the 19th and 20th century, sports evolved immensely. The period preceded the pre-industrial evolution which was one of the remote periods during which sports and leisure were lowly esteemed. This period was characterized by long summer basking, Morris dancing, taking of liquor, pottery and hunting. According to Mc Lean & Hurd (2009, p.34), sports and leisure were results of the failures experienced in the economic activities. Thus individuals and groups would team up and perform various games in order to pass time and enjoy. For example, Mc Lean & Hurd (2009, p.34) explain that bead making and pottery were considered as some of the leisure activities in the pre-industrial era. However, with the rise of the industrial era and modernism that came with it in the 19th and the 20th century, sports and leisure developed quite a great deal. This paper discusses how modernity has influenced the development of leisure and sports in the 19th and 20th century.

According to Michener (2005, p.1), industrial era was the major attribute to evolution of sports and leisure. He notes that the factories set strict working days and off duty days that meant workers would have time away to relax and recreate. This led to the rise of social gatherings at various localities which enabled innovation and invention of more sporting activities. The various aspects of modernity that influenced the development of sports and leisure include;:new inventions of games, education, infrastructure, technology, and national support.

Waller (2009, p.1) notes that during the 19th century, several sports related inventions were made and innovations done. For example, in 1863 London association of football made rules for football game. This made football such kind of organized sport which could be played and enjoyed by many. It was during the same century when William Webb Ellis also invented the rugby game during one football game when he picked the ball and ran with it. Other games that were also invented include volleyball in 1895, lawn tennis in 1873, and snooker in 1875. These new inventions greatly contributed to the development of sports and leisure activities. By the 20th century, many associations had organized various invented sports and enabling them to become professions that spectators would watch at a fee for leisure.

Equally, education is one of the modern aspects of the 19th and 20th century which specifically played a role of increasing the literacy level of people. It ensured that people’s social esteem and individual likings changed a great deal as they became urbanized (Carrington, 2008, p.52). With literacy, the living standards of people improved enabling them to earn enough to spend on leisure activities. Equally, people began to understand that sport and various leisure activities were necessary for healthy living.

The development of infrastructure is another aspect of modernity that contributed highly to sports. Gems, Borish, & Pfister (2008, p.4) note that with the improvement of roads, sport competitions became popular in different regions of the world as teams would travel to various football tournaments. This facilitated the growth of Olympic Games, world cup football competitions, and the premier leagues. Fans would also easily go to observe the games. This led to the development of various leisure activities from local games to international watching. There were also good structural grounds where events could be held. Moreover, departmental stores and supermarkets sprung up as the needs of people rose. Shopping became leisure and continually developed as peoples need grew.

The effect of technology on the development of sports during this period cannot be left unmentioned. Mc Lean & Hurd (2009, p.69) note that the invention of television that aired different programs became another indoor leisure activity. Many people who had access to television watched various programs as a way of relaxing. Television could also air sporting activities and thus individuals could watch the game without necessarily having to go to the sites of the event. The invention of TV also paved way to the coming up of cinemas where people would go to watch movies. Theatres and music halls were also developed in this age. Additionally, the invention of a camera in 1883 made photography a very popular hobby among many people, especially during their leisure activities.

Finally, Richard (2008, p.1) argues that with the modernization, many states had evolved and were having stable governments. Leisure became a national issue of concern with the various government setting aside recreational parks where people could go to relax. Fencing of animal parks and building of social halls also had major impacts in the development of leisure. Equally, the governments were able to provide securities during major leisure activities.

However, Mc Lean & Hurd (2009, p. 78) note that despite the positive influence of modernism on sports and leisure, it also has negative impacts. For instance, as modernism unfolded, people became preoccupied with various professions which greatly reduced the amount of time they had for leisure. Sports were left to those who could pursue it as a profession. The other setback was that modernism brought with it immoral behavior especially among youth. Richard (2008, p.1) notes that the cinemas showed promiscuous and violent movies that were emulated by most youths. The society thus slowly lost its morals.


In conclusion, it is quite clear that a number of the aspects of modernism had great impact on sports during the two centuries. These included: technology, infrastructure, new inventions, and national support. The influence of modernity on sports and leisure is, therefore, great despite the challenge to moral standards that came with it.

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