July 13, 2017
Most sports requite a designated area to perform. For something like football (either the American kind or the kind the rest of the world plays) there are special fields and pitches of specific sizes on which the players play. For something like ice hockey or baseball the conditions and design of the field before even more specific. Even for something that involves fewer set pieces, so to say, like sailing or skiing the conditions are quite specific: a river, ocean, or lake and a boat are required, or skis, mountains, snow and probably chairlifts.
For some sports that’s not the case. For example, with urban sports they seek to take advantage of the natural landscape, or rather cityscape, has to offer and create physical past-times that match and fit into their surrounding, as the same way that most sports evolved in direct relation to their physical environments (why ice-skating was never developed in Cuba for example or why sailing doesn’t see much action in Mongolia.)
The other factor contributing to urban sports’ development is simply the human urge to move one’s body. While it’s undeniable that the quality of life experienced by many people today—and if you’re reading this on the internet you’re almost certainly one of them—is completely unprecedented and means we have to use our bodies less than most people for most of human history, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a desire to use our bodies still.
The fact that people usually go through at least a phase where they are physically active and the fact that most sports are developed with a strong or even direct influence from their physical surroundings are the main reasons we have urban sports today.
Despite the fact that people have lived in cities for many thousands of years, cities as we know them today—in a world where a city with a population of one million isn’t that much—means that in the 7000 years of settled human history we’ve only had truly urban spaces for about one hundred years.
That might be one of the reasons that urban sport took so long to appear on the world stage. Even before there were specific urban sports though like skateboarding or inline skating—two sports that utilise paved areas to use small wheeled apparatuses—many sports adapted themselves (or rather the people playing them) to meet their new constraints.
Sports like basketball and hockey were changed to be able to be played on small, paved fields instead of large courts or ice rinks. These changes were and remain testament to humanity’s desire to stay active and move one’s body—despite the sometimes overwhelming comfort of modern life.
For as long as humans have had bodies and environments there have been sports. With more and more people living in cities and everyone continuing to have bodies it seems likely that we’ll see more and more street and urban sports in the years to come.