Sports can measure the evolutionary development of human beings during a period of time. Along with the competition and the romanticism of sport, almost every category of sports has proven significantly, reflecting the progress of athletes and humanity. Science and technology are an integral part of sports with a mutual goal of improving the athlete’s capabilities and reaching the limits of the human body.
If Darwin could only see this now
The most familiar way to measure the evolution of sports is by a 100-meter dash. The world record for men’s 100m around the early 20th century was around 10.8. The evolution of sports has eventually led to Usain Bolt’s 9.58 world record in 2009, a decrease of 1.2 seconds. The progress for women is even higher – the world record in 1922 was set at 13.6 and decreased by 3.1 seconds when Florence Griffith-Joyner broke the record in 1988.
The progress of 100 meters swimming freestyle for men and women is even more impressive – In 1905, the world record was set at 1:05 and decreased by more than 18 seconds by Cesar Cielo who holds the WR at 46.91. The WR for women 100 meters swimming freestyle was set at 1:35 in 1908 and was cut down by Sarah Sjöström in 2017 by more than 43 seconds!
When comparing each category of sports, some fields of sports have had a major advancement like athletics, racing, and extreme sports while other fields
like boxing, for example, had a minor evolutionary process.
Basketball’s evolution is one to notice. Looking at the black and white basketball videos from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s and you cannot ignore the enormous progress of basketball players. While back then every player had a specific role and limitations, nowadays, basketball players are a great example of the increasing capabilities of athletes.
Magic Johnson was perhaps the first unicorn all-around basketball player with the ability to shoot, dribble, pass and basically play in every position on the court. These days, basketball players look like machines – Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Doncic, Yokic, Porzingis, and more have invented a new type of basketball player. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Damien Lillard are a different type of basketball players that changed the game with an extraordinary ability to shoot the ball from the 3-point line and even further.
Science and sports
The first scientific improvement that pops up in my mind is the development of tennis rackets that completely changed the game and created a new type of tennis players. Tennis was a completely different game at the 60s and 70s. The small laminated wooden rackets did not have the power and accuracy and technology has brought the first steel racket in 1968 which was adopted by Jimmi Connors. Wilson then took control of tennis rackets at the 80s with a wider aluminum racket that completely changed the game.
The evolution of tennis rackets and courts along with the evolution of tennis players created a new generation of tennis players. Bjorn Borg was the first player to introduce top-spin forehand and backhand and revolutionized the game of tennis. The evolution of footwork and new tennis shots created amazing players such as Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.
The involvement of science in Tennis is unquestionable, partly because it has an additional tool which is part of the game. However, as we mentioned with running, swimming and every category of athletics, science, and technology have a huge impact on sports and new innovative startups pop-up.
What about extreme sports?
Another interesting observation is the elimination of a particular sport category and the invention of a new sport. For example, extreme sports was not recognized and was not very popular several decades ago. Surfing, climbing, scuba diving, kiting and more created a new community of people that enjoy extreme sports and push forward to find new tools and improvements of each of the categories. For example, free deep diving is sort of sport/science and presents humans progress reaching to a record of 332.5 meters depth by Ahmed Gabr in 2014.
Surfing, climbing, rafting and more extreme sports have an innovative evolution that constantly grows.
The future of sports
It’s almost impossible to predict the future of sports. How fast can a human being run, swim and cycle? How high and how far can we jump? How fast can soccer be? How strong and fast can an American football player become?
The evolution of sports raises questions regarding each game and field of sports – should a basketball court have an additional line for four points? Should tennis regulators change to only one serve instead of two?
Moreover, as technology becomes an integral part of sports the question of technology involvement of sports is a valid discussion. Should sport remain natural and pure or perhaps the integration of technology is part of humanity and the progress of sports? And, if technology will be part of sports, what about illegal substances???
The involvement of technology in recent years cannot be set apart from sports – Data, statistics, new innovative sportswear, and even the use of Artificial Intelligence to improve players and athletes capabilities will have a huge impact in the future.