07.12.2021 • Author: Lena Fleischmann
Moving, competing and cheering – sports have always inspired people. Even today, sport is omnipresent at all times: whether in a club, in the great outdoors, sitting at home on the couch in front of the TV, or on site in a stadium. Due to its great importance in people’s lives, not only its influence on social and political processes is increasing, but also on the development of the economy, the manufacturing industry, as well as on the trade and service sectors. But how did the development from the sport with chariot races and fist fights in the stadiums in ancient Greece come to the highly technical pro sports as we know them today? We would like to answer this question in this blog post.
If you look for the origins of the history of pro sports, you have to look back to antiquity in ancient Greece and Egypt. Physical exercises such as running, archery, hunting and fighting already played a major role and were part of the culture and everyday life of the people. The first competitions were held in stadiums, which served mainly to entertain the rulers and later gave the people a lot of pleasure. At that time, in addition to natural forms of movement, people also used the first sports equipment such as the discus or bow and arrow.
The development of modern sports began only with industrialization and mechanization in the 19th century. The competition for precedence in technical development in Europe was not only felt in the world of work: it also had a great influence on sports. The competition for higher, faster, further was ignited and attempts were made to extend the limits of human performance. It was not long before the first written regulations and standards began to influence sports, so that materials, equipment and procedures were standardized. Measuring devices and statistics also gained in importance, because soon people were no longer satisfied with a simple victory, but hunted for additional records. In the 20th century, the discovery of new materials such as plastics and special metals brought about another breakthrough in the world of sports, as these made new designs of sports equipment possible, which considerably shifted the performance limits in pro sports. Sports soon became accessible to the masses due to favorable production conditions. This also further cranked up the influence of science, and people were not only concerned with sports equipment and materials, but also with the mechanisms of human movement and the training process, which did not take long to produce groundbreaking inventions and new records.
The development of new technologies has fundamentally changed sports and is still helping to enhance athletic performance and determine performance differences more accurately. In this context, sports technology has various applications, such as the redesign of sports facilities, the production of sportswear, sports equipment and diagnostic instruments to determine the motor performance of athletes. We will discuss some important inventions below to show the great importance of technology for the further development of sports.
We all remember it from school: with stopwatch in hand, the sports teacher stood at the finish line and used it to determine the fastest runner. But that wasn’t always the case, because in the past only the eyes of the referees determined the winner – times were not measured at first. At the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, a single stopwatch, which was used for the entire competition, was used for the first time. Later, in addition to the stopwatch, cameras were used to take a photo of the finish line to determine the placement. However, this technology also evolved as faster sports, such as bobsleigh or car racing, were established, which allowed higher speeds. Today, many sports no longer rely on the human eye and judgment, as technological advances now make it possible to use a photoelectric sensor that can capture up to 2000 images per second at the finish line.
Another breakthrough was achieved by the Japanese Kenjiro Takayanagi, who in 1931 actually only wanted to follow an important baseball game at his university. He succeeded in broadcasting the first real-time sports on television – at that time, of course, still in black and white. His technology soon caught on in Japan and made possible the first broadcasts of the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. People were thrilled and still use the opportunity to follow top-class sports at any time and any place. Live streams and public viewing have become indispensable.
The establishment of live broadcasting meant that viewers were no longer deprived of any sporting event. Thus, everyone was able to watch the 1954 World Cup final in Bern, in which the German national soccer team surprisingly won 3:2 against Hungary. Before this final, Hungary was considered the heavy favorite, as they had been unbeaten for 32 games and had already defeated Germany 3-8 in the preliminary round. So what led the Germans to victory on this day? One assumes that a decisive advantage lay not in tactics or lineup, but in the players’ equipment, because on that day it was raining cats and dogs and the turf was deep and slippery. Shortly before, a new, soft and also lightweight football boot with screw-in studs had been developed. Adi Dassler equipped the national team with this shoe of his company Adidas, which proved to be a significant advantage. Due to the materials, the shoes of the Germans hardly soaked up water and remained very light. In addition, the studs continued to allow fast play and abrupt changes of direction without slipping on the grass. As a result, the Hungarians soon had to chase not only the ball but also the players of the German national team. To this day, people argue whether Adi Dassler is really considered the inventor of screw-in cleats. But the fact is that the Miracle of Bern was a breakthrough for him, because to this day the national soccer team is equipped with shoes from Adidas.
Another sporting event in football did not stay away for long. In the 1966 World Cup final, Germany faced England. It was an exciting game, because after England took a 2-1 lead twelve minutes before the final whistle, Wolfgang Weber equalized in stoppage time. Then in the 101st minute there was a spectacular move in which Geoff Hurst shot the ball against the bottom edge of the crossbar and it bounced down towards the goal line. The referee ruled a goal for England, which contributed to the victory for them with a final score of 4:2 after extra time. This decision, however, led to a lot of media attention and provided a good basis for discussion. To this day, there is disagreement about whether the ball was in the goal or not. Events like these stimulated a steady evolution of technology in soccer. In 2012, goal-line technology was used for the first time and video evidence was also introduced shortly after in the 2017/18 season in the 1st Bundesliga. Since then, these have also caught on in other sports such as volleyball and even gymnastics as a way of pointing out incorrect decisions made by the referee. In basketball, instant replay has been available as a tool for the referees since 2014/15.
It’s also interesting to note that new technologies didn’t just evolve as a result of events and to solve problems – they can also lead to the creation of new sports or techniques within a sport. In 1968, Dick Fosbury revolutionized a novel high jump technique at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He was the first athlete to jump over the bar backwards, head first, landing on his back on the mat and rolling off. Without the invention of the soft-core mat at this time, the Fosbury flop would have initially only increased accident statistics. However, this technique was able to establish itself very quickly and enabled new records to be set in the high jump. Inline skating would also not be as popular today without the invention of the ball bearing. In pole vaulting, modern carbon rods allow athletes today to reach almost twice the height they could with wooden rods in the 19th century. But modern technologies, in addition to new techniques and records, can also open up new spaces for people, both above and below the water and at all heights of the atmosphere – so with time and progress, mountain biking, para-gliding or surfing could be made possible.
In order to be successful in top-class sports, training and technical equipment play an important role in addition to talent, physical prerequisites and psyche. It is difficult to influence an athlete’s genetic disposition and talent. The situation is different, however, when it comes to technologies for training optimization and the elaborately developed sports equipment. These are increasingly proving to be a decisive factor and advantage in the competition for athletic success. This was proven not only by the cleated shoe in the 1954 World Cup final.
Today, the increasing mechanization and technologization can be found in all areas: From recreational and popular sports to high-performance and elite sports. Not only in competition, but also in the training and practice phases, they play a major role, because the sports world is obvious and ready to integrate modern techniques, to participate in the development of technology and to open itself to a comprehensive technologization. New products are coming to the market faster and faster, because the path from the idea of a product to its implementation and marketing takes place in a shorter and shorter time. The reason for this is the increasingly fast-paced society and, above all, the economy. The striving for higher, faster and further is still decisive today. This is also reflected in sports, because if you want to be successful, you have to keep up with progress, open up to new ideas and technologies and develop them further before the competition does. The consequence is that in many technical sports, it is mainly countries that have the technical know-how and the necessary capital that are at the top of the international competition, while economically weak countries tend to lag behind in the competitive battle.
In addition to the unjustifiable pursuit of profit in pro sports, however, the development of technical innovations also has many good sides, because it also promotes, for example, the mass character of the sport, as equipment can be produced more durably and cheaply, making it available to ordinary consumers as well. In addition, safety is a top priority in sports, as protective equipment and technologies in medicine and diagnostics are constantly being developed to minimize the risk of injury to athletes and to provide them with the best possible treatment when necessary. As mentioned earlier, new sports are henceforth developed, new stimuli are set or new variations in existing sports are created. The further development in all areas of sport has also largely resulted in an increase in the quality of competitions and thus also in the excitement – which of course pleases us most as spectators of pro sports!
As you can currently see, trainers are also calling for more research and new technical equipment in order to train more specifically and efficiently. Not everyone is enthusiastic about this, as many still swear by old, tried-and-tested training methods. One person who is betting on technical progress is head coach of FC Bayern Julian Nagelsmann: In an interview with tz München, he wished for more technical aids in top-level soccer. Similar to American football, Nagelsmann was thinking here of a way for direct communication between players and coaches. Those who have already followed us a bit know that we have developed a solution exactly for this. We at Coachwhisperer also see ourselves as part of the sporting and technical development in pro sports and would like to set new incentives for athletes and coaches.
If you’re curious and want to see how this venture will be implemented – stay tuned and follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn!