An Incomplete History of Sports and Technology

Authored by Steve Gera & Dave Anderson – SportTechie

“First one to the olive tree wins.”

The first sports competition was not recorded, but our guess is that it was the age-old challenge: “Let’s run from here to there as fast as we can.” We can surmise then that first piece of sports technology equipment was likely a branch or a piece of rope that signaled the starting line to keep people from arguing over who might have had a head start. 

The first athlete is not known because he had no Instagram feed. He was probably a soldier—who else had the time and motive to sculpt his body in preparation for man-to-man competition? But we can assume that our athletic ancestors figured out relatively quickly that eating well, getting enough sleep and studying the competition was a good idea. No Athletigen, Whoop, or XOS required. 

The first coach is also lost to history. He was likely an athlete who helped fellow wrestlers or combatants study opponents and learn the finer techniques of competition. That coach definitely used a sharp eye to recognize patterns and acquire knowledge about ways to train athletes. He definitely did not have an analytics intern. 

Many indications suggest that sports first evolved from combat training or as a way to celebrate war or those who had died in battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans turned combat training into competition, with the first ancient Olympiad being held in Athens in 776 B.C. Sumo was first mentioned in historical Japanese text sometime around 100 A.D. Things were pretty simple back then. You either played or watched, or maybe you coached. 

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