There are currently hundreds of different sports played by individuals and teams all over the world. Some are more popular than others, and some have a much longer history than what we might think. The following is a list of popular sports which have come a long way since their origin and also evolved over the years to its current format.

1. Baseball

The modern game of baseball was based on the English game of rounders, which became popular in the United States in the early 19th century.  It was Alexander Cartwright of New York who, together with members of the Knickerbocker Baseball Club, first came up with the modern version by designing the diamond-shaped field and the first set of rules in 1845. While there were also other versions of the game at that time, it was Cartwright’s version which eventually became the most popular.

Alexander Cartwright

(2) Basketball

Basketball was invented by James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher, in 1891.  At Springfield YMCA, Massachusetts where he was teaching, Naismith was instructed to come up with an indoor game that could help keep the students in shape, was not too rough and yet not take up too much space. Working within such constraints, he devised the rules and court boundary for the game, which we now know as "basketball".

James Naismith

(3) American Football

American football was derived from the English game of rugby. It was Walter Camp, a football player and coach in Yale University, who first devised the rules for the game in 1879. Camp's contributions included reducing the number of team members from 15 to 11, creating the quarterback and center positions, the forward pass and standardizing the scoring system. 

Walter Camp

(4) Tennis

Tennis originated from a French court game called paume (palm).  Played in the 12th century, the game initially involved hitting the ball with one's palms. Subsequently, rackets were used. The game also became popular throughout Europe. In 1869, Walter Wingfield, a British army officer, invented the game of Sphairistike, which was the immediate predecessor of the modern game of lawn tennis. By 1873, Wingfield began marketing the game together with the racket and rubber balls to the general public, which quickly caught on its appeal.

Walter Wingfield

(5) Volleyball

The sport originated in the United States in 1895, when William G. Morgan, an instructor at the Holyoke YMCA, Massachusetts, decided to create an indoor game for his students, who were mainly older businessmen, that would involve less physical contact than basketball. Morgan decided to incorporate elements of basketball, handball, tennis and baseball. The volleyball net had its origin from tennis, but was raised 6 feet and 6 inches from the floor. The sport was initially called Mintonette, but was changed to volleyball when a spectator commented to Morgan that the players seemed to be "volleying" the ball back and forth.

William Morgan

(6) Ice Hockey

It was generally thought that ice hockey arose from the game of field hockey which has been played in Europe for a long time. It was James George Creighton, a Canadian, who was believed to have first devised the rules for the game in 1875 and also helped to popularize it. The first recorded indoor hockey match took place in Montreal, Canada in 1875. The game attracted widespread attention and subsequently led to the formation of other ice hockey teams. 

James Creighton

(7) Golf

The modern version of golf was derived from a game once played in Scotland more than 600 years ago. During the 15th century, players would use a stick to hit a pebble around the sand dunes. Around 1774, players in Edinburgh came up with the first rules for the game.  As for the modern golf ball, it was only in 1905 when the dimpled pattern was first adopted by William Taylor, a maker of golf balls, who noticed that this design enabled the ball to travel further. And the golf clubs? Over the centuries, they evolved from sticks to wooden clubs to the modern day version of wood and iron.

History of Golf

(8) Football (soccer)

According to historical evidence, Chinese soldiers were playing a game, which resembled the modern version of football, with a leather ball during the Han Dynasty (around the second century B.C.). Other versions were also played in ancient Japan, Greece and Rome. However, it was only in the England, where the modern game was institutionalized and popularized.  According to English records, it was in 1815 in Eton College where the rules of the modern game were first introduced. In 1863, the English Football Association was established to define the rules and manage other aspects of the game.

Old football game

(9) Pin bowling

Archaeologist have found remains of bowling balls and pins in ancient Egyptian graves dating back to 3200 B.C.  The first written record of bowling was in 1366 when King Edward III of England banned the game as his soldiers were neglecting their training over this game. The game was popular in Europe and it was introduced to America by the early settlers. Although the game appealed to many in America, it was only in 1887, when A.G. Spaudling came up with the rules for the modern game. By late 19th century, bowling clubs began sprouting up all over America, a trend which has continued to this day.

Bowling in the 17th century

(10) Boxing

Boxing is one of the oldest contact sports. Archaeologists have found evidence that the sport might have existed in the ancient Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations from 3000-1500  B.C.. However, ancient boxing differed dramatically from its modern version, as boxers did not use gloves or protective headgear then, nor was the fight divided into several rounds. Boxing was so popular back then that it became an Olympic sport around 688 B.C. 

Modern boxing originated in England around the 17th century. The first documented boxing match took place in 1681. In 1743, rules were introduced to prevent deaths in the ring. In 1867, John Chambers devised the rules - known as the Marquess of Queensberry rules (as the rules were published under her patronage)- for an amateur championship held in London. Since then, these rules have governed the modern sport of boxing.

Ancient Boxing