The Sporting Iconoclast
Challenging the conventional wisdom, sowing new ideas, sending some old ones to the compost heap

No truly new sports invented in over 100 years — why?

An almost never commented-upon reality of the sports world is how Old World it is

Football, basketball, baseball, tennis, ice hockey, modern soccer – they all originated in the 19th century.

Basketball is the youngest of the sports popular in the United States. The original peach-basket version was created by Professor James Naismith in 1891, although here’s a little-known fact: The rules for Naismith’s basketball didn’t even include dribbling. A pretty distinctive element of the game, wouldn’t you say? Golf is the old man of the major sports. There is a literary reference to a hole on a green dating back to 1505.

Given how much fun and money there is to be had in sports it’s amazing that no new popular sport has emerged in more than 100 years. Think of it, it’s as if we are driving super-advanced versions of the horse-and-buggies our great-great-grandparents used.

That’s why I’m issuing this challenge to my fellow Sporting Iconoclasts:

Invent a new sport.

I’m not talking about a variation on an existing sport, like indoor soccer or disc (Frisbee) golf. Nor am I talking about performance art like figure skating or free-style snowboarding, which is all about putting on a show and trying to convince a panel of judges that your show was the best.

I’m talking about a completely original game that involves physical exertion and yields a clear winner. It also has to be more complicated than a contest of who can run/jump/throw/swim/skate/drive, etc. the highest/fastest/longest.

Close your eyes sometime and try to dream up a new sport. Unless you’re a genius, you’ll inevitably find yourself drifting back to elements of existing sports and potential variations on them. Shake those thoughts out of your head and try again.

Here are some ideas that may help with the thought process:

  • Purposeful goals: You could intentionally design your sport to improve aerobic fitness or strength. It could require teamwork or self-sacrifice, perhaps even a certain amount of cooperation between competitors. You could shape the action to produce more of the exciting movements of existing sports, like diving catches.
  • Sell shovels to the prospectors: Just because you dream up the concept of a sport and write the rules doesn’t mean you’ll get rich. The real money, at least to start, may be in sales of sporting equipment.
  • Capitalize on modernity: Technologies exist today that no one, except maybe Jules Verne or H.G. Wells, could have dreamed of in the infancy of today’s sports. Could your sport incorporate GPS or some other modern invention? All the Wii does, unfortunately, is create hologram versions of existing sports.
  • Think retrofit: The world is full of football/soccer stadiums and basketball arenas. It would be more practical if your sport could fit into existing venues.
  • Gender inclusiveness: Invent a sport where women and men can compete as equals. I think such a sport already exists – golf. Just let the women hit from the women’s tees.
  • Be spectator-friendly: Football and baseball are obviously more popular and more practical as spectator sports than is cross country running or skiing. Then again, golf would seem to be an unlikely spectator sport because of the huge playing area, but it works great on TV.
  • Be age-friendly: Thanks to the demographic aging-tsunami that’s carrying the baby boomer generation into its retirement years, older people are going to make up an increasing share of the population. You might want to tailor your sport to the capacities of this huge market.

Join the Sports Invention Workshop

Most of what we do in our lifetimes is going to be forgotten, but as we’ve seen, a good sport can bring enjoyment to the world for centuries.

If you’re inventive and the thought of being a founding mother or father of a sport appeals to you, leave a comment here. I’ll get back to you about the Sports Invention Workshop concept.

Ed Cohen

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43 Responses to “No truly new sports invented in over 100 years — why?”

  1. Well, these are interesting thoughts. I think they are true. However, everything is
    relative and ambiguous to my mind.

  2. what’s this about actually? I’ve invented a number of sports. Some are variations of existing sports; some are almost entirely original sports. In either case I find it virtually impossible to bring my concepts to reality let alone profit from them.

  3. I have invented a physical team sport, that kinda goes along with pretty much everything you have put down. I have to properlly play it as i know few people where i live who could play this, as it involves the skill of inline skating. I don’t totally understand what this is about but please contact me and explain more.

  4. I have ivented a sport that i would consider fairly original. It is a game that in my high school gym class we play once a week and everyone loves it. In my opinion it needs a little tweeking if I wanted to make this a very popular sport. Such as useing a different ball more like the one used in team handball. We play in the wrestling room of our school but i think the court or turf field should be bigger. Also im not sure how physical to make it. In our class its tag and stop but it still gets pretty physical. My question is how would you take a newly invented sport and make it as popular as basketball, baseball, football, ect…?

  5. Introducing Middleball, the NEW court sport…

    It is a fun sport using a beach ball and a few nets in a racquetball court.

    It meets most of the criteria that Ed wrote about above. Check it out at http://www.Middleball.com

    Thanks!

  6. My cousin and I invented a new sport. It’s fun.

  7. I recently received a patent on both the game method and related equipment to a totally unique new team sport called Sabakiball. It has been played by more the 20,000 people in the past two years and is being played in P.E. classes across Arizona. We have over 100 registered league players in the Phoenix area, and we have just agreed to terms for national distribution of equipment through a company with nearly a million catalogue subscribers. Did it take a LOT of work? Certainly. Is it profitable? After just two years, absolutely.

    • Michael,
      Congrats on the sucess. This is a variation on the field/goal games, like soccer, polo and water polo, and hockey. I don’t see a lot of original elements other than the goal “pin.” I like the three-second rule, but how do you enforce it? Also, are there penalties for rough play?

      • Thanks Ed. There are two officials calling each game. The “referee” calls penalties (including non-incidental contact like CHARGING, ELBOWING, and ROUGHING) and also calls goals. The second official is the “Timer” who calls the three pass rule and the three second rule. These officials are trained to be extremely accurate, however, consistancy is more important as teams get a “feel” for how the Timer is calling the game. There is a six page rule-book used for sanctioned league play.

      • Just a quick update Ed: Now entering its fourth year, Sabakiball is being played by more than 100,000 people in 10 states and growing at an incredible pace. New York Mets outfielder Scott Hairston just became a part owner of Sabakiball International and I start a national tour in Feb, 2012 with stops in CA, TX, MI, IL, MA, and a few more states still being scheduled. Our new 24 page Official Rule Book; Coaches Edition just came out and will be available for the first time at several national sports and recreation conventions that will be a part of out national tour.

        Michael Cerpok
        President/CEO
        Sabakiball International, LLC

      • I am both excited and frustrated to see this post! I have invented a new sport that I have tested in 4 countries over 25 years and know (as a former coach, semi-pro sportsman, father and youth worker) that it’s a winner. But I simply do not know how to take it public. I would be thrilled to learn from anyone how to go about it. Thanks.

    • hi my name is art i im in the prossed to submit a patent application for a new unique sports game im curious how much will it cost to patent rules plus equipment

      • I’m not a lawyer, so you may want to consult one. Be forewarned that you cannot patent an idea. You could possibly patent the equipment, I suppose. A patent is expensive to obtain. If you have a new sport, what you most want to accomplish is popularizing it. A patent will only scare people away from adopting it. It puts up a barrier.

  8. Hi my name is Donald Thomas I have invented a sport that I feel that can fill the void of a new mainstream sport. However I don’t have protection for it yet but I’m in process of learning how to patent it and develop a league, I would like to Join the Sports Invention Workshop please send me an email with information.
    Thank you,
    Donald Thomas

  9. I have invented a new sport that meets Ed’s criteria and then some…it’s been tested in 4 countries over 25 years with thousands of kids and young adults. As a former semi-pro sportsman, youth worker, coach, teacher, father and sports fan, it’s a winner. There are variations of the game that have not been tested and game gear, court surfaces and equipment products spin-offs. The question is, where do I start to bring this into the public domain and what do I need to do to protect my interests? I was told you can’t patent a sport? Simple steps please – any help would be appreciated.

  10. call of duty ps3…

    […]No truly new sports invented in over 100 years — why? « The Sporting Iconoclast[…]…

  11. I think about creating a new sport every single day. I became a professional Halo player in 2008 which led to becoming immersed in the world of electronic sports. Over time, I realized that the only element of competition that some team video games truly lack is physical exertion. So for me, the last 4 years has been a quest to merge the exciting aspects of video games into the athletic world.

    Let me be clear, when most people hear the word “video game” they think about entertainment based consumer electronic devices. But I’m not talking about those. I think that, if done correctly, computers can be used to measure athletic talents that could not be measured in earlier history since computers did not exist. That fact could foster a new sport.

    • Adam, I teach a sports management class at Anna Maria College in Massachusetts. I would love to hear more about your thoughts on this — one of my class projects is to have my students invent a new sport for the disabled and using video game technology may be worth looking at. Please feel free to shoot me an email with your phone number. Cheers.

  12. I have created a natures new generation sport and enviromental concept for the future, it took me a decade to create. If you want to find out more email me.

  13. I have created natures new generation sport and enviromental concept for the future. It took me a decade to create, if u want to find out more feel free to email me,

  14. I have an amazing new sport which can be played in arena’s which is full contact and great scoring chances, with fouls and penalties. It consists of 6 people per team with substitutions and non stop running and throwing for 20 min a period. If you would like the full explanation of the game, it is quite a sport and makes Sabakiball looks like a little kid game

  15. I’m not sure what we are expected to do, or can do at this site? Can someone give me some guidance please on how to take the first steps to getting my new sport known, recognized and launched? Thanks.

  16. Xtreme Ice Skating is a new sport created in 2005.

  17. Created gr8 new sport! Help us expand. FeeZBall

  18. I invented and developed a new sport. I have righten a Master Play Book incorporating everything about the sport and rules of the sport as well as protective gear and other equipment that would be needed to play at a professional league level. this is a game that can be played 1 on 1 in the back yard like tossing the ball. Or as a full 8 on 8 man game as tested on the full size field as a full contact sport with adults ranging in age from 18 to 38. it has the potential and some of the aspects all the other sports today have from little league to the extreme side of it. it has an extremely ancient and popular air to it as well.

  19. I would love to become apart of this Sports Invention Workshop concept.
    I often dream and think about the complexities that you laid out above and seem to always come back to wanting to create objective Team sport displays of ultimate athleticism and intelligence. Please contact me so that i can start somewhere and be lead with my concepts.

    • Hi, Lou. Sounds like I’ve found a kindred spirit. I work for Notre Dame and have been trying to get a group formed or work with a class here, so far without success. I think this is definitely a project/concept that would work best with a group of people tackling it from different directions and backgrounds. That’s how the innovation company IDEO does it. I’ll let you know if I can make any progress on this end. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas, and I will not steal any of them.

      Best,

      Ed
      ecohen@nd.edu

  20. As said prior, I’m the founder of the sport Xtreme Ice Skating – – (2005). If you need ideas, feel free to ask. I’m also a business man and an inventor.

    Regards,
    Dan Perceval

    Facebook:
    http://www.Facebook.com/TheSportXtremeIceSkating

    • Hi, Dan. Looks like a form of figure skating to me. How is this a new sport along the lines I’ve described? I kind of group all judged competitions together.

  21. Well said on the Old-World sentiments of traditional sports. I too encourage people to bust out of this regime.

    6 years ago I invented a sport that had some variation to Kickball, but focuses on the concept of “Inclusion with Contribution”. http://mojokickball.com
    I invented it because I wanted to create a sport that would allow a 10 year old and and 55 year old to compete on relatively reasonable footing with the 22 year old college athlete. I wanted to do this without putting in stupid caveats for the non-athletic types. So I made the sport in a way where 90% of the time it was advantageous to not run fast. 90% of the time it’s more advantageous to make a short kick than a long one. I made a sport where if you were obese, you would have an advantage in some roles. And then I made it so that everyone had to go through these roles at some point but were not stuck in the roles they didn’t want to stay in.
    Improve on this. Put more sports out there. There are a lot of people who would love to play, but aren’t interested in sports because (as with all old-world sports) the fun of winning has far exceed the fun of play and discovery.

    • Eric, I love the thought you put into the dynamics/motives. And I love how you write about it. Fun! Your thinking is obviously right in line with mine on designing toward a desired outcome. Looking at the video, it’s a little hard for me to grasp the game. It looks a lot like kickball/baseball. I’m still looking for the truly original sport.

  22. I love new sports, Kronum as an example is great, but they promote it good league video etc. I get you can’t generally patent a game, but all these “i invented a game, but shhhh I can’t tell u about it, just means no one will play them, or care

  23. Hey! My name is Edward and I’m from Cape Coral, Florida! I found this page and I must say, a new sport has already been invented.
    It is called Boatman Tours. It is a four on four capture the flag game with foam blasters. The flag is actually called a cog. The key is to capture it and run it into the opposing teams base. You have 10 minutes to do so. If it is not done in that time, both teams lose. If you hold possession of the cog in your own zone when time expires, only your team loses.
    Check out Boatmantours.com for more information!

    • Hard to tell much from the website. What’s with the music. Looks like capture-the-flag, as you say. I’m interested in completely original constructs, not variations or improvements on the existing ones. Good luck!

  24. Try this sport out. Look at it and help get involved to make this the first sport invented in 100 years

  25. I have a great idea. I dont want to share due to the fact I have not patent it soon, but I plan to asap. Its seriously an amazing idea. Let me know if you can help in any way.

  26. What about snowboarding sports that involve racing where it has nothing to do with judges?Thone are new but I suppose it’s basically a variation of skiing.

  27. I’m not entirely sure this ‘no new sports in 100 years’ notion holds true. I could be wrong, but wasn’t roller derby a 1950s invention? OK, it’s essentially a race (the oldest of all sports), but its a race on roller skates where players are allowed to bray the shit out of each other in the process, and the fact that men are barred from competing makes it stand out somewhat. I’d say there’s enough things about it that are unique to class it as an original sport rather than a variation.

  28. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thank you!


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