- For the sport comprising cross country, road running and track and field, see Athletics (sport). For other uses, see Athletics (disambiguation)
Athletics is a term encompassing the human competitive sports and games requiring physical skill, and the systems of training that prepare athletes for competition performance. Athletic sports or contests, are competitions which are primarily based on human, physical competition, demanding the qualities of stamina, fitness, and skill. Athletic sports form the bulk of popular sporting activities, with other major forms including motorsports, precision sports,extreme sports and animal sports.
Athletic ability through evolution
Human evolution suggests that early sports which strongly involved the training and preparation for hunting and or fighting for survival have contributed to athletic abilities. Early hunting and competition most commonly involved precision throwing of objects such as rocks, spears and nets. These skills obtained have evolved into sports and athletic competition as we know it today with sports such as golf, baseball, basketball, soccer and lacrosse. Fighting skills also benefited early humans, either for protection against predators, hunting prey or fighting other humans. All living creatures compete in various ways and using various skills but human beings through evolution and equipped with the opposable thumb, adequately developed skills in hunting and fighting which carried over into sports competition. Competitive skills were important in finding mates and contributing to other members of a family or social societies well being. This is also based on region, environmental conditions, food, and scarcity, human or animal population and food sources. These factors also gender roles were a factor with males usually being the stronger gender were adapted better and responsible for most of the hunting or fighting. Evolution of human athletic ability continues to progress as competition gets harder.
Athletic contests, as one of the earliest types of sport, are prehistoric and comprised a significant part of the Ancient Olympic Games, along with equestrian events. The word "athletic" is derived from the Ancient Greek word αθλός (athlos) meaning "contest". Athletic sports became organized in the late 19th century with the formation of organizations such as the Amateur Athletic Union in the United States and the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques in France. The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (later the NCAA) was established in 1906 to oversee athletic sports at college-level in the United States, known as college athletics.
Athletics has gained significant importance at educational institutions: talented athletes may gain entry into higher education through athletic scholarships and represent their institution in an athletic conference. Since the Industrial Revolution, people in the developed world have adopted an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and as a result athletics now plays a significant part in providing routine physical exercise. Athletic clubs worldwide offer athletic training facilities for multitudes of sports and games.
The word athletics is derived from the Greek word "athlos" (ἄθλος), meaning "contest" or "task." The Ancient Olympic Games were born of war and featured various forms of athletics such as running, jumping, boxing and wrestling competitions.
In the modern English language, the term athletics has taken on two distinct meanings. Its meaning in American English connotes human physical sports and their respective systems of training. The other principal meaning of the word comes from British English and variants within the British Commonwealth; this meaning of athletics refers solely to the concept of the sport of athletics (a category of sporting competition which comprises track and field sports and various forms of foot racing), rather than athletic activity in general.
Athletic body type
Gender and genetics play major roles in assessing athletic potential. There are significantly fewer football leagues for women; however, women have been active in martial arts for centuries, and sports like figure skating and tennis tend to favor women in terms of spectator popularity. Basketball, high jump, and volleyball favor taller athletes, while gymnastics and wrestling favor shorter ones. Long distance runners tend to be faster and thinner, while competitive powerlifters and American football players tend to be stockier. Athletic development often begins with athletic parents.
A primary athletic function is the body conditioning required for competition. Most often, trainers utilize proven athletic principles in order to develop athletic qualities; these qualities include coordination, flexibility, precision, power, speed, endurance, balance, awareness efficiency, and timing. While physical strength is prized over most other qualities in Western athletics, it is forbidden in the physical conditioning of T'ai chi ch'uan.
High-level athletics not only treat injuries with medical procedure, but attempt to prevent problems such as trauma and overuse injuries. Sports medicine can also include the use of massage, glucose testing, Rolfing, physical therapy, and performance enhancing drugs like caffeine & anabolic steroids.
Sports nutrition is the study and practice of nutrition and diet as it relates to athletic performance. It is concerned with the type and quantity of fluid and food taken by an athlete, and deals with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic substances such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Although an important part of many sports training regimens, it is most commonly considered in strength sports (such as weight lifting and bodybuilding) and endurance sports (for example cycling, running, swimming).
Training and coaching
Athletes first learn basic movement patterns such as running, stopping, jumping and throwing. Coaches help athletes refine these movements into sport specific skills. A skill such as high jumping can then be refined into a competitive technique like the Western roll or the Fosbury Flop. An individual’s expression of a technique is often called a style; while various competitive swimming strokes are also called styles. Team sports often develop and practice plays or strategies where players carry out specific tasks to coordinate a team effort of attack or defense.
Elite athletes and teams require high-level coaching. A coach is often associated only with an athlete’s technical development; however, a coach will likely play all the roles of mentor, physical trainer, therapist, medical responder, technical trainer and performance facilitator. Coaches may or may not involve sportsmanship in their program. Coaching typically signifies a quadrennial, ongoing mentorship for athletic development, as opposed to a clinician who might only assist for a short period of time.
Not only must coaches be able to teach technical form, but recognize and correct problems with a teams' or an athlete’s technique and conditioning. Recent advancements in video technology can provide accurate biomechanical data to optimize the form, precision, timing, efficiency and power of an athlete’s movements.
Critical to a team’s or an athlete’s success is a winning attitude. Inherent in the drive to win is the ability to remain relaxed and focused under the pressure of competition. Modern athletic coaches employ the use of sports psychologists to help athletes organize themselves through visualization, relaxation techniques, self-talk, concentration, etc.
Amateurs and professionals
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was created to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs that receive (U.S.) federal funding. The original statute made no reference to athletics or athletics programs. From 1972 to 2006, Title IX underwent a series of amendments for gender equity which became high impact on high school and collegiate athletics because it promoted maximum female participation in athletics through equal spending.
Professional sports are sports in which athletes receive payment for their performance. Professional athletics is seen by some as a contradiction of the central ethos of sport, competition performed for its own sake and pure enjoyment, rather than as a means of earning a living.
- International Olympic Committee
- National Collegiate Athletic Association
- Amateur Athletic Union
- Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques
- International Association of Athletics Federations
- Chin Woo Athletic Association
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
- Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women
- Athletics Definition. Merriam Webster. Retrieved on 2011-06-26.
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