Barnstorming in athletics refers to sports teams or individuals that travel to various locations, usually small towns, to stage exhibition matches. Barnstorming teams differ from traveling teams in that barnstorming teams operate outside the framework of an established athletic league, while traveling teams (also known as "road teams") are designated by a league, formally or informally, to be a designated visiting team for all, or almost all, of its league games. Barnstorming has a history of allowing athletes to participate in dual sports. For example, Goose Reece Tatum played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters and baseball for a Negro barnstorm team.
Some barnstorming teams lack any home arena whatsoever, while other teams have been known to go on "barnstorming tours" in the off-season. Teams in baseball's Negro Leagues often barnstormed before, during, and after their league's "regular season". Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Satchel Paige barnstorm toured with Dempsey Hovland's Caribbean Kings. He was also the founder and proprietor of a number of barnstorms teams including the well-known Texas Cowgirls (1949–1977) team, the first integrated professional female basketball team to tour worldwide. The Harlem Globetrotters and Texas Cowgirls shared training camp, seasons, and circuits. Hovland also founded and managed The New York Harlem Queens.
While barnstorming is no longer as popular as it was in the 20th century, some teams such as basketball's Harlem Globetrotters, softball's King and His Court founded by Eddie Feigner and ice hockey's Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team carry on the tradition. In the 1990s the Colorado Silver Bullets women's baseball team resurrected barnstorming as there was no women's league in which to compete at the time.
It was very common in the early days of professional American football; for instance, the Los Angeles Wildcats of the first American Football League (AFL) of 1926 played the regular season as a traveling team, then went on a post-season barnstorming tour of Texas and California, with Red Grange and the New York Yankees as the designated opponent for most of these games. NFL teams were also known to barnstorm in small towns against local teams all the way up through World War II.
Numerous auto racers, most notably Barney Oldfield, staged exhibitions around the United States in the early twentieth century. Oldfield barnstormed against the aviator Lincoln Beachey at least 35 times in 1914.
- Barnstormers is a video game that the main character plays in the 2001 book Danger Boy by Mark London Williams. In the game players can choose humans, vampires, zombies and many other types of creatures to build a baseball team and then travel around the country to compete against other teams.
List of barnstorming teams
|This section requires expansion with: more barnstorm teams in all sports. (August 2011)|
- American Football
- House of David Previously stated as a basketball team
- Texas Cowgirls
- Washington Generals
- Ice Hockey
- King and His Court
- Rugby Union