Street sports

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Street sports are sports held in urban environments. Other key characteristics attributable include their non-commercial and non-professional nature.[citation needed] Street sports are an expression of the spontaneous, improvisational and creative origins of sport adapted by human ingenuity to the urban environment. In historical terms their origins are traceable to the very earliest evidence of sports in Greek and Roman civilisation.[1] However their rise to prominence can be dated to the Industrial Revolution and the great shift towards urban living that took place during this era.[citation needed]
Today their prevalence and diversity are only matched by the diversity and hybridization of culture in our contemporary world. Although ‘street sports’ as a specific branch of sports have not been given the same degree of attention extended to the more conventional branches of sport, it is nevertheless both possible to delineate their scope and valid to speak in terms of their concept.[citation needed] Street sports are a hybrid form of sport and reflect the adaptation of conventional sports to the cityscape.[2]

According to contemporary research[3] surrounding the notion of the city it is suggested that the best way to understand its existence is through the prism of an ecology of the city. Viewing the city in this way as a living, bustling and thriving organism helps to cast light on the nature of the city, which is urban and to begin to home in on particular salient features of urban life. It is only with the advent of this relatively modern perspective on the urban that it has become possible to speak in terms of street sports.[citation needed] Today, with this view established, a variety of sub-disciplines within the phenomena have evolved, with each successive development representing a further refinement of the concepts expression. For example, whereas earlier it may have been natural to discuss skateboarding or stickball in isolation as cultural phenomena occurring in the urban environment, with the introduction of the broader concept of street sports it has become possible to explore a range of urban phenomena in the broader context of the urban. The result has been a greater scope and complexity to our understanding and appreciation of how urban life manifests itself culturally.

According to the UN World Urbanisation Prospects Report of 2008 the question of urbanisation is amongst the most urgent, pertinent and overarching of today.[4] Urbanisation, in the words of the report, is predicted to accelerate in the forthcoming decades transforming at unprecedented rates the majority of the world’s population into ‘city dwellers’.


In the words of Parkour artist Foucan, street sports are a philosophy concerned with the quest of personal and social realisation.[5] A similar point of view can be found in the notion of a philosophy of urban solo climbing expounded by Alain Robert.[6] Sebastien Foucan has also defined the sport of Freerunning as a ‘physical art’.[7] as much a question of identity, spiritual survival and evolution in the contemporary world, as a question of pure sports activity. Likewise, the highwire walker Philippe Petit, whose performance include walking between the WTC towers in 1974, has described his 'interventions' on the urban environment as 'art crimes', suggesting their essence is creative and constitutes an expression - an interaction with the city.[8] Streets sports are to be understood primarily and foremost in the light of these statements as a reflection of human adaptability and interaction with the urban environment.[citation needed]

Many of the sports identified under the rubric are cutting edge or extreme sport disciplines such as Parkour or Free urban solo climbing. The precedents to these sports are to be found in the many and multifarious hybrid forms of conventional and traditional sports that have emerged in the urban environment since the early 20th century.[citation needed] Among those, the most significant include variants of baseball, basketball, cricket, football, fuzzball, hockey and frizbee, which are practiced on a daily basis in every town and city on every continent in the world.[citation needed]


Historical evidence[citation needed] suggests that prior to sports evolving into a professional and later commercial form and migrating to prescribed spaces, they originated culturally, embedded within the immediate surroundings where people lived in society. Commonly associated with ceremony or ritual, but equally with the recreational and creative desires of people, sports were a central aspect of cultural life.

The Ba game, played twice annually to this day on the streets of Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands is an urban form of a cross between football and rugby.[citation needed] Similar football games also survive in a few isolated places in England and Scotland. In Ashbourne, Jedburgh and Workington for example a traditional contest of street football between two factions of the respective towns was originally played on Shrove Tuesday.[citation needed] Today this tradition continues with the contests taking place on Christmas Day and New Year's Day instead. Likewise the influence of street sports on the adaptation of migrant communities in the US to their urban surroundings represents another significant aspect of the phenomena's historical evolution. Various hybrid forms of baseball, basketball and football were and are an integral pursuit of play, recreation and identity in the cultural life of communities across the country. Stickball related to modern day conventional baseball and streetball a variant of conventional basketball are two prime examples.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reader, J: Cities 2005
  2. ^ Foucan, S: Freerunning; find your way 2008
  3. ^ Reader, J: Cities 2005
  4. ^ UN Population Division: World Urbanization Population Report Revised 2008
  5. ^ Foucan, S: Freerunning; find your way 2008
  6. ^ Robert, A: Official Website
  7. ^ Foucan, S: Freerunning; find your way 2008
  8. ^ Petit, P. To Reach The Clouds 2002

External links[edit]


  1. Freerunning: Freerunning: find your way (Foucan, S. 2008 Michael O'Mara Books Ltd)
  2. Urbanization and the evolution of the city: Cities (Reader, J. 2005. Vintage)
  3. Street sports in the middle east: The Kite Runner (Housseni, K. 2003)
  4. Highwire walking: To Reach The Clouds (Petit, P. 2002. faber & faber)


  1. Parkour
  2. Stickball
  3. The Kite Runner (film adaptation of Housseni's novel of the same name)
  4. Man on Wire (film Documentary Portraying Background to Petit's highwire walk between the WTC Towers)