Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Marco Bitran: The Birth Of The Sports Racket


Depending on where you live in the world, you may find differing opinions about the origins of various sports, including tennis and other racket sports. When it comes to sports rackets, the same argument might hold true. In reality, humans throughout history have been an innovative species and there have been numerous similarities across cultures and time, so it is sometimes impossible to credit one era as being the true starting point of different customs, sports, technologies or innovations.

When it comes to sports rackets, such as those used for tennis, badminton, or squash, the earliest evidence of their existence comes from ancient Greek and Roman cultures. These rackets were actually basic and primitive wooden paddles, fashioned by hand, but the concept and idea evolved over the centuries to give us the modern rackets used by professional sportsmen and women around the globe.

In England during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, games were becoming popular that were played between two or more people by using an object that was hit against a wall, in a similar fashion to modern handball. As the years progressed people realized that there was an alternative to using an open palm, which was understandably painful, and they started using gloves that evolved into a web-like structure.

With time, these web-like gloves eventually began to take the shape of a paddle and in the fifteenth century, Italian innovators created the first rackets with strings, which were actually animal intestines, also known as gut strings. The games began to take shape and gained the very basic rules and foundations of play which would over the years evolve through in these years into tennis, badminton, and squash.

While some may argue that sports rackets evolved from the Greek and Roman Empires, the most direct tracing of what we know to be sports rackets today comes from the Middle Ages in England and throughout Europe.

Badminton is generally accepted as the earliest racket sport that is similar to any that we play in our modern cultures. Badminton most closely resembles the games, in terms of rules and style of play that was in use two thousand years ago. One of the reasons why this may be the case is that badminton rules are simpler than modern tennis or squash. Also, the shuttlecock in badminton is bound in flight for the duration of each point, making it more feasible to have been played in these ancient times.

Badminton was also highly popular during the seventeenth century in England, and throughout Europe as it was favored by royal courts and considered the Queen's game. During those years, the game was played with wooden paddles and it was not until British soldiers returned with the rules of the Indian game of Poona that modern badminton truly took shape in the 1850's.

However, it is important to note that shortly after the 1850's, the game of lawn tennis, which is the considered the birth of modern tennis, and squash, were also formed. So while badminton can be traced back centuries, the modern version was introduced and accepted close to the same time to tennis and squash and share a common ancestry.

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