Next summer, when the world celebrates sports in London, England during the Summer Olympics and Lethbridge hosts the Alberta Summer Games, the Galt Museum & Archives will explore sports through a special in-house exhibit and a series of programs.
Sports has been an integral part of society since ancient times. The Olympics in Greece are thought to have started as far back as 776 BCE and the Mayan people played the first team sport over 3,500 years ago. Blackfoot people in this area played games that focused on learning and improving survival skills such as archery and running.
Early settlers enjoyed sports as a break from the hard work of surviving on the open prairie. Community gatherings almost always included games that pitted individuals or teams against one another. Mounted Police and ranchers played polo and cricket, games coming out of British traditions. Baseball, a mixture of many older games, eventually replaced cricket as a favourite. Horse and foot races, boxing, wrestling, pitching horseshoes and children's games such as the potatoe sack and three legged races meant the whole family could participate. Winter sports like sledding, speed skating and hockey developed from a wide variety of countries and were formalized in the late 1800s.
When we think of sports we often focus on athletes but many other people work in and/or enjoy sports. Coaches and managers, trainers and therapists, sponsors, Zamboni drivers and grass keepers, family members, sports equipment suppliers, skate sharpeners, and, of course, the fan are all critical to the success of athletes. Sports in Lethbridge has produced many heroes from all of these catagories in the past and currently.
Many things influence sports today that have changed the nature of the games from events like spontaneous shinny ball games. Things like players' high wages, television coverage, expensive tickets, performance enhancing drugs, subjective judging, serious injuries such as concussion and high profile sponsorships have altered how we look at and participate in sports. It will be interesting to explore the stories surrounding sports and sports heroes in the upcoming exhibit and the associated programs. If you have any ideas you feel would enhance the exhibit please contact me as I would love to hear what is important to you in the realm of local sports.