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The trailblazing pace at which sport is evolving

Copyrights: FIBA

The trailblazing pace at which sport is evolving

How can new sport formats become vehicles for change?

When the topic of sport and innovation is brought up, people are quick to look at technological advances in the equipment. If not that, it’s perhaps a jump to how "Money Ball" thinking has revolutionised leagues around the world. However, in this day and age innovation in sport is extending well past that and it’s only a matter of time before it changes sport for development approaches.

In recent years, the intersection of sport and development has seen out-side-the-box approaches to tackling mental health (Waves For Change), employment (Street League), conflict resolution (Peace Players International) - the list goes on. The very notion that sport can be a vehicle to tackle such complex issues is in itself a modernisation and evolution of the development space and to some extent the sport space.

With that said, the shift to a content-driven, fast-paced, byte-sized world has started to challenge the boundaries of sport. At a first glance, and in an attempt to evolve, traditional sports are trying to re-invent themselves. Sports are looking to re-invent themselves in a way that leads to more highlight-reel quality.

Rugby 7s is rising, golf has introduced a new format (Golf Sixes), tennis has seen both team play in the International Premier Tennis League and a new individual format in Tie Break Tens, and who can forget cricket’s renaissance through T20 and the Indian Premier League, which in many ways kick-started all of this?

Sports across the world are looking to re-invent formats, but at the same time sports that have only popped up in the last few years are starting to gain ground, following and challenging our definition of sport.

If you have ever entered the debate “is [insert sport here] a sport”, that debate is about to heat up with some of the rising sports out there. A few months ago JK Rowling’s fictitious sport Quidditch leapt from paper to the lawn with the launch of the Quidditch Premier League. Recently, World Chase Tag are getting all the attention after professionalising a playground pastime, tag, in a format that is the sporting manifestation of parkour. Football has long fought off new formats, but freestyle and panna games have existed for a while.

Now, Red Bull have created a brilliant new format of football branded Neymar Jr’s 5s. A 5-aside team loses a player for every goal against them that’s scored. The winning team is the team with the last player(s) standing. While we’re at it, it’s impossible not to mention the Drone Racing League who have taken a niche hobby and turned it into an international sport.

As we see FIBA officially getting their 3x3 half-court format of the game into the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, it’s possible for new formats/sports to thrive in parallel to their traditional counterparts while also reaching the pinnacle of the sporting ecosystem.

So what does that mean for the sport for development sector?

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Thursday, July 20, 2017 - 16:50