In an increasingly digitised world, there is much anxiety about how sports and other physical activities will fit in to this new way of living. Work, education, healthcare, creativity, and socialising all have their place in the online world, but what about sport? It may be difficult, at first, to imagine how an activity that takes place firmly in the physical realm could exist fully online, but there are many ways in which the digital world and the sporting world collaborate successfully. From improving an athlete’s skills, to connecting sports teams across the globe, to making sports education accessible to all, there is so much opportunity to be found through moving sport online.
Online Training and Connection
First of all, the scope for increased education and connectivity through digital resources is enormous in any sector, but sport in particular could benefit immensely. Many tournaments and competitions take place on a national or international scale, meaning that it can sometimes be difficult for athletes to feel connected to teammates, colleagues and peers when not in the same geographical location. Even if you’re not competing at tournament level, connecting with other athletes can be equally as important to amateurs.
Video hosting sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook make it possible to view training schedules, work outs, step-by-step breakdowns, nutritional advice and pep talks from anywhere in the world. Whether it’s checking in with your personal trainer, trying a new discipline or connecting with other athletes, the medium of video breaks down some of those barriers erected by physical distance.
For example, the Peloton package involves an app and specially made equipment to bring high-grade spin classes and other fitness sessions into the comfort of your own home. The live studio workouts that are broadcast via video give you the collaborative feeling of being in a class, but without the hassle of travelling elsewhere or worrying about times matching up with other commitments. It’s the perfect marriage between technology and sport.
Whilst esports have been around for a long time now, it’s only in recent years that they’ve taken off in such a big way. Professional level tournaments such as the Fortnite World Cup Finals, The International: Dota 2 Championships and League of Legends World Championships offer prize money in excess of ten, twenty or thirty million dollars. This would have been an inconceivable amount to award for playing video games just a few years ago, but esports are now big business. Professional players and pro teams are treated with the same consideration as physical athletes and can find themselves on comparative incomes.
Some well-established sports teams are bringing the connection even closer by investing in their esports counterparts; for example, NBA giants Los Angeles Lakers own their matching NBA 2K team, Lakers Gaming. Likewise for 21 of the 30 current NBA teams. In the future, it’s likely we’ll see this pattern emerge across all major sporting disciplines from baseball to football to hockey. The interest is there, it’s just the infrastructure for this new cross-curriculum format that needs fine tuning.
Of course, there has also been a marked increase in the popularity of mind sports over the past couple of decades too. Online versions of traditional games like blackjack, poker, roulette and slots have enjoyed an influx of interest via trusted platforms like PokerStarsCasino. Along with digitised versions of chess, go, draughts and other popular cerebral games, there has been a sharp upwards increase in the amount of people playing, the size of fanbases and the number of attendees at live tournaments. The structure of mind sports lends itself especially well to an online platform, and as we venture further into the digital world, we are seeing these sports gain recognition and appreciation.
From a layman’s point of view, accessing sports-adjacent activities online can be great for a number of reasons. For one, chatting with other sports fans or other athletes fosters a sense of community, is a great way to socialise with likeminded individuals and provides opportunity to discuss your form with people who may be able to offer pertinent advice. It can also help you to improve your knowledge base about the game, sport or discipline of your choice; the amount of information available online means that you can delve deep into the workings of a sport, investigating its history and development.
Whether you’re engaging with a sport simulator, like Peloton or virtual golf, or practicing esports yourself, exploring sport digitally can help you to strengthen your reflexes, improve your thinking skills and gain an edge over other competitors.
It seems like the future of sport lays not only in the physical realm, but also in the digital world as well. This is because of all the reasons outlined in this article, but also because, as well as appealing to people who actually play the sport, the internet can be, and is, used as a medium to transmit live sport to a global audience. This means that whether you’re an athlete, a fan, a trainer or an investor, the digital world will be of interest to you now and going forward.