Sports have been an active part of the military for hundreds of years. Many sports evolved into training exercises to enhance military duties.
Examples of sports that evolved only into a sport include shooting, fencing, polo, orienteering, accuracy parachuting, wrestling, sailing, cross country skiing, and military and naval pentathlon. Judo and its various outlets such as karate and Taekwondo may be included as well as many equestrian events.
Sports and the military have long gone together as the vast majority of athletes in the past where there was no official sports support came from the military.
In the United States, General Douglas Macarthur in his earlier days in the military served as a chief functionary of the 1928 Olympic games, and General George S. Patton, in his earlier military days served as the U.S. Army’s entrant to participate as the U.S. Army’s entrant in the 1912 Olympic games for the modern pentathlon.
In Europe in the 1920s through the 1940s a very popular winter sport between units of various military bodies was known as Military Patrol.
In military patrol, athletes competed in cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering, and rifle shooting in a 25-kilometer course. Military Patrol was even an Olympic sport in the 1924 Winter games in Chamonix and a demonstration sport in the 1928, 1936, and 1948 winter games.
Meanwhile, in Nordid Countries, where the line is thin between official military membership and civilian participation in cross country skiing and shooting, both cross country skiing and shooting competitions were quite popular.
In 1955 the biathlon became an official sport, and many of the best biathlon participants come from the branches of the Nordic military.
Fencing, which used to be an extremely valuable sport for military personnel became a part of every Olympic Games since 1896, and for many years the most experienced candidates from all countries were members of the military.
Shooting is another extension of the military that naturally made its way into the Olympic Games and has also been in every Olympics since 1896.
Although there are many amateur sportsmen in the shooting arts, the advantage of the better candidates from the Armed Forces is that they don’t have to pay for ammunition which can be quite expensive.
In addition, the military has no problem finding suitable applicants for shooting competitions. After all, even in peacetime, close to 200,000 recruits join just the U.S. Military per year.
Virtually every new boot shoots a gun in the military, and even if they only shoot 50 rounds each, there are bound to be a few great shooters discovered in the various armed forces.
Sports in the modern military
Naturally, sports is a very integral part of the military, and virtually every branch of service in the U.S., the UK, France, and Germany have special departments such as the
All Army Sports, the All-Navy Sports, Marine Corp Sports, the USAF Sports, or the Coast Guard Sports run by the U.S. Defense Department, and a great many sports are featured.
The Council for International Military Sports, which has been operating since 1948, sets the general tone.
Originating from the countries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, there are now 140 nations that participate in military competitions throughout the world.
The Council for International Military Sports recognizes 26 different sports, including Boxing, Climbing, Cycling, Equestrian Sports, Fencing, European Football, Golf, Judo, Military and Naval Penthalon, Modern Pentathlon, Orienteering, Parachuting, sailing, shooting, skiing, swimming, and lifesaving, Taekwondo, Track and Field, Triathlon, Volleyball, and Wrestling.
Obviously many sports now recognized by the Council for International Military Sports do not have any practical military application. For example, nobody would suggest that when defending a hill against an enemy, the Army or Marines lobs beach volleyballs at the enemy or lines up a squad of marksmen to hit golf balls at them.
However, the Council for International Military Sports and most modern militaries’ goal is to keep their military personnel fit, and any sport, even badminton, can be great exercise.
Sports has a long tradition within the military, with many sports actually designed to keep competent military personnel’s skills.
But whether the sport is something practical such as shooting or fencing or merely fun like volleyball or basketball, they can all be used as an excellent exercise to keep military personnel fit.