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Exercise with a difference – trend sports in public areas


Above all during periods of good weather it can be seen in parks, green areas and public places: The interest in trend sports continues to grow and at the same time, new ways of exercising are being created and taken up enthusiastically by leisure-time athletes. Many of these sports are very popular with many participants; others are enjoyed by small groups of sporting friends. But what is trend sport really? Which kinds of sport currently play an important role? And how can space be made available for amateur sporting activities in public areas?

The term "trend sport" itself is somewhat misleading and not appreciated by followers of the sports involved as it suggests short-lived popularity which is naturally not wanted and, in most cases, does not even apply. Many trend sports have existed for a very long time, in some cases even decades. It should also be considered that it takes some time for a newly developed kind of sport to come into public focus and to become a "trend". In the opinion of many people, skateboarding, BMX biking and climbing are classic examples of trend sports, even though there are practically no differences when these are compared to "established" sports. There are professional international competitions, national competitions, a large number of fans and skateboards and sport climbing will even be included in the next Olympic Games. This means really that they have been transferred from trend sports to the circle of established sports, but despite this, they still remain in the awareness of many people to the first group.

In order to understand this, it is necessary to take a closer look at "trend sports". These should not be compared to "fashion trends" as a trend sport is only very rarely a fashion phenomenon, it is much more a form of expression of a need for movement and enthusiasm for sport. It is used to combine a casual or more intensive leisure time activity, but at the same time, solidarity and access to the main mass of the population. Established sports are connected to tradition, conservative clothing, strict rules and professionality, among other things. Trend sports, even if like skateboarding, they have already been around for decades, represent modern, casual activities, informal and accessible to anyone. Skateboarders, climbers, bungee-jumpers or BMX riders are seen by many people to be a different kind of athlete than a footballer, gymnast, rower or swimmer. As already mentioned, these differences are often non-existent as it is not only many trend sports which become established, but also established sports change and become more modern and the players present themselves in different ways than in earlier times. Many NBA basketball players, for example, have today the attributes which are considered belonging to a trend sport player.

Various kinds of trend sports can also be differentiated: Among others, there are established trend sports, new trend sports, "recycled" trend sports and exercise trends. It is very possible to define further subdivisions, but it is possible to allocate many trend sports based on these four groups alone. The established trend sports have already been mentioned above (skateboarding etc.). Modern trend sports also already have a great number of supporters, a so-called scene, but they are much younger and the structures need to grow more or less, or they are often very individual in their structures. This group includes calisthenics and slacklining for example, as well as jugger or bike polo. "Recycled" trend sports – a title which is not intended to be depreciating – are either classic sports or forms of exercise presented in a new way or off-shoots of established sports. These include, for example, street ball, futsal or trampolining. Exercise trends can be either completely new kinds of sport which still have a very limited number of followers and which can then also disappear quickly from public view, or they are kinds of exercise which are completely individual.

In the end however, it is not important into which groups the trend sports are allocated; the exercise itself is important and above all, that people enjoy taking part. As the interest in sport and exercise has been continually growing over past years, especially outdoor sports, the number of active athletes has also grown significantly. The continually increasing variety of sport ensures that there is something for everyone and, therefore, "sport as trend" is definitely the main reason for creation of the many different kinds of sport.

An encounter with public space is, for most trend sports, especially the latest ones, an adaptation to the public space. This is not easy to explain. The necessity for building complicated sports facilities would, in the most cases, prevent the growth of trend sports as this would require a large number of followers, which cannot be achieved without the corresponding sports facilities. Exceptions to this rule are trend sports promoted by private industry which attract trend players with finished sports facilities. Most kinds of sport however, make use of the public space as it is and adjust to suit it. An area of grass can be enough but street furniture, green vegetation, public squares and buildings can be used in some kinds of sport. When no skate park is available, for example, the skate boarders are usually found in the city centre, on playgrounds or anywhere where the urban infrastructure is suited to their sport. This often causes conflict however, not only with other uses of the public spaces; damage is also often caused to street fixtures or green areas when they are used for anything other than their intended purpose. For this reason it is important to provide trend sport players with areas suitable for their use, where they can "let of steam" without causing conflict. Examples of these are grass, concrete or areas without any special function but having an impact-protection surface, simply as play or sport space. Parks and leisure-time spaces are ideally suited, but city centres should also be open and available for this kind of sport. Especially now in the current times of YouTube, Instagram and Co., the addiction to self-representation is larger than ever. The main thing is not to take part in a sporting or leisure-time activity; it is also about presenting ones talent and showing it to the public at large. This is (mostly) not narcissism; it is a form of social interaction, a connection with the outside world and environment and a form of communication in the social environment. Many trend sports people look for publicity and the feeling of being observed pushes them forwards and motivates them to keep going. A footballer in a national league stadium experiences the same situation on a larger scale.

It is also important to open public space for trend sports and to provide trend sports with their own spaces. This is especially important when this kind of sport has already gained a large number of followers and in order to prevent misuse of other public infrastructures. In this way, not only can sport and exercise be promoted, at the same time, varied and a modern urban design can be created providing various opportunities and where room for development can be found. It is also important not to limit or exclude sport, but to include it in urban planning. Trend sport participants will usually look for space and make use of that space which they consider to be best suited for their requirements, irrespective of fences or alternative areas. An open urban design with multi-functional areas and openness for sport and exercise must therefore be the goal, especially as an active and eventful symbiosis is to be desired.

In the following some selected trend sports are named and explained in order to give an insight into current trend sports and exercise trends:

Slackline: Modern rope dancing. A dynamic band of different width is fixed just above the floor level so that balancing and coordination exercises can be carried out on the rope. Slack lines are often fixed between two trees which can cause damage. Special installation elements in public areas are better.

Trampoline: Very popular as gymnastic and playground equipment, the trampoline has a long tradition and is currently undergoing a previously unknown renaissance. Adults, above all, are discovering health-promoting trampoline exercises and in many places, Jump Houses and other leisure-time clubs are being created where trampolining is combined with other active forms of exercise.

Jugger: Now popular in many cities. Two teams, equipped with padded sticks, shields and chains "fight" for a foam rubber ball which must be shot into a goal. This game looks brutal but is actually quite peaceful and has organised rules. This is a combination of different bodily and tactical sports.

Calisthenics: Is the modern form of gymnastics and fitness training. Horizontal and parallel bars play an important role in presentations of strength and expression in outdoor training and competition. This has long been a trend in America and Eastern Europe, and is gaining in popularity in German and Central Europe. Installation of special equipment is recommended as children's playgrounds are otherwise often made use of.

Urban golf: Golf played outside of a golf course, without holes or a score. Naturally, not completely without risk which is why unused or abandoned lots and large parks are suitable.

Cycle polo: The English traditional sport played on a bicycle. Good equipment is an absolute necessity. This is a very active sport which is enjoying increasing popularity.

Longboard: This is actually a predecessor of the skateboard but which has become popular again. Instead of a halfpipe, bowl or grinding, focus of longboard riders is rolling. Longboards provide greater speed, more riding stability and a greater variety of riding styles.

Discgolf: This involves hitting various goals with a Frisbee for example on a golf course. The player covering the distance to the goal with the smallest number of throws has won. There are also special leisure-time centres where different goals need to be achieved along a course.

Parkour: Very popular for some years now, this sport involves climbing and vaulting over obstacles in the fastest and most efficient way possible, usually in an urban environment. It requires good physical fitness and is not without a risk of injury which is why special obstacle courses are built according to safety regulations for use by youngsters and which are very popular.

Crossminton: Badminton played outdoors without a net and on any kind of surface. Two-players or teams in opposing fields play the shuttlecock to each other as quickly as possible. If a player cannot return the shuttle or touches it other than with the racquet, the team is given a minus point.




Photo: playparc GmbH

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