While the Greeks are best known for their important role in the foundation of the Olympic Games, Mexicos Aztecs also made significant contributions still found in modern day sports. In fact, for sports using a ball during play, early Mesoamerican people created the first ball made from rubber. Not intending to make a ball, early people were experimenting with a sap found in coastal guayule trees and after the ball’s creation, the Olmec began manufacturing these and trading them for other goods. In fact, there were anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 rubber balls traded with the Aztec people to be used as the earliest forms of baseball, hockey, soccer and primitive golf.
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As sports became a part of Aztec life, so did sports-related activities. Betting on game outcomes was a popular pastime and Spanish Conquistadors were among the first to witness this practice among the Aztec. Along with betting, scorekeeping and game spectators also began to become a regular part of the ballgame atmosphere. Liking what they saw, Hernando Cortes brought an exhibition game back to Spain where the sport quickly progressed into modern-day soccer.
Unearthing other earlier Mexican sites, archaeologists have discovered balls that pre-date the Aztec’s rubber ones. Whether traded or self-made, most Pre-Columbian civilizations had balls made from stone that were used in specially made ball courts located in a communal, main building. These early people played ball less as a recreational activity but more so as a means to please the gods. As a result many spiritual beliefs, including how the world was formed, were attributed to the ball. In America, Native Americans are known for performing a rain dance to ask for rain. While in Central Mexico, Mesoamericans performed a ball game in hopes the rain god would shower their crops with much needed rain.
Instead of going through a judicial process, Mesoamericans used ball courts as a means of settling land disputes, ally selection, official state matters and leadership responsibilities. Today ball play has become some of Mexicos most popular pastimes including baseball and football (soccer). Mexicos Early People and Their Contributions to Sports!