By Dr. Brittany Jacobs  |  04/30/2024

sports change the world


Sports have evolved substantially over the last century, with significant advances made in the past few decades. As new technologies are implemented more quickly, the pace at which advancements and changes occur in sports will also accelerate. The future of sports is thrilling, with many developments on the horizon.


Everything Will Be ‘Smart’

Smart sports equipment, smart fabrics, or smart devices... you probably have one or more of these things in your home already. As technology advances, the need for sports innovation will continue.

Smart Clothing and Footwear

Imagine having biometric monitors woven directly into your shirt or pressure sensors embedded in sports equipment to measure the force of physical impact. Bulky data relay packs are no longer needed because digital knitting technology allows manufacturers to seamlessly incorporate sensors into specific areas of clothing or footwear.

Smart fabrics could provide data that determines what area of the foot struck a soccer ball or recognize force distribution patterns to help prevent injuries, according to MIT News. This type of granular data will not only protect athletes but will also provide people with even more information on their favorite players when data is incorporated into sports broadcasts.

Smart Equipment

Similar to smart fabrics, smart equipment will revolutionize play. For instance, game balls enhanced with technology will be able to assist officials with calls on the field or could help teams and media sources track athletic performance. In the practice setting, smart equipment can help measure hand positioning during a pitch or where the ball has contacted the bat during a hit.

At a more basic level, smart equipment like DribbleUp can also be used as a training tool for young players. The data relayed from smart equipment can help to quickly improve players’ technique and improve their skill.

In addition, technological advances in adaptive sports equipment will also improve access to sports. They will enable more people to play or watch the games that they love.

Smart Stadiums

Sports venues have begun and will continue to integrate numerous technologies. Imagine interactive seating where a seat immerses you in the sport experience (think Disney World). There could also be seats where you can adjust your comfort preferences.

From automated food kiosks, contactless entrances and exits, or social integration available via in-house devices, stadiums of the future will create seamless experiences that rival the most comfortable couch viewing.


Smart TVs and Other Technologies Are Becoming Mainstream

Just a few years ago, having a smart television was unique. Now, 75% of televisions sold in the American market are smart TVs, according to GitNux.

Many of these “smart” items now exist in their infancy. But as the cost to produce them decreases, their accessibility increases, allowing athletes at all levels to utilize these game-changing technologies. In a few years, smart athletic technology will be as ubiquitous as a smart TV.


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Will Find a Foothold

Innovation doesn't end with so-called “smart” devices – augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the next frontier in sports.

Augmented reality means that digital technology has been added to a “real world” view. VR, on the other hand, utilizes digital simulation to replace a real-life environment.


Augmented Reality and the Fan Experience

When fans attend future sporting events, it will become the norm to experience augmented reality overlays as part of the in-stadium experience. These AR overlays might include the display of player statistics, betting odds, or route maps over the real field of play.

The organizations managing stadiums will need to listen to their audience. Ideally, they should strive to provide fan engagement opportunities that go beyond the mere watching of a sporting event.

For those people who are unable to attend a live sporting event, there could be virtual attendance opportunities that bring fan entertainment access to new heights. Virtual ticket packages will serve as a secondary entry point for interested individuals.

Another example of VR’s immersion in sport will be the virtual opportunity to train with or compete against their favorite athletes. So many people believe that they could hang with the pros – could they really face tennis star Serena Williams head on or compete on a virtual golf course against Tiger Woods? It’s a fascinating thought.


Gamification Will Attract New Fans

Gamification is another innovation happening in the ever-changing sporting world. Gamifying workouts not only allows sports lovers to compete with their favorite athletes but makes the workout experience more fun for everyone.

Gamification could also open the door for virtual competitions and esport leagues. Teams could compete together from across the globe, no longer restrained by physical boundaries.

Wearables can gamify nearly any activity, from standing once each hour for 12 hours a day to burning more calories than your colleagues. Wearables such as fitness trackers allow the tracking of health metrics and the ability to gamify myriad aspects of physical and mental well-being.

Gamification is a powerful marketing tool to attract new consumers to sports. Whether it’s through league-managed events, sports betting, fantasy workouts with professional athletes, VR leagues, or data tracking through wearables, the data gained through gamification can be leveraged to engage participants and connect with a relevant sports or entertainment brand.


Sports Governance Will Be Different

With many new technology-based changes on the horizon, we will also see a re-evaluation of traditional sports governance in the coming decade.

With regard to the Olympics, changes to the bidding and hosting process are likely. In recent years, there have been some shifts. For instance, the International Olympic Committee now allows for hosting sports events in multiple countries, seeking flexibility and sustainability for sports on the world stage.

The same goes for World Cup events like the FIFA Soccer World Cup. The future of mega sporting events is contingent on host countries’ ability to support such events, necessitating a change in historical models.

Domestically, the model of amateur athletics will continue to evolve for humanity. Between calls for unionization, changes in Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) regulations, and ongoing legal challenges, the status quo will no longer stand.

With the globalization of sports and the growth of women's sports, women’s sports are no longer just about “winning” against men’s athletics. Women’s athletics are writing their own story. If growth and engagement over the last decade is a sign of things to come in the future, women's sports will continue to impact the sporting industry for decades to come.


Personalization for Sports Fans Is the Key

What else can the next generation of fans expect? Personalization.

From a fan’s perspective, sports lovers will be able to expect customized sports experiences. There could be AR packages that allow fans to determine what additional information fans want to see as part of the game. Analytics that influence what people see (through real-time data feeds) will provide customized offerings in terms of hospitality, food and beverages, and information displays.

Analytics programs for stadiums will even go so far as to impact the ticket purchasing process, with an algorithm selecting the best seats for each fan. Sports organizations will cater to each fan's personal interest.


Digital Information Will Improve Athletes’ Performance and Health

From an athlete’s perspective, health monitoring and data will change the way a game is played. Genetic insights will influence training sessions and biometric monitoring will provide personalized insights, optimize athletic performance, and prevent injuries. Such technological innovations will ensure proper maintenance of athlete health and could lead to the rise of performance standards, including the breaking of domestic and world records.

Although the collection of biometric data will help to predict and prevent injuries or curate experiences, sport managers and athletes alike must remain aware of the implications of collecting significant amounts of personal data. Gaining knowledge about how and when data will be utilized will be integral to creating boundaries about data privacy.


Sport Is Ever-Changing

There is an air of beauty in the unknown as the future of sports is yet unwritten. Innovation in athletics is only limited by our own imaginations. Sports managers, athletic directors, athletes, fans, and media sources will have the opportunity to create what lies ahead.


Sports Management Degrees at American Public University

For students intrigued by how sports will change in the future, sports management, and esports, American Public University (APU) offers several degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level:

With APU’s flexible, asynchronous format, students can study at their own pace as they balance job and family responsibilities. Get started today!  

About the Author
Dr. Brittany Jacobs

Dr. Brittany Jacobs is an Associate Professor and Department Chair for the Sports Management & Esports program at American Public University. She is highly involved in the Olympic & Paralympic movements and before returning to academia worked for USA Rugby. Much of her current research centers around officials and other marginalized populations providing a direct connection to her previous coaching and officiating experiences.

Brittany earned her Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado in Sports & Exercise Science with a Doctoral Minor in Statistics. She also holds a master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Texas, a master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of New Hampshire, and a B.S. in Kinesiology from the University of New Hampshire, where she also played collegiate field hockey. 

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