Sports in the Middle Ages

Updated April 17, 2017

Although there are some similarities, the sports played in the Middle Ages are much different than those played today. According to, sports at that time were designed to enhance men's fighting skills by means of combat or conditioning. Lords were expected to provide trained soldiers to fight battles, so sports were a way to attain the required skills. Some sports often left participants injured and even dead.


Archery is the sport of shooting a bow with arrows at a target. Generally, the closer to the centre of the target you can locate your arrow, the more points you get. In the Middle Ages, men were required to practice archery by law, according to The Medieval Archery Law was passed in 1252, making it mandatory for men 15-60 years old to practice archery. These skills could then be used in battle, as they were in the 1346 Battle of Crecy, when about 2,000 French soldiers were killed by bow and arrow.


Jousting is the sport that's best associated with the Middle Ages. It pitted two armoured knights on horseback against each other. In their hands, they'd carry a lance, a long, wooden spear-like weapon. The knights would lower their lances and race toward each other, attempting to either knock the opposition from the horse or break his lance to win. It was common to hold jousting tournaments in the Middle Ages, and people from all class levels attended the matches.


The game of golf is believed to have evolved from a game called "colf" that was played in the Middle Ages. Unlike many of the sports played during this time period, colf was a peaceful game. Like golf, it simply consisted of using a stick to strike a rock into a hole. According to The Golf Channel, the game's origins can be traced as far back as 1297, when four holes of colf were played in northern Holland to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the relieving of the Kronenburg Castle.


According to The Shire of Heronter, gameball was a popular sport played throughout the Middle Ages. It consisted of two teams and two goals. The objective was to be the first team to get the ball into the opposition's net. There were no rules on ways that the teams could accomplish this. In fact, "game" is the Old English word for "fight." It's believed that football evolved from this medieval sport.

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