Taking a sports cue from the Jamestown Settlement

Posted at 7:05 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 19:56:02-04

JAMESTOWN, Va. - While youth and adult sports leagues are put on hold, many are looking for ways to stay occupied.

In Colonial America, there weren't organized sports leagues like there are nowadays. The Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown shares ways those who lived in the Jamestown area hundreds of years ago found ways to stay entertained through games and sports.

“When you look at any nation, any society, the best way to understand them fully is to look at what they do in their leisure time," volunteer services manager at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Jamie Helmick said. "When you look at it, back hundreds of years games really aren't a whole lot different than they are today.”

The Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown gives examples of games played by the English and Powhatan Indians, who each have their own version of field hockey.

“It’s called bandy in England and it’s called shinny here" Helmick said. "It's basically played with crooked sticks that you use to take a ball, and you have two teams that are fighting over the ball and trying to get it into a goal.”

Another way the Powhatan stayed active is by playing their own version of the game of darts. They used corn cobs as the barrel of the dart and turkey feathers as the flight. It's thrown through a hoops that's either rolled across the ground, thrown into the air or hung from a tree. For hunters and those learning to hunt, the game can be played by shooting an arrow through the hoop.

An English game that involves dexterity is quoits, which we'd typically know as ring toss.

Gambling also played a roll in how people spent their leisure time. The English used dice and cards, and the Powhatans used painted sticks.

“They would use slight of hand things and try to guess how many [sticks}," Helmick said. "It would be a good way for the guys to unwind at the end of the day, to try different gambling games.”

Helmick added that during the 17th and 18th centuries games similar to soccer were played, in addition to foot races, wrestling and swimming.

“A lot of their games have really carried on and it shows their lasting power that we’ve kind of kept them until today,” Helmick said.

Despite being separated by hundreds of years, they enjoyed games and sports just as we do today.

You can learn more about Jamestown and the American Revolution at: