PHYSICAL FITNESS MUST START IN THE SCHOOLS
I read with interest Mr. Boyle's article The Report That Shocked the President (SI, Aug. 15) and the accompanying comments offered by various people in public life.
We are perhaps the greatest sports-loving nation in the world. A casual glance at the sports pages and the entire sports scene would lead one to the conclusion that we are also one of the great sports-participant nations. This, unfortunately, is erroneous. We do not have mass sports participation in this country.
The Little League seemingly blankets the nation, but this program is barely scratching the surface. In every community that has a Little League, three or four times as many try out for the teams as are finally chosen, and there are thousands of 12-year-old boys who do not try out because the physical education programs in this nation have failed to develop in the boys even the basic skills for playing baseball.
The Golden Gloves Program enrolls only a small percentage of our youth. There are 26,786,000 children enrolled in the elementary schools in this country and 7,239,000 enrolled in the secondary schools. It would be interesting to know how many of them participate in the Little League, varsity athletics or any other organized programs.
August 28, 1955
As far as spectator enjoyment and entertainment goes, we are second to no one. We are doing a grand job in the United States of providing sports participation for the highly skilled. We are a nation of sports specialists as our array of champions proves. But no matter how fine such a specialist program is—and it is wonderful—we need to expand the school programs to give every child and youth in America the opportunity to participate in athletic competition through physical education classes.
I should like to call your attention to a statement by the Educational Policy Commission (NEA):
"We believe that the experience of playing athletic games should be part of the education of all children and youth who attend school in the United States."
RAY O. DUNCAN
School of Physical Education and Athletics
West Virginia University
•Dr. Duncan is the President-Elect of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, a guiding force in formulating President Eisenhower's plans for a physical fitness program.—ED.
BIGGER AND BETTER TEAMS?
Any problem of our youth should first be approached through the school systems, but two closely related beliefs among educators, boards of education and taxpayers are, I feel, basic to the whole problem of physically unfit youth.
The first of these is the ever-present fear of overemphasis in athletics. The other is the idea that a coach is not a human being and therefore is not entitled to remuneration comparable to the hourly wage of the lowest of common laborers.
Before coming to the Madison (New Jersey) High School, where I coach three sports in addition to my teaching chores, I had a burning desire to coach boys. That desire still remains, but a wife and three children make coaching more and more a desire I can't afford to pursue. I am sure that I am one among many coaches who feel this way. Without good high school and prep school coaches the athletes of this country are doomed.
Morris Plains, N.J.
COMPETITION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH
SI in general, and Robert H. Boyle in particular, deserve the praise and indebtedness of the nation for the excellent and fair article concerning this nation's present physical fitness status.
The problem is not with spectator sports, of which we have a plethora of the finest, or with those who are athlete enough to play them. It is with the idea that athletes are specially gifted persons able to make teams and that all the rest of us must be content to be their flabby admirers, exercising only our lungs.
Perhaps it is not possible to place the responsibility on any one group of people, for many are to blame: win-conscious athletic coaches, featurizing sportswriters, overzealous parents, proud schools, unwitting sporting-goods establishments.
I would like to point out briefly one major fallacy in the idea that the solution to our present fitness problem is more athletic competition for our youth. A review of physical education in the United States since 1915 will show how the stress on competitive athletics alone has failed to prepare men for the national emergencies of the two world wars and the Korean conflict. The reasons for this were hinted at by Mr. Boyle: athletic contests do not involve those average boys who need physical development most; and many of our favorite sports do not require the competitor to be in top physical condition. We must remember, too, that adequate programs for girls must also be established. This aspect is frequently forgotten.
I sincerely hope that Vice President Nixon, when forming his committee, will ask the advice of professional physical educators who know physical fitness programs; and I am glad that "SI expects to return to the subject."
ROBERT H. MCCOLLUM
EMPHASIS ON THE WRONG SPORTS?
EVENTS & DISCOVERIES' "A Coddled U.S.A.?" and Bob Boyle's article on The Report That Shocked the President are of real interest to me because of my work with the Testing Program in the Physical Education Department here at the Naval Academy.
In my years of teaching physical education both on the high school and college level, I have fought the trend toward the passive type of sports that many areas have allowed to dominate their programs completely. One of my pet peeves has been that so many in the field of physical education make no attempt to analyze just what their athletic program is doing for their children.
It is true that the American lad rebels at formal work such as calisthenics, but I believe that a combination of this type of workout, plus applied strength tests, plus emphasis on sports (such as soccer) that offer a more vigorous challenge to more individuals, would definitely improve the overall fitness of the group. The physical education teacher must become a better salesman and interest the children in developing a certain amount of physical pride.
In my years of close association with both high school and college lads I have tested enough of them to realize that certain sets of muscles in the body are being neglected. I used to give the following test to high school gym classes: a gym mat was placed at right angles to four ropes suspended from the ceiling. The ropes were placed two feet apart with another mat at right angles beyond the ropes. The space between the mats and below the four ropes was considered a tremendous drop of 100 feet. The lads were given an opportunity to reach out from one mat, grasping the first rope. Using their hands and feet they were to work their way across and down on the far mat. Those that slipped oft' would be killed by the imaginary 100-foot drop. Statistics kept on this dramatic test of the arms and shoulders indicated that only 35% would have escaped death.
GLENN F. H. WARNER
Dept. of Physical Education
U.S. Naval Academy
ARE THE SCHOOLS RELUCTANT?
This is to thank you and SI for the splendid broadside on American physical fitness in your First Anniversary issue. From your EVENTS & DISCOVERIES editorial—at once judicious and provocative—through Robert H. Boyle's Report—an accolade for this admirably simple and informative presentation of a complex subject—to the 40-odd statements assembled by Jimmy Jemail: this was a tour de force that should evoke active response in every state—even in every school—in the land.
My own efforts to make America a stronger nation began in 1920. All our national strength, courage, perseverance and even patriotism depend in the final analysis on strength in muscles. For many, many years I have urged the schools of this country to develop these qualities in our youth through physical fitness programs. I have always believed that strength, physical fitness, success in athletics and even pleasure in sport are one and the same thing.
If this sounds trite and obvious let me say that this thesis has been ridiculed, even in official educational circles, for just as many years.
May your follow-up articles not be long delayed! A program for better physical fitness is of prime import to this nation's progress.
FREDERICK RAND ROGERS
New York Harbor, N.Y.
•Dr. Rogers, a pioneer in physical-fitness testing, is the originator of the much-used Rogers Physical Fitness Index.—ED.
WE HAVE OUR PROBLEMS
The school physical education instructor has his own problems:
Just let any physical education man force a boy to do anything and the parents of some scream "I'll sue!" This attitude has chilled the enthusiasm of many teachers.
Admiral Byrd states: "A program requires...trained leaders who should, insofar as possible, combine the qualities of sports coach, the educator and the juvenile psychologist. The program will be as effective as its leadership."
Admiral, this combination of Knute Rockne, John Dewey and Arnold Gesell is hard to find.
IT LOOKS DIFFERENT FROM THE INSIDE
Everybody agrees that something should be done, but very few people understand how little money is available to those dedicated to running youth sports programs. If money were available and facilities placed at our disposal, all youth in any community would have an opportunity to participate in sports of some form or other. It is a tough situation when an individual such as myself, with a few assistants, has to set up, promote and just about finance various programs. The lack of cooperation by local, state and national agencies discourages the continuation of these programs.
I suggest that members of the President's committee call in or contact the individuals who are spending the many hours on the fields. It would amaze the committee to hear their side of the story.
AL J. FRATTARE
RED ROVER FOR THE FUN OF IT
In my opinion, at least three-quarters of the answers to Jimmy Jemail's question on the Kraus-Prudden report completely missed the point.
They recommend elaborate "programs," compulsory athletics, more Little Leagues, tax-supported organizations, coaching by famous athletes, more money, even a cabinet post. All but a few ignore the fact that elaborate organization makes for competition by the selected few. Professional coaches need winning teams and the coach turns to the natural athletes. Those who lack aptitude become spectators. There is no objection to this if what we want is champions and championship teams but it has exactly the wrong effect on the physically average or subaverage boy or girl.
The old-fashioned games such as red rover, prisoner's base, cops and robbers, duck-on-the-rock were never written up, never supervised, and never part of a "program," but any and all children of varying ages and varying skills took part. No one practiced these games; they just played them. There were no world champions; no outstanding Olympic figures; no published records. The primary feature was fun and plenty of it.
Maybe we now overdo the idea of paid coaches, even in formal athletics. Who coached Bannister? Landy? Zatopek? Bannister, at least, has said that he ran for the love of it.
GEORGE P. MEADE
A MOTHER'S CHALLENGE
I direct this letter to Miss Prudden (who must have been working with monkeys, not children) because of her saying that American children do not exercise enough and should be allowed to climb trees and fences.
Miss Prudden, I suggest you follow an American child through the course of a day; try giving him breakfast while his boyfriends wait outside dressed in their cowboy, Indian or space suits hoping to discover a buried treasure in the prairie they have been digging up for two months. Lecture him on why he should come straight home from school instead of roughing it up with the boys in his good clothes. And, last but not least, in answer to your remark "a broken arm is not a catastrophe," you take the place of the mother whose child is critically injured because she believed in complete freedom from parental supervision.
Regardless of the times or the toys or the big words you use for the situation, kids today are the Chopins, Babe Ruths, Einsteins and Rembrandts of the future and, Pruddy, if you find me a combination child of these four you will get a medal for your muscles.
RUTH M. VAULMAN
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES
When you attempt to beat the races be sure that the percentage is in your favor. Percentages favor Nashua over Swaps by 3 to 1. Here's why:
1) "Sunny Jim" is America's top trainer of all time.
2) Arcaro is one of the top jockeys of all time.
3) Nashua is built like an early American blockhouse. He has power, plus the combined speed of Coaltown and Citation.
HUGH G. MATHESON
SI's interest in the coming match race of Swaps and Nashua gives me a thrill as I was in the grandstand at Windsor, Ontario in 1920 and watched the great Man o' War make a monkey out of Sir Barton, the undefeated Canadian champion, in a match race.
I'll go for Swaps and Shoemaker on August 31.
J. W. HINKLE
THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS
Amid the tumult and shouting about the Nashua-Swaps match race, it is a pity that so many have been most unsportsmanlike in expressing their opinions. I hasten to add that I, in company with the astute gentlemen at Caliente, am rooting for Swaps—but I'm not going to call Nashua any unkind names or describe his looks (conformation) in such unfortunate terms as another reader has used ("a moose-jawed, dull-eyed, haphazardly bred inmate of what looks like a camp for migrant workers..." 19TH HOLE, Aug. 15) in describing Swaps's appearance.
EMILIE C. BROUILLET
CONGRATULATIONS!...HAPPY BIRTHDAY!...WELL DONE!...CARRY ON!
You wrote in your very first issue:
"It is our hope and our promise that in some tomorrow you will no longer think of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as Time Inc.'s newest baby, but as the accepted and essential weekly reporter of the Wonderful World of Sport."
That "some tomorrow" you spoke of has long since arrived. I must admit that I doubted whether you could ever reach your goal after reading your first issue. I thought you tried to take on too much territory for one magazine to cover. In that first issue you had articles on everything from baseball to boomerangs. In that issue, I found only one article that I thought was better than average. That was your fine coverage of the Mile of the Century. It was on the basis of that article alone that I decided to give SPORTS ILLUSTRATED a try. I subscribed right away and I have never been sorry that I did. Since the first issue, your magazine has improved each week. I especially enjoyed your coverage of the Army-Navy game, the Bowl Games, the 500-mile Memorial Day race, the Kentucky Derby, the major league pennant races, and the upcoming match race between Swaps and Nashua. (Incidentally, Swaps is going to win.) I would also like to congratulate you on your fine articles on the boxing scandals, the Le Mans tragedy, and the stories by Paul Richards on baseball strategy. I also enjoyed the recent article on Ted Williams. But if there was one article that I had to pick out from all the rest that I thought was best of all, I would have to pick the controversial "confession" by Preacher Roe. That was superb!
Congratulations to the entire staff. Your anniversary issue was great.
ROBERT W. SWAIN JR.
Happy Birthday SI!
This past year has indeed been a golden year.
BETTY AND BILL WEEKS
Congratulations and thank you for a year's pleasure—not only for myself—but for my 15-year-old son.
MIRIAM R. RANIERI
Muchas felicitaciones en su primer aniversario. Magn√¨fica revista deportiva.
DR. ADALBERTO ROJO L.
Tijuana, B. CFA., Mexico
P.S. In other words: happy first birthday!
Thanks for living up to what I had always hoped for in a sports publication. Best of luck in your second and, I hope, even more successful year than your first.
You're real sharp! Congratulations!
CHARLES A. LANGLOIS
This is the first time I am writing to a magazine. But I think that this is necessary. Here is what I want to say: CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST BIRTHDAY.
JOHN FRANZEN JR.
I am filled only with the deepest admiration.
Happy Birthday. I and the rest of the family have truly enjoyed SI from the start.
I have been your most devoted reader. I have never enjoyed any publication, sport or otherwise, as I enjoy SI. I now wish you a happy first anniversary.
SI has deepened my feeling for the familiar sports and has either aroused a desire to try, or given me an appreciation of, those that are unfamiliar.
W. R. BRUNER
Woodland Hills, Calif.
Your achievement is tremendous.
H. D. BANTA
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
I have enjoyed the past 52 issues of SI. The anniversary issue was better than the first one.
I have just finished reading your wonderful anniversary issue. Words fail me in describing its impact.
St. Catharines, Ontario
Best wishes for your long-continued success. Just carry on in the future as you are now doing.
E. C. BANNERMAN
May SI ever grow bigger and (if possible) better.
You have really done a fine job.
Congratulations to all of you on your first anniversary. I have enjoyed every issue over the past year and I hope to continue for many years to come.
W. JACK ALSTON
Concord, N. C.
•For these well-wishers and the many, many others the entire staff says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you and muchas gracias."—ED.