Wedged away in acorner of the old mill town of Springfield, Mass. is an unprepossessing collegethat bears the name of the community. From all outward appearances, it haslittle to boast about. Its campus is undistinguished, the architecture dividedbetween turn-of-the-century brick and turn-of-the-'60s modern. Its field housewas picked up secondhand from the Navy after World War II. Many high schoolswould consider its football stadium an embarrassment, and though its team oncedrew 5,000 spectators to a game, 2,000 of them had to stand. Its track teamperforms in the same stadium, and can't draw a yawn. Athletically, the SouthernCals, Pittsburghs, Notre Dames and Ohio States would seem to have it all overSpringfield College, and their razzmatazz and press clippings so attest. Yetthe truth is that no school anywhere in the country, and probably in the world,has had a more beneficial influence on sports and games than Springfield.
SpringfieldCollege specializes in physical education and youth leadership. The motto thatguides its administration and 1,500 students is "Spirit, Mind, Body."It is dedicated to educating "the whole man in the service of all men,"and its contributions to the wholesome life have been absolutely overwhelming.A Springfield professor, Dr. James A. Naismith, invented basketball, and agraduate, William G. Morgan, devised volleyball. In good part, the college hasbeen responsible for the founding of the Boy Scouts of America, the CampfireGirls, PAL (the Police Athletic League) and the National RecreationAssociation.
For years thecollege has been turning out eager, clean-cut coaches, gym teachers, socialworkers and YMCA secretaries. "I consider Springfield College the motherschool of physical education," says Dr. Thomas Cureton, professor ofphysical education at the University of Illinois, and Springfield '29. "Itwas always pointed out, even when I was a student, that a very large number ofSpringfield men became the principal professors of physical education in othercolleges. At one time 50% of all college physical-education departments wereunder the direction of Springfield men."
Art Linkletter,the television entertainer, fitness enthusiast, Y booster and a member of thecollege's board of trustees, says, "You'll find more graduates fromSpringfield in Ys and physical-education programs throughout the world thanfrom any other school. Springfield has been doing Peace Corps work for 50 yearsin every corner of the globe." As a matter of fact, the real Peace Corpsheld a training program at Springfield last summer, and when it was over, R.Sargent Shriver, the director of the corps, was so impressed with the altruismand vigor of the college staff that he all but did handsprings himself.
December 2, 1963
What makesSpringfield distinctive is its spirit. From top to bottom the college is imbuedwith a manly, generous, hearty, old-fashioned, noble-fellow Protestantismseldom glimpsed since the days of Frank Merriwell. At Springfield it isliterally not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. "The onlyquestion we ever ask of a boy," says Dr. Edward Steitz, director ofathletics and head basketball coach, "is, 'Did you give 100% of yourself?'If he says yes, then he has had a tremendously successful time."
No athleticscholarships are given at Springfield, and no coach has ever been fired forlosing. In the 72 years that Springfield students have been playing basketballthere has rarely been a fight on the court. Indeed, the purity is such that thebackfield coach of the varsity football team buys an ice cream sundae for anyplayer who intercepts a pass. Rival schools are sometimes demoralized bySpringfield's utter sportsmanship, and a favorite cry to toss at the collegeis, "We don't smoke, we don't chew and we won't play against girls whodo." To such a taunt, Springfield students turn a deaf ear or the othercheek.
"Every timeyou turn the other cheek, you grow inside as well as in stature," says D.Irving Conrad, a 1962 graduate who has stayed on to teach Introduction to CampLeadership. "I tell my class that ideals are like the stars. You'll neversucceed in touching them with your hands, but if you select them as your guideand follow them, you may reach your destiny." On campus, conversation ringswith such phrases as "total commitment," "dedication toservice" and "gung-ho." (It is perhaps fitting that the head ofphysical education for the Nationalist Chinese government on Formosa is aSpringfield graduate named Gunsun Hoh. But then Springfield has a way withnames: the chaplain is named Parsonage.)
Historically,Springfield College is a product of the Muscular Christianity of the late 19thcentury. From the time of the Puritans in England, a number of Protestantchurches had opposed recreation in general and sports in particular as the workof the devil. But in the 1860s two English writers, Charles Kingsley, author ofWestward Ho!, and Thomas Hughes, known for Tom Brown's School Days, put forwardthe then radical idea that the playing field was the ideal place for buildingcharacter. The concept took hold, and in 1885 the Rev. David Allen Reed, aCongregational minister in Springfield, founded the "School for ChristianWorkers" in his home town. His aim was to train young men for social workin churches and schools. Five years later, in 1890, the YMCA established atraining program within the school, even though some Y officials opposed themove on the grounds that it would be morally incongruous to have Christiangymnasium superintendents.
Springfield wasnow on its way. James Naismith, a former divinity student at McGill, joined thefaculty and invented basketball as a game that would innocently occupy youthson winter nights. Amos Alonzo Stagg, fresh from glory on the playing fields ofYale, spurned a lavish offer to join the New York Giants as a pitcher in orderto immerse himself in the virtues of Springfield. He coached the football team,and in 1890 he and a ragamuffin collection of Springfield faculty and studentsalmost beat a mighty Yale all-star team at Madison Square Garden in what isconsidered the first indoor football game ever played. For their valor, Stagg'splayers were dubbed "the stubby Christians." In 1891 Stagg leftSpringfield for the University of Chicago, which was newly backed byRockefeller money, to pass on the lessons of manly play he had learned.
In the years thatfollowed, the International YMCA College (it changed to its present name in1953) had to fend off a number of attacks that it was serving up a dilutedChristianity in favor of fun and games. There was an outcry amongfundamentalist Christians when the school hired William G. Ballantine,dismissed from the presidency of Oberlin for his liberal theology, and therewas a still vividly remembered uproar around 1916 when dancing was firstallowed. The later years have been calmer. Springfield now offers dance coursesin conjunction with Ted Shawn's University of the Dance, and there was no fussat all in 1951 when the college became coeducational. Springfield has 400coeds, and the school's morally severe founders would be pleased to know thatthis has caused no difficulties. At Springfield sport subdues sex. A few weeksago, for instance, 35 Springfield boys and girls went off to the woods to aQuaker meetinghouse for a conference on integration that lasted until one inthe morning. "When a late conference like this is over," says the Rev.Robert Parsonage, the chaplain, "you'd expect students to go off and neck.But they said, 'Let's have a soccer game!' And there they were, the boys andgirls, out playing soccer at one in the morning."
The currentpresident, Dr. Glenn A. Olds, is a clergyman, and his background in sports—hewas an amateur boxer of note as a boy in the Pacific Northwest—and religionmirrors the eclecticism that the college has adopted over the years. Born to aRoman Catholic father and a Mormon mother, he was raised as a Quaker, studiedJudaism and was ordained a Methodist minister. He received his Ph.D. inphilosophy from Yale, where his dissertation dealt with The Nature of MoralInsight, and he served as director of united religious work at Cornell. He doescalisthenics upon awakening, and instead of cocktails at parties he and hiswife serve apples and cheese. Olds is somewhat of a human whirlwind, foreverdashing off to this meeting and that while cooking up new projects by thedozens. When faculty members once complained that neither they nor he couldpossibly keep up with all his schemes, Olds explained his bouncy administrativeapproach in sporting terms. "You must think I have a lot of rubber balls upin the air," he said, "but I have rubber bands attached to eachone." Olds loves to give speeches. By all accounts, he is a spellbinder,although he has a weakness for alliteration. "Power is paradoxical," hebegan one of his several guest editorials in The Saturday Review. Generally, heis partial to the hard C. In one recent address, he set some sort of analliterative record by proclaiming that he was going to hold forth on "thecharacteristics of our culture and campus; the contrasts and contradictions;the corrupting cures and the creativity of the coming campus."
During Olds'sfive years of leadership, Springfield has changed somewhat. The college now hasa division of arts and sciences, in which students may major in such orthodoxsubjects as English, history and mathematics. Some faculty members fear thatSpringfield is in over its head competing with neighboring "potted ivy"schools in the liberal arts, but Olds believes that the division will not only"enrich" the curriculum for all students but help the college to getfinancial donations and grants.
On the average,the male undergraduates at Springfield are high school graduates drawn from themiddle middle class. The girls are from perhaps a slightly higher socialstratum. The prep school graduate is a rarity. (Linkletter, who had wanted toattend Springfield but never had the chance to do so, would like to persuadesome wealthy youngsters to enroll. "They don't have to go to a so-calledprestige college to obtain a fine education," he says.) Approximately 400students are Catholics, and 100 are Jewish. Whatever their beliefs, they alllive, as President Olds might put it, in happy harmony, brimming over withideals and bountiful health. When a flu or mono epidemic ravages Amherst orSmith, Springfield students simply breathe deeper and do more exercises. Todramatize physical fitness they have run in relays to Boston—it took 10 hoursand 58 minutes, but they would have made it four minutes faster had GovernorEndicott Peabody, who was greeting them, been at the State House steps on time.The last man ran around the block until the governor showed up.
The school is thehome of the fervent handshake and the winning smile, and by custom everyvisitor is greeted with a resounding "Hi!" But the friendliness isgenuine, and even the most cynical usually succumb. Graduate Instructor Conrad,for example, enrolled as a freshman at the advanced age of 25. He had been,among other things, a soldier of fortune and had put in a stint for theBrazilian government as a mercenary, shooting outlaws in the Amazon basin for$800 a month base bay and a bonus of $4 a head. "I came here with a suave,sophisticated attitude," he recalls, "but within two weeks they haddrawn me into their circle. It was something I couldn't fight. It's an honor tobe associated with these students. I am really sold on this place."
A few, of course,are not sold. An ex-sailor tells of entering Springfield on the G.I. Bill rightafter World War II. On his first night he suggested to his two roommates thatthey all go out for a beer. One declined on the grounds he had to work onbasketball patterns in the gym, and the other said he was too busy squeezing ahandball and exercising a trick knee. In a track course, the sailor and afriend, who was equally out of shape, hid behind the stands for the first lapof the half-mile run. When the runners came around again, the two burst out ofhiding and onto the track. "But even so," says the sailor, "we werelucky to finish one-two, and we were sprinting. The instructor didn't see ushide, but the other kids did. And yet not one of them said a word. If we wantedto act like that, it was our business. Their not saying anything made us feelall the worse for what we had done." After a year the sailor transferred toWesleyan—he has since gone on to the greater glories of Madison Avenue—but helooks back on his Springfield days with a sense of loss. "They were thenicest people I ever met," he says. "I just wasn't dedicated enough. Icouldn't take it. I felt like a born shirker. Besides, I wasexhausted."
Don Crout,Springfield '61 and the admissions counselor, says, "Some people think thatthe students here are junior saints on their way to saving the world. Conradand I are probably two of the greatest heretics in the joint—but we believe,too. I believe in the institution because it has done what it has said it does.Ten years after graduation 90% of the graduates are in the field they trainedfor."
"They go intovocations that pay very little," Conrad says. "Coaching, socialservice, teaching—these are areas that are not attractive unless you have afeeling for what you're doing."
Lighting a cigar("A lot of us smoke"), Crout says, "Of course, there is thepossibility that by virtue of our own idealistic approaches we may besheltering our students from the realities of life, the things they willencounter in the world. But I think that fieldwork does a lot to overcomethis." There is not a single welfare agency in the area that the studentsare not involved with. On Halloween, for example, the girls in an honorarysociety called White Key—there are no sororities or fraternities atSpringfield—held a party for slum youngsters at a Salvation Army depot. Thecollege is very proud of four graduates who are working with the Bureau ofPrisons of the U.S. Department of Justice on a program operated by SpringfieldCollege to rehabilitate younger offenders. "We have kids who come here andsay, 'I want to be a boy scout leader,' " says George Wood, the school'sable and frank director of information. "The atmosphere is just marvelous.I've been at American International College, Boston University and MIT, and inmy book this college has the highest ideals of all. The students at MIT didn'thave Springfield's whole-man attitude. Let's face it, this isn't theintellectual center that Cambridge is, what with MIT and Harvard, but theatmosphere here is a lot healthier in terms of human relations.""There's an openness and a trust here," says Chaplain Parsonage."And it isn't corny," says Wood. "That's the miracle of SpringfieldCollege."
None of this ismeant to imply that all Springfield students are absolutely perfect and thatthey collectively revel in goody-goodyism. Students are students, and some arebound to raise hell, no matter how lofty their sense of purpose. ButSpringfield feels it has fewer disciplinary problems than other colleges.
Fit anddedicated, 65% of all the boys at Springfield participate in some varsityathletics. Every physical-education major—slightly more than half the studentsare in this field—must take a grand total of 720 hours in skills and techniquescourses, and non-phys-ed majors are required to take at least 225 hours. Astudent who is not proficient or fails to do his best in these classes is notgiven a degree. Among the courses offered are Baseball, Softball, Football, TapDance, Archery, Lacrosse, Fencing, Tennis, Boating and Canoeing, Square Danceand Swimming. Track is divided into Track I and Track II, the latter with theemphasis on the techniques of the 16-pound hammer throw, the javelin, shot-put,discus, pole vault, high hurdles, quarter mile and mile. Then there are GamesI, II and III. Games I deals with games of low organization, such asring-around-a-rosy, ball-puss, pig-in-the-hole,who-is-that-knocking-at-my-door?, magic-carpet, old-mother-witch,have-you-seen-my-sheep? and fairies-and-brownies. "Don't laugh," saysDon Crout. "We play power fairies-and-brownies. Besides, this is key stufffor elementary schools. And we play rough. There are guys who break legsplaying ring-around-a-rosy." "This is the greatest college for crutchesand Band-Aids that you ever saw," says a faculty wife.
In Games I, as inother skills and techniques courses, the emphasis is on teaching. A studentwill make believe that he is a teacher and the rest of the class is composed offirst graders. Some of the routines that students have worked up are worthy ofBob Newhart. "All right, children," a student will say to the pseudomoppets, "we are going to play a game! The name of the game isring-around-a-rosy. Now let's all form in a big circle. A circle is round, justlike a big ball. Now let's join hands—no, with one another. Now put your leftfoot forward—not that left foot, the other one."
In Fundamentalsof Rhythm, another skills and techniques course, it is not uncommon to see a200-pound fullback cavorting on the greensward. (Fundamentals of Rhythm isknown as "Funsies." Similarly, Recreation and Youth Leadership iscalled "Running, Yelling and Leaping.") Generally speaking, Springfieldstudents grow quite fond of games of low organization, and not long ago, when anumber of them went off to a Y camp in Connecticut for a conference on values,they all joined in playing a gigantic game of ring-around-a-rosy.
At Springfieldvarsity athletics is not extracurricular but co-curricular. "I think,"says Dr. Reuben (Jack) Frost, director of health, physical education andrecreation, "that there is as much social adjustment taking place when twofootball players crack heads as when people are playingring-around-a-rosy." Dr. Steitz, the director of athletics, says, "Weregard athletics as co-curricular instead of extracurricular because we thinksport is the finest laboratory there is for the education of the whole man.Here you have the mind, the body and the spirit all working together."
Ordinarily,varsity players at Springfield, to put it bluntly, have more will than skill.There is the exceptional star, but in the main, very few of them would make theBig Ten as tackles. The college tends to field a baseball team composed ofplayers who are as knowledgeable as Casey Stengel when it comes to strategy butas inept as the Mets when it comes to play. But in sports where endurancecounts, ah, then Springfield is tops. "Everyone is in shape," says Dr.Steitz with a smile, "and we win a lot of games on conditioning. The boyswill exercise until the cows come home. They're dedicated. And they don'tsecond-guess either, because they all want to be coaches themselves." Forthe past 13 years, the wrestling team has been the best in New England, and upuntil this season the cross-country team won 25 straight meets. The soccer teamis almost always strong. Last year in basketball, Springfield was a respectable20 and 6 and NCAA college-division runner-up in the Northeast. "We play afast brand of basketball," says Steitz, "because our fellows are insuch wonderful condition. This also allows us to have a very demanding andaggressive defense. You have to be in shape to play aggressive defense. Ourconditioning shows up toward the end of a game. You often see another teamthat's ahead of us get bushed, and we catch up." A couple of years ago oneof the players on the basketball team smoked on the sly. His teammates heardabout it, and without telling Steitz they banished him from the squad.
At Springfieldthe coaching staffs are extra deep because graduate students serve asassistants. Helping coach this year's basketball team is Tony Scolnick, an M.A.candidate who majored in biology at Amherst, where he was a varsity basketballguard, No. 1 on the tennis team and an All-America in soccer. "When I wasat Amherst," he says, "we had two games that we looked forwardto—Williams and Springfield. You knew you would have a ball when you playedSpringfield. They played hard and they played fair. The people here know whatthey want to do. This is a very pleasant place. I was happy at Amherst, but ina different way."
At varsity gamesSpringfield students are most appreciative and polite. Any player who performswell, regardless of whether it is for Springfield or the opposing team, isapplauded. But, on occasion, the student preoccupation with technique canbaffle an onlooker. Chaplain Parsonage, who came to Springfield two years ago,was puzzled when he saw his first basketball game. "I had heard about theSpringfield spirit," he says, "but I was unnerved to see so manystudents and no one cheering. Then I saw they had pencils and were takingnotes."
The most famousof all the groups at the college, however, is the gymnastics exhibition team,composed of 40 boys and girls who tour the eastern seaboard from the late fallto spring. At the climax of the show 10 of the boys, wearing gold paint, enacttableaux with a sporting theme. The subject of this year's Living Statuary isthe 1964 Olympics.
Another group ofSpringfield students, the Hosaga Tribe, raises money for a scholarship fund byputting on shows. Students who are members of Hosaga make their own authenticIndian costumes and, like the Living Statuary troupe, they make the circuitbefore turn-away crowds. Late in March they set up 10 tepees in the MemorialField House and put on a 2½-hour show. The Indian theme is a big one atSpringfield. The principal totem in student rituals is Chief Massasoit, theIndian who extended friendship to the Pilgrims. Alas, in recent years Massasoithas been played down. For 13 years Professor Charles F. Weckwerth, as both astudent and faculty member, appeared at a senior class ceremony dressed up asthe chief. The seniors last saw Massasoit as freshmen, and the chief would say,"Much earth have the brooks washed into the valleys in this time. Theseyears, have they taught you the art of living? Can you face what other menshun? Can you wield thy power in humble service and though mighty, stoop tohelp the weak? Can you stand alone when all men stand against you?" Towhich the senior class president would respond, "Oh, Massasoit, we stillhave the driving force of youth." The ceremony was given up when some ofthe trustees became concerned about the apparent glorification of anon-Christian aborigine. Similarly, the college did away with worship in theCathedral of Living Trees, which is located in an 86-acre campsite adjacent tothe campus, because there were murmurings about paganism.
Research atSpringfield naturally centers on sports and physical fitness. Perhaps the mostfamous faculty member at Springfield is Dr. Peter Karpovich, the Russian-bornphysiologist. He retired two years ago but still maintains a laboratory on thecampus. Fashioning all sorts of precision instruments out of knickknacks thatcame to hand (he dubbed his lab the "Kresge Scientific Company" becausehe got so much of the stuff from the dime store), Karpovich has upset anynumber of old wives' tales about sports. Among these was the notion that anathlete should not drink milk before an event, that vitamins stimulateperformance and that weight lifters are muscle-bound (SI, Feb. 11, 1957). Dr.Karpovich is now working on some unathletic projects, but Dr. Clayton Shay, aprofessor of physical education, is doing work on fitness, using Springfieldstudents as subjects. "What we're attempting," Shay says, "is toascertain how fitness fits into the picture of a successful or unsuccessfulcollege student.
We're trying tobuild a test to predict a student's potential. We have some indication thatcollege students who rank low in fitness tests are those who also flunkout."
In the past fouryears the fitness of Springfield students has been rising. As measured againsta "norm" of 100 on the Rogers Physical Fitness Index, freshmen in 1960averaged 96.7; those in 1961, 96.8; 1962, 103; and 1963, 104.5. "We havevery few endomorphs," says Shay with satisfaction. "Most students aremesomorphic with an ectomorphic tendency." Shay and his colleagues havealso found that fitness is on the rise elsewhere. "We were down inConnecticut testing elementary schools," he says, "and we gave theKirchner test. One part involves doing push-ups from a chair, and one youth didthem exceptionally well. 'Boy,' I said to him, 'you're really fit, aren't you?'And he said, 'Before I get any dessert I have to do at least 20.' It's a familyprocess. Some parents make their children exercise before they can watchtelevision. In Longmeadow, a well-to-do suburb just south of here, there's a20-mile-a-week bicycle club. In Wethersfield, just outside Hartford, anyone whoscores under 100 in the Rogers test has to stay after school. People are reallycognizant of fitness. It's a slow process, but it's gaining."
Unfortunately,Springfield has a major problem of its own, keeping financially fit. Inasmuchas the students seek a life of service, the alumni simply do not have amplefunds to give. The endowment is only $2.5 million, and the college is hard putto make improvements. "The man who gives $100,000 to MIT for a better testtube doesn't know that here we're attempting to make the better man, to educatethe student who is going to try to stop juvenile delinquency, to teach the boywho is going to coach at East Jamoke," says George Wood. "These are thethings we're trying to do. We want to produce the better teacher, the bettersocial worker, the better coach. As Dr. Olds says, and I think he's right, wein this country know how to send a rocket to the moon but we don't know forsure how to get the man out of the boy."