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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.
COMPETITION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH
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."
EMPHASIS ON THE WRONG SPORTS?
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.