Sports: The British Inheritance

Sports: The British Inheritance

British School Sports Tradition

Together with such pastimes as lawn tennis, archery, and trapshooting, some of these clubs began also to provide facilities for a game new to America. It was far more important than yachting, coaching, or polo. It was not for very long to remain, as Harper’s Weekly termed it in 1895, “pre-eminently a game of good society.” It was soon to give rise to a tremendous growth in country clubs which were to become the special prerogative of the great middle class in cities and towns throughout the country. This sport, of course, was golf.

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International Sporting Events

Croquet had in the meantime performed the miracle of getting both men and women out-of-doors for an activity they could enjoy together. The first of the post-war games to be introduced from England, it reached an even broader public than baseball. Croquet was more than a game; it was a social function. Contemporary writers were soon pointing out what an unmixed blessing it was for the American damsel, and warning bachelors to beware.

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Women and Sports: Direct Challenge to Men?

A basic need for outdoor exercise to conserve national health and the sponsorship of social leaders thus served in large measure to break down the barriers that had formerly stood in the way of the development of organized sports. Games which could appeal to every one had at last been invented or developed. And a post-war atmosphere, in which the instinct for pleasure is naturally intensified, provided fertile ground for the growth of these new forms of recreation.

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The Rise of Football and Spectator Sports

Organizational activities in the small-town and city school sometimes tend toward too great profusion during adolescence when elaborate extracurricular schedules fill up the students’ time. The town adolescent frequently is so overloaded with extracurricular work that he has little time for home activities, and he is so overstimulated that he loses much of the sheer joy of social participation and becomes weary of many things because of an overenrichment of experience.

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The Rise of Football and Spectator Sports

The Rise of Football and Spectator Sports

Organizational activities in the small-town and city school sometimes tend toward too great profusion during adolescence when elaborate extracurricular schedules fill up the students’ time. The town adolescent frequently is so overloaded with extracurricular work that he has little time for home activities, and he is so overstimulated that he loses much of the sheer joy of social participation and becomes weary of many things because of an overenrichment of experience.

The British football, as it developed in the state school system and clubs, transformed ideas about what modern sport means. The game generally played in this period was something like association soccer, but it was completely unorganized, and any number of players was usually allowed on each side.

By 1910 there were 300,000 football players in 12,000 clubs registered with the Football Assoeiation (FA). After 1900, market forces increasingly replaced paternalism, and professional football was promoted by business patrons who saw opportunities to exploit the new mass demand for entertainment.

Football led the way toward the general commereialization of sport. Larger, professional clubs were successful commercial ventures, attracting huge crowds and deriving their revenue from gate money and sales of food and drinks. The FA Cup Final attracted enarmous numbers of speetators: 120,000 in 1913.

Watching professional football became central to the culture of the working classes, and spectators deeply concerned for victory and vociferously partisan, gave it a unique character. The popularity of football developed into a mania. Professional foctball teams from Britain toured abroad. Players and coaches became emissaries of the game, transmitting skills around the world.

Other spectator sports had also become highly popular and profitable in Britain. In 1913 there were 1-kilometer (half-rnile) queues on Men’s finals day at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, and touts were selling £1 tickets for £10. The popularity of spectator sport had a knock-on effect, acting as an incentive for people to participate themselves, and for entrepreneurs to profit from sales of sports equipment, clothing and medication.

Play is secluded and limited, containing its own course and meanrag: it begins and is over at a specific moment. Yet, since it becomes a tradition, it can be repeated. The dual elements of repetition and alternation are contributions to the independence of play, which further functions within limitations of time and space. Play thus constitutes a temporary world within, and marked off from, the ordinary world Play creates order; in fact, it is order. It is inside a “playground”; slight deviation from the rules spoils the game.

Working-class people avidly followed sports of all kinds. By 1900 there were 25 sporting newspapers in London alone and daily papers were sprouting sports pages. A foreign visitor declared, “All is sport in England…. It is sucked in with the mother’ s milk.” This phenomenal expansion in the field of sports was the most significant development in the nation’s recreational life that had yet taken place. Apart from all the considerations already mentioned, athletics provided an outlet for surplus energy and suppressed emotions which the British people greatly needed.

By World War I sport had become a major industry, and the essential charaeteristics of professional sport were established. There were separate amateur and professionalleagues and competitions, sporting heroes and unruly fan behavior. The sport of motoring was hazardous and exciting as well as costly in the first decade of the 20th century. A long course of instruction was necessary to learn how to drive, the schools providing preliminary practice in gear-shifting and steering behind dummy wheels before the pupil was allowed to venture on the road. He was also taught something about the engine, how to make the necessary repairs and replace parts.

Many car-owners became adept at tinkering with the engine, but this phase of motoring was not always considered fun. “The nerve strain of working over those jarring parts, if you have no mechanical instinct,” wrote one harassed motorist, “would take away all the pleasure of ownership.” One of the most popular automobile jokes was that of the car-owner’s ward in the insane asylum. A visitor one day was surprised to find it apparently empty. The physician in charge explained that the patients were all under the cots fixing the slats.

Sport was increasingly used as a publicity medium by politieians and other public figures. Those who owned sport wielded power: most professional players were working-class, owned and controlled, bought and sold, and subjected to strict discipIinary procedures imposed by wealthy businessmen. There were struggles between players and employers over the minimum wage and the transfer system, and though players’ unions were formed, the players nonetheless remained in a weak position.

Baseball slowly spread north, south, east, and west. It drove out town-ball in New England and cricket in Philadelphia, made its way to the Mississippi Valley ( Chicago had four clubs in 1858), crossed the trans-Mississippi frontier, reached out to the Pacific Coast. Everywhere it was bringing men and boys into active outdoor play. It was also becoming highly organized.

The National Association of Base Ball Players was formed in 1858, with twenty-five clubs applying for charter membership, and two years later delegates from fifty organizations attended its annual meeting. New York and New Jersey led in the number of clubs ( New England had a separate association for teams still playing town-ball), but Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans were but a few among the cities where baseball was now established.

Popular spectator sport was promoted as an escape from the hardships and poverty of working-class life, and became an extremely effective vehicle of social control. The ruling classes valued it as a socialiy more acceptable pursuit than political or criminal activities, but working men found football exciting. Its hard physical contact reflected the tough life they were accustomed to. It became an integral part of their lives, and an important setting for male bonding.

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Women and Sports: Direct Challenge to Men?

Women and Sports: Direct Challenge to Men?

A basic need for outdoor exercise to conserve national health and the sponsorship of social leaders thus served in large measure to break down the barriers that had formerly stood in the way of the development of organized sports. Games which could appeal to every one had at last been invented or developed. And a post-war atmosphere, in which the instinct for pleasure is naturally intensified, provided fertile ground for the growth of these new forms of recreation.

It is perhaps not so surprising after all that within a short quarter-century of the day when one English visitor declared that “to roll balls in a ten pin alley by gas-light or to drive a fast trotting horse in a light wagon along a very bad and dusty road, seems the Alpha and Omega of sport in the United States,” almost every one of our modern games was being played by a rapidly growing army of enthusiasts.

The pioneer of them all, baseball, had evolved from the various bat-and-ball games that the early settlers had brought with them from England. A children’s game actually known as base-ball had been played in the eighteenth century. It is noted in A Pretty Little Pocket Book, Intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly, which was first published in England in 1744 and soon after reprinted in this country. Jane Austen refers to it in Northanger Abbey. Four-old-cat, rounders, and town-ball, each of which contributed something to baseball, were also being played in the early nineteenth century by young men and boys throughout the country. Samuel Woodruff, writing on amusements in 1833, speaks of New Englanders as being experts in such games of ball as “cricket, base, cat, football, trap-ball.”

Nevertheless, the first two decades of the 20th century saw the gradual expansion of a variety of female sports. Croquet, tennis, golf, badminton and skating were all fashionable middle-class sports. Cycling allowed women a new physical independence, and symbolized their revolt against the restrictions of tight-Iacing. During the over one hundred years that women in the United States have played tennis, the sport has changed dramatically.

From the court-length dresses with their numerous petticoats of the 1870’s to the short, pastel-colored tennis dresses of the 1970’s, from patting a ball gently over a high sloping net to attacking baseline or net games, and from the pastime of the leisurely country-club set to a popular professional sport, women’s tennis has come a long way. This transition was studied in order to identify and to record the contributions that women players, especially those from America, have made to tennis through their original or perfected styles of play, through their domination of or successes in tournament competition, through their liberation from the traditionalism in tennis attire, or through their enhancement of the popularity of the sport.

Women’s participation in hockey, netball, lacrosse, rounders, gymnastics, cricket, athletics and swimming was possible only because they were played in “ladylike” fashion. These sports were played separately from the sports of men, in clubs, girIs’ schools, universities and colleges, and so did not constitute a direct challenge to men.

In urban areas many women’s sports clubs were attached to polytechnics and attraeted young working women from nearby shops and offices. The “Poly” girls became the pin-ups of the sporting world, providing the impetus for a more general acceptance of female sport and a gradual increase in working-class partieipation. As sport became increasingly popular, the public image of the new sportswoman was reproduced elsewhere.

The determined and clear soul of Marie-Thérèse Eyquem was readily apparent in her broad-shouldered body, solid yet graced with fine features. As is the case with many others, one had to search beyond the overall impression with her. When she stood up, her poised figure showed muscular legs slightly apart, her head, full of confidence and held up high. She was a creative woman in the full sense of the term. Always standing by her convictions to the end, she was at the same time tolerance personnified, and proof of this was in the vast gamut of faithful friends she had.

She was always willing to take up a cause provided there was building to be done or a concerted effort was required. There were four parallel paths in Marie-Therèse Eyquem’s life. She was indeed a great lady who, in her own way, made a mark in her time, never to be forgotten. Firstly at the Ministry of Youth, and Sports where she made her whole career.

The modern Olympics remained a bastion of male sporting privilege and an unambiguous celebration of male supremacy and physical prowess. Prolonged struggle and protest were required before women were officially permitted to take part. In 1908 only 36 women competed, in lawn tennis, archery, figure skating and yachting; there were 2,023 male athletes.

The tennis styles of female players were only featured in 13 out of over 160 illustrations in Tennis Styles and Stylists by Paul Metzler. In the volumes of Outing, American Lawn Tennis, World Tennis, and Sports Illustrated women received this same secondary status. Sports Illustrated reported men’s tennis during the mid-1950’s about ten times more frequently than women’s, although by the early 1970’s this margin had narrowed to only five-to-one in favor of the men. Consequently, the reporting of tournaments and the performances of the women competitors were seldom foremost in these publications and were often relegated to the middle pages and given scant recognition.

International Sporting Events

International Sporting Events

Croquet had in the meantime performed the miracle of getting both men and women out-of-doors for an activity they could enjoy together. The first of the post-war games to be introduced from England, it reached an even broader public than baseball. Croquet was more than a game; it was a social function. Contemporary writers were soon pointing out what an unmixed blessing it was for the American damsel, and warning bachelors to beware.

“Charming’ is the universal exclamation of all who play or who watch the playing of Croquet…” an early rules book stated. “Hitherto, while men and boys have had their healthy means of recreation in the open air, the women and girls have been restricted to the less exhilarating sports of indoor life… Grace in holding and using the mallet, easy and pleasing attitudes in playing, promptness in taking your turn, and gentlemanly and ladylike manners generally throughout the game, are points which it is unnecessary for us to enlarge on… Young ladies are proverbially fond of cheating at this game; but they only do so because they think that men like it.”

George Makepeace Towle had an idyllic picture of people playing croquet: “The sunshine glimmering through the branches — the soft velvety grass — the cool, pure country air — the quiet broken only by the twittering of the birds, and now and then a passing footstep.” Only occasionally did some controversial issue arise to mar the sweet felicity of the croquet court. There was the problem of “spooning.” This was not a mode of behavior, but the practice of hitting the croquet-ball by what is now called the pendulum stroke. Obviously women in hooped-skirts were at a disadvantage. The Nation gave its considered opinion: “We agree that spooning is perfectly fair in a match of gentlemen, but it is decidedly ungenerous when played with ladies, unless those ladies are bloomers.”

Croquet was by no means confined to the fashionable lawns of the effete East, however. It went west with the homesteaders. Many accounts tell of its popularity in the small towns of the prairie states. So great was the vogue in the 1870’s that manufacturers put out playing sets with candle-sockets on the wickets for night playing. The inauguration of international associations, for football in 1904 and lawn tennis in 1913, accelerated international competition. The modem Olympic mavement and its organizing body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was founded in 1895 by Pierre de Coubertin.

It was the exemplar for international amateur sport, in which the contestants participate without being paid. In common with other international bodies, it was controlled by middle- and upper-class men with economic power and elitist ideas.lopment of international sport and militated against athletes from less privileged backgrounds. The Olympic movement was inspired by the ideal that the Games would promote harmony between nations, but as early as 1908 there were nationalistic conflicts, commercial interference and disputes over amateur status.
During the 19th century plebian sports such as foIk football had virtually been eliminated by legal prohibitions. During the 20th century, new patterns of recreation for the working classes developed. Preoccupied with the moral character of workers’ activities inside and outside the factory, churches, schools, local government, industry and the military established clubs to provide them with respectable, organized sports.

Archery and lawn tennis, the former the revival of an old sport and the latter newly introduced from England about 1874, had also been taken up widely by this time. They too were sports, gentle and genteel, which could be played by both sexes. “The contestants were ladies and gentlemen from the cultured circles of society,” Harper’s Weekly reported of an archery tournament in the White Stocking Park at Chicago in 1879, “and while the rivalry among the shooters was keen to the last degree, an air of such refinement and courteous dignity as is not often witnessed by observers of public games characterized every one connected with the contest.” riting on tennis in 1881, the magazine Outing, whose establishment reflected the rising interest in sports, assured its feminine readers that this was far too refined a game to offer any attractions for the lower orders of society. A lady who took part in a tennis match would find herself “in the company of persons in whose society she is accustomed to move.”

At this stage of its development, lawn tennis as played in the United States did not involve hard, overhand serves, back-court drives, or smashes at the net. Women players suffered only the slightest handicap in having to hold up the trains of their long, dragging skirts; they were not expected actually to run for the ball. It was patted gently back and forth over a high net stretched across any level space of lawn. Competition gradually led to changed methods of play, and with the organization of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (there were forty member clubs in 1883) and the institution of annual tournaments at Newport, men began to take the game more seriously. The active features of play that now characterize it were developed. A group of players whose names are still remembered emerged from the ranks — R. D. Sears, James Dwight, Robert D. Wrenn, William A. Larned, Dwight F. Davis…

Finally in 1900 the establishment of the International Davis Cup matches definitely marked the transformation of tennis from a pastime to a sport. Track and field events were also promoted with the widespread organization of amateur athletic clubs; gymnastic games were sponsored both by the German Turnverein and the Y.M.C.A.; and in the colleges a spectacular sports phenomenon loomed over the horizon with the development of intercollegiate football. Society welcomed polo as an importation from abroad, took up the English sport of coaching. And finally a craze for bicycling arose to supersede all other outdoor activities as city streets and country roads became crowded with nattily dressed cyclists out on their club runs.

Many professional football clubs had religious or industrial origins. Socio-religious orgaruzations such as the Young Men’ s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Boy Scouts introduced drill, gymnastic exercises and sports that demanded strict control of the body, to promote the “habits of obedience, smartness and order” that were required for work in the factory and action on the field of battle.

There was also growing interest in sport in political circles. The Boer War had shown how few British recruits were physically fil. Success on the playing fields was related to success on the battlefields of the Empire. But the imperialist ideology of “training mind and body for the Empire’ s need” was applied differentiy to young men from different social classes: while public schoolboys were being urged to “play up and play the game” to develop their initiative and leadership qualities for military conquest abroad, working-class youths were being encouraged to develop fitness and alertness for following orders. Sport could induce habits of deference as well as dominance.

Many sports clubs had an exclusively middle and upper-class membership; polo and yachting clubs, for example, restricted membership and charged fees only the rich could afford. Golf was also a predominantly upper and middle-class game though there were some municipal golf courses. Tennis proliferated in the garden suburbs, and water sports, riding and other field sports were popular with the middle classes.

There were sports available for people from all backgrounds, such as cycling, rambling and athletics as well as football, ericket and mgby, but they took place in separate clubs for people with different class backgrounds. There was little mixed-class sport of any sort.

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British School Sports Tradition

British School Sports Tradition

Together with such pastimes as lawn tennis, archery, and trapshooting, some of these clubs began also to provide facilities for a game new to America. It was far more important than yachting, coaching, or polo. It was not for very long to remain, as Harper’s Weekly termed it in 1895, “pre-eminently a game of good society.” It was soon to give rise to a tremendous growth in country clubs which were to become the special prerogative of the great middle class in cities and towns throughout the country. This sport, of course, was golf.

It did not really take hold in this country, despite its hoary antiquity in Scotland and occasional attempts to introduce it on this side of the Atlantic ever since colonial days, until after 1888. The organization in that year of the St. Andrews Club, near New York, may well be taken as the first important date in golfs history in the United States. Other courses were built — whatever number of holes was most convenient — after St. Andrews had showed the way.

Soon a great number of the country clubs about Boston, New York, and Philadelphia had their links. By 1892 golf was spreading westward. It took Chicago by storm and moved on to St. Louis, Milwaukee, Denver, and the Pacific Coast. In 1894 the United States Golf Association was formed. Before 1900 many sports had developed from local adaptations of traditional foIk games into organized activities with uniform rules, special playing kit, cups and trophies, team colors and caps. The most influential setting for the modernization of sports was provided by the British public schools.

In the 19th century, football and cricket – the two major British sports – were unrestrained affairs, played in different ways in different schools, not much more than savage battles in which older boys could assert their dominance over younger ones. Their transformatian into modem sports resulted largely from the reforming influence of the new industrial middle classes who sent their sons to the public schools to be educated with the gentry; they turned games into a form of discipline.

Organized school sports became compulsory instruments of socialization and moral education for the elite young men destined to become leaders of the Empire. Rules limited aggression and ensured “fair play”. The games-playing cult, designed to produce disciplined, self-reliant and socially responsible “muscular Christians”, had, as its central therne, Mens sana in earpare sana (A healthy mind in a healthy body). Games were also seen as channels of sexual sublimation, sufficiently ascetic and exhausting to eliminate “indecent” expressions of sexuality.

Matches between schools became social events watched by huge crowds. The athletic public schoolboy was revered as a hero at school and exalted in the press. During the first decade of the 20th century the fiercely amateur cult of athleticism became an obsession in the public schools. But the idea of moral excellence and character training associated with sports did little to inhibit the aggressive display of physical power.

Sports in public schools were never truly virtuous and “civilized” activities. The desire to win was always part of the amateur sporting tradition of the British. The sports cults of the public schools celebrated competitiveness and expressions of brute male power. Violent competitive sport provided a dominant image of sport in Britain and throughout the world.

Organized sport proliferated in universities and independent sports clubs formed by ex-public schoolboys. By 1900 national associations, responsible for codifying rules and administering competitions, existed for football, rugby, ericket, yachting, skating, boxing, rowing, lawn tennis, croquet, hockey, gymnastics, lacrosse (originally a North American game) and badminton.

The democracy still considered tennis a rather feminine game, a chance to sport white flannels and gay-colored blazers rather than exercise. It simply did not know what to make of the absurd spectacle of enthusiastic gentlemen in scarlet coats furiously digging up the turf in frenzied — and wholly serious — efforts to drive a little white ball into a little round hole some hundreds of yards away. Nor were the red coats of these pioneer golfers the only article of costume that seemed singularly inappropriate on the rolling fairways of the new courses.

They wore elaborate leg-wrappings to protect themselves from the gorse indigenous to Scottish hills but quite foreign to this country, and they pulled down over their foreheads visored caps in the best Sherlock Holmes tradition. Women had not yet taken up the game, although it was already being urged upon them as an admirable compromise between “the tediousness of croquet and the hurlyburly of lawn tennis,” but together with wondering little boys who had been pressed into service as caddies, they often accompanied their lords and masters about the links.

Britain, the world’ s major sporting nation, exported its sports (and usualiy their rules) as an element of its cultural imperialism. But while football went to Europe and Latin America in its Association form, in Australia and North America it developed indigenous forms, based on Gaelic football.

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