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Developing a "strong" athletics policy


Perhaps the greatest concern during Principal Henry Shaffer's eighteen month term was the athletic policy of educational institutions in general and of Clarion in particular. In his 1912 report to the superintendent of public instruction, Principal Shaffer expresses his views, "This Normal School has viewed with grave concern the `spirit of the age' in athletics in schools from the public school to the university. The policy adopted in most institutions has resulted in the abnormal development of the physically strong, the ones who need such development least, and the serious neglect of the physically weak, those who need such training most. The former have undergone a process of hard, grinding work and training, which has almost eliminated the element of play and sport. The student who has been weak or disciplined toward exercise has been deprived of needed physical development.

Tennis on Chandler site
Tennis on the site of Chandler Dining Hall
"The causes that have chiefly helped in producing this wrong condition are that athletics in schools has been systematized and made a business and a very specialized business at that, and that school authorities everywhere have countenanced and abetted this business because of its value for advertising. We row, swim, skate, ride and bobsled with great enjoyment and profit to strong and weak alike, and we do not have to compete with other institutions in these things to get both enjoyment and exercise. Why then need we make such a business of competing with other institutions in order to get what exercise and pleasure we should have. This school is very strongly of the opinion that this specialized business of strenuous school athletics, with its system of overpaid coaches and unseemly and thoroughly reprehensible scouring of the country far and wide to induce the promising athlete to attend school or college solely to strengthen such school or college's athletics, should now be opposed by all educators who have at heart the real welfare of the student body as a whole and the physical and mental progress of the race."

The school had evolved an athletic policy for girls limiting activity to intergroup and intraclass contests in the school. Shaffer's solution to the commercialization of athletics was to work for the same policy with respect to contests among young men.