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Original Issue


My husband and I agree with Mrs. Richard J. Ross (An Open Letter to Bud Wilkinson, Nov. 12) right down to the last comma. As parents of one who can, one who can't and one who can but won't excel in school athletics, we feel that there are acres of room for improvement.
Bethesda, Md.

I absolutely refuse to countenance the thought that athletic standards must be lowered so that children who are not as accomplished as others can be accommodated. This is exactly the reverse of what we in this country are trying to teach through athletics. All children don't quit under the strain of competition; moreover, some are inspired even more because their goals mean so much to them.

The real physical problem is the child who is too small and too weak to participate in team sports. Some of these refuse to accept their lack of size and struggle indefinitely—getting nowhere. Others accept their size problems and revert to other sports—individual sports such as swimming, track and field and the like, where the individual is able to compete more successfully in his age group. Usually, these children succeed. Still other children overcome slight builds with speed and adroitness and do quite well with their larger counterparts.

There still remains, however, the child who just quits.
Columbia, S.C.

Mrs. Ross blames the adults of today for a soft and flabby younger generation, which is most decidedly a just accusation. However, she implies that of all the adults, the physical education instructors should shoulder the biggest portion of blame. Her generalizations degrade a professional group which is working to fulfill President Kennedy's goal of insuring "that every American child be given the opportunity to make and keep himself physically fit."

The President's Council on Youth Fitness has discovered that kids who have had physical education do better in fitness tests than those who have not. Any dedicated physical educator develops a sound curriculum before organizing even a basic intramural program. And only after a strong intramural program has been established—one in which each student has adequate opportunity for activity—are extramurals or interscholastic sports even considered.

No, Little League is not the answer to the physical fitness problem. Nor is blaming the physical educators a solution. The fitness of today's children will be improved only by a united effort on the part of all adults to: 1) insist that each child have a minimum of 30 minutes of activity in school each day, 2) make certain that sound physical education curricula and extensive intramural programs are established before interscholastic schedules, 3) enlarge the summer playground programs where every child who wants to participate has an opportunity and 4) stress the importance of fitness through family activities.
Evanston, Ill.

It is always "our boy" would have made the team "if." It should be "our boy" is not good enough to make the team. Most of us, even as spectators, are unable to take defeat and, therefore, we surely will find something on which to place the blame, even the weather. President Kennedy never said every child should endeavor to make the team, he merely emphasized the indifference of our youth to making any team.

We have always been a highly competitive nation, and we are now in an even more competitive world. We must wake up to the fact that we cannot all be winners, but it is still our right to challenge.

I realize that Mrs. Ross's letter was addressed to Bud Wilkinson. However, since I am not only a mother of two boys but also the wife of a physical education teacher and a coach, I feel qualified to make a reply and at the same time offer a suggestion or two.

There are many injustices in our competitive system, but to blame this system for the inability of one fourth of our youth to pass the very minimum of physical fitness tests is ridiculous. The main reason that our physical education program has failed is the lack of interest and support on the part of parents and educators.

We do not have to make a choice between a few champions and a nation of healthy, fit citizens. We have to institute a program that will actually educate the physical body, teaching specific exercises and skills, getting gradually more difficult from the first grade through high school. Those children who are unable to do the required work should be given remedial instruction by specialists in cooperation with physicians.

Since children are competitive by nature, some competition won't hurt them. The goal of excellence in our schooling, whether academic or physical, is a noble one. Though many fail it isn't necessary for normal, healthy children to "withdraw ashamed and embarrassed," as long as they have done their best.

If a man has no more self-control than to break a putter when he doesn't win, it is not golf that is at fault.

My boys have been fortunate in being born physically strong. However, we have seen that they have adequate exercise, walking or riding bikes to school, swimming and playing what comes naturally. We are delighted that a very rigid physical education program has been undertaken in the school and when our youngest comes home complaining of soreness in abdominal muscles from the sit-ups he had to do, we simply tell him to do a little more the day after, let him soak in a tub of warm water, and in a week or so all soreness is gone and he can go on to more strenuous endeavor. The same thing applies when he comes in with an arithmetic problem that is more than he feels he can cope with.

When the time comes that a boy wants to try out for a team, then he will learn the lessons that participation teaches. These lessons are as important to his development as most others in his schooling. They are additional lessons in patience, hard work and fair play. If he discovers that even with teaching and practice he doesn't measure up to what is needed to win, then he has learned another lesson, that each of us has his limitations, mental and physical.

Now, if you want to debate the morality of proselytizing and the virtue of the semi-professional athletic system that prevails in our colleges, that's a different story. However, the two—physical education for fitness and varsity sports—arc different fields and must be argued separately.
Kent, Ohio

I read Mrs. Ross's Open Letter with a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction. To hear a mother make these statements is all we in the YMCA need to feel we are on the right track.

Not much has been said publicly about the Y's answer to the President's report on youth fitness. But the program is there—and it's working—and in the manner in which Mrs. Ross described.

The Y makes no distinction between the left-footed and right-footed teams or players. Every boy (and every girl in most cases) plays with the accent on team spirit and enjoyment. Winning is secondary.
Anniston, Ala.

Roy Terrell's article on Mark McCormack, The Biggest Golf Hustler of Them All (Nov. 12), is one of the finest fiction stories I've read in some time.

"Arnold Palmer is the best example of what McCormack hath wrought." What a stupid statement! What rot!

In the year of 1962 any idiot could "sell" Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. That's tantamount to selling space heaters in Alaska in December, air-conditioning units in Arizona in July or door keys in Sing Sing at any time.

The true test of the young attorney "with the expression of an indignant owl" will come when golf's three "golden boys" of 1962 turn back into base metal, as they must and will.

Mark Hume McCormack graduated in 1947 from Chicago's Harvard School for Boys, at which time I was a sophomore at the same institution. The '47 class log refers to McCormack as "Probably Will Be: Basketball Pro"—which seems odd due to the fact that he was captain of the golf team but never played varsity basketball. It only goes to prove that the prognostications of class-log compilers are at least as fallible as those of sportswriters.

I make no claim of being a bosom chum of McCormack's, but I knew him slight and remember him as a reasonably likable sort. However, being a disgustingly truthful and revoltingly all-too-human individual, I must confess that reading of Mark's awesomely enormous and unbelievably rapid financial success caused my indigent bones to quiver with fierce pangs of envy. For, as Somerset Maugham once shrewdly observed, "One likes to see one's friends get ahead—but not out of sight."

Why don't you change your name to Sports Incorporated?

The three lead stories in your Nov. 12 issue (The Underdogs Have Made It, Seesaw over Boxing's Snakepit and Biggest Golf Hustler of Them All) dealt not with sport but with finance.

Maybe this is the spirit of American sports. I hate to think so.
Richmond, Va.