Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Talks Justice, Civic Engagement at Radcliffe Day


Church Says It Did Not Authorize ‘People’s Commencement’ Protest After Harvard Graduation Walkout


‘Welcome to the Battlefield’: Maria Ressa Talks Tech, Fascism in Harvard Commencement Address


In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises


Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

The Physical Characteristics of the Athlete.



The following extract is taken from Dr. Sargent's article in the November Scribner:-

In spite of their objectionable tendencies, the beneficial effects of athletic sports upon the development of the physique are evident. The nature of this development is governed by the constitutional bias of the individual, the sport in which he is engaged and the time devoted to it. There is, however, a general development which distinguishes the athletic from the nonathle ic class. Knowing as we do, the influence of physical activity upon the development of the individual, it is fair to presume that a like influence will be exerted on the development of a class.

The first and most marked changes produced upon the physique by the practice of athletics are shown in the weight, girth of chest, hips, thighs and arms, in breadth of shoulders and in the increased strength of all parts of the body, while the girth of the neck, waist and calves, the depth of chest and abdomen, the breadth of neck, waist and hips seem to respond more slowly. The total height is slightly increased, through increase in length of the lower extremities, but the sitting height and girth of head, knees, instep, waist and the length of upper arm and foot are at first hardly altered. In the athletic class, the excess in development of the right arm tends to establish the fact that our popular games give more employment to the right arm than to the left.

What the gymnasium is doing for the strength and vigor of the masses in some of our college may be inferred from a single illustration taken from the records at Harvard University. In the year 1880, seven hundred and seventy-six men were physically examined. The strongest man out of this number showed in strength of lungs, back, legs, chest and arms, a grand total of 675.2. At the close of the summer term of the present year, the highest strength test recorded was 1272.8 and there were over two hundred men in college whose total strength test surpassed the highest test of 1880. This general gymnasium work is, therefore, reducing the one-sided development once so common with athletic specialists. It must not be forgotten, however, that there is a development peculiar to the runner, jumper, wrestler, oarsmen, ball player, etc., and anyone familiar with athletics at the present day, can easily recognize one of these specialists.

In order to illustrate some of the distinguishing features that characterize the development of successful athletes, Dr. Sargent selected representative members of the different organizations in Harvard and Yale, a few of whom distinguished themselves within the last two years by breaking all previous college records for certain events. The photographs of these men in spite of their dissimilarity show certain characteristics', common to certain figures, and marked pecularities of another kind will accompany others.

Of all athletic sports, foot-ball is the best game to test a man physically. In the pushing and hauling, its jostling, trampling struggle for supremacy, few muscles of the body are inactive. In spite of the accidents attending this game, as at present played, no sport affords better opportunity for vigorous training. Though rowing contributes largely to the development of the back and legs, and slightly to the arms and chest, to the gymnasium and foot-ball training we must attribute much of the superb muscular development of rowing men.

In regard to one's development as plotted in Dr. Sargent's anthropometric chart, the point of greatest significance is not to see how many of one's measurements come in the centre of the chart, but to first endeavor to straighten one's line wherever it may be, and then carry it forward as near the one-hundred per cent. line as possible. In other words, endeavor to obtain a symmetrical figure; then strive for a fullorbed and harmonious development of all parts of the body.

Excellence in athletics is not incompatible with a fine figure and a superb development. The tendency, however, of all special exercises is to produce special results. The physical characteristics which we have found peculiar to runners, jumpers, oarsmen, e c., have in a measure been acquired by long and arduous practice in these sports. In many cases, the special qualification that makes a man a first class athlete are gifts of nature. Add to this inheritance the prolonged training that tends to cultivate those special powers to the extreme, and we get sometimes a prodigy, but often a failure.

In conclusion, let it be said, whatever may be the physical qualification of the athlete, in his achievements he will fall short of success without a well-developed nervous system and the possession of that almost sublime quality in man-courage.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.