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Athletics in China are becoming as popular as in America according to Mr. F. C. Havighurst's report on this new branch of teaching which the various missions have recently taken up.
Mr. Havighurst describes the conditions as he found them around Shanghai:
Like most of our schools we have no athletic field but simply use the largest open space between our buildings for football and the walks around it for track. But inadequate equipment could not dampen the boys' enthusiasm to enter a winning team in the First Provincial Interscholastic Track and Field Meet in the province of Fukien. This First Provincial Meet made athletic history for us in this province. For the large majority of the thousands of spectators it was the first real demonstration of what athletics could do for Chinese youth and what a convincing and enthusiastic demonstration it was. Besides all the events of an American track meet there were tournaments in volley ball, tennis, basketball, soccer and a cross-country run. The student, instead of being the old long-coated dignified and often tubercular scholar, stood revealed as the alert, energetic, quick and strong youth in his trim looking track suit, who had learned all the lessons of self-control, self-discipline and team play which China needs so much today. The four hundred odd entries from some twenty-five schools experienced the need for adequate training and the exertion of every ounce of strength if they were to win--another lesson which will be valuable to China in her struggle for a place among the nations.
Meet Greatly Affected Boys
These boys left that meet with a realization that the way was open for any one of them to represent China in the Far Eastern Olympic Games if he could prove himself worthy of that high honor. And the boys from the different schools as they cheered their different teams on to victory found their spirit of school loyalty within them being strengthened both by victory and defeat. It is different enough for American boys to take defeat without giving up, but it is doubly difficult for the China boy because if he is defeated he "loses face". Athletics will thus strengthen the spirit of devoted patriotism and loyality to China which has already done so much to bring new hope to China's friends.
Meet Offered Chance of Cooperation
Not the least among the benefits accruing from this Provincial Meet was the opportunity it offered for co-operation and friendship between provincial officials and teachers both in government and mission schools. It furnished practically the first opportunity for the students and schools to get the provincial consciousness. We must not forget that those who participated in the mass drills came from primary as well as middle schools and university, and that they included girls as well as boys.
The Chinese boys love to play just as much as American boys. All they lack is the opportunity. Give them a chance at basketball and in a remarkably short time they acquire the same speed as American boys. Our Union Theological Seminary team won the Foochow city championship last fall, and I would back them against any seminary team in America.
Tennis Proves Most Popular
And tennis! The only limit to its popularity and production of real stars is the lack of courts. On the school campus we have no room for courts so I leave our tennis net on the porch nights so the boys can get it at daylight and use our private court before breakfast. I never dreamed that volley ball could be so exciting and full of sport until I came to China. In fact, it is the most popular sport among the schoolboys of Foochow, and its simplicity has attracted the majority of our students to engage in it.
In cross-country running these China boys show a remarkable preseverance and endurance especially when you remember that our boys here in the south are so small of stature.
This spirit of play the schoolboys take back into the villages with them and especially spread it through their Summer Health Campaigns and Daily Vacation Bible Schools which are now carried on with great success all over China.
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