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House Athletics


To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

In recent years it seems that House athletics have begun heading towards the wrong objective. The stated purpose of intramural athletics has always been "athletics for all." The purpose of this program should be to give anyone who is interested an opportunity to participate in organized team sports. This is no longer the case. Instead, it has degenerated into a small-scale junior varsity, and it has become a showcase for star athletes who did not make the big time.

The problem is present in all sports. To give an example, four years ago the Eliot House football team had three starting linemen who had never played football before they came to college. Today it has at least eight or ten former all-state high-school players, and these and many others who probably played freshman football and decided or discovered that they were not quite good enough to make the varsity. I do not know why Harvard, not having a reputation as a school strong on athletics, attracts so many outstanding athletes, but they are disrupting the House program. The quality of play in the House league has improved greatly, but at the expense of excluding boys with just as much interest and desire, but less experience or proven ability. The level of competition has risen so high, the pressure to win has grown so great, that the original purpose has been eclipsed. It has reached the point where people are deciding not to come out for House teams because they feel they are not good enough and will not get to play. This is not what should happen in a program designed to be "athletics for all."

The problem is being made worse by the attitude of many of the top players and persons organizing the teams. They seem to be more interested in their own success and glorification than in anything else. Many of these players run the teams more as if they were their own and not the House's. Team captains and athletic secretaries hunt up talented athletes in dining-hall conversations. Cliques of close friends and roomfuls of "House jocks" dominate many teams, especially in House basketball. Meanwhile the spirited boy with less talent is left out. Nobody cares anything about him. He never gets to play until after the big stars have decided the outcome of the game. They seem to enjoy showing themselves off so much that for everyone else it is discouraging. A few individuals are using the House athletic program to build up their ego at the expense of everyone else's. This is not what it was intended for, and this misuse of it must be stopped.

What can be done about this situation? First, Yovicsin and his colleagues can keep in the varsity and junior varsity programs everyone who belongs there. Since the purpose of a varsity team is to win games, not everyone interested can get to play, and there will inevitably be some people not good enough to make the team. But the varsity coaches need not go out of their way to discourage interested and capable athletes. An incident reported in the Nov. 10 CRIMSON points this out. How many Askold Kohimanns, driven to quit the varsity programs, are now on House teams? Second, the organizers of the House teams should refrain from high-pressure recruiting and the building up of excessive tension in the House program. Those really interested in playing will come out to games without being dragged by team captains or athletic secretaries. No one should be pressured to join a House team merely because he will give it a better chance of winning. They should not build up an undue pressure to win. Finally, the standout performers should not put their own performance above the team's. They should realize that the less-talented players are just as much members of the team as they are, and deserve the same regard and encouragement that they expect. Coaches and top players should recognize that no one gets experience by watching, and that the less proficient athletes need coaching and attention just as much as, if not more than, those who have been excelling for so long that it is second nature to them. They should encourage a sense of "team spirit," not of going all out to win at any cost, but of giving everyone a sense of enthusiasm and participation in the team. The spirit of the House program should not be the pressure to win no matter what else. The spirit of intramural athletics should be to give everyone interested a chance to take part and enjoy it. Only if this change in attitudes is made will House sports return to their proper objective. Richard A. Horvitz, '66

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