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A lock back at the "Clean Sport Roll".

Probably no American sport has had two founding fathers with the quality of Luther Halsey Fulick, the master of the Springfield (MA) YMCA International School, and his young protege in the 1890's James Naismith.


It was Gulick who inspired Naismith to invent the game of basketball in 1891. Its purpose was to satisfy the physical and emotional needs of a rambunctious class of youngsters.

Naismith's only resources were a round ball, two peach baskets, a gym floor, and a very cooperative janitor. The gung-ho assistant reached into his fertile imagination, dreamed up an exciting fast-moving sport, wrote 13 rules, and the die was cast.

It took just 110 years, but Naismith's bouncing "baby" is now considered the second greatest sport in the world. Naismith, in life and in death, deserves all the honors that have been heaped upon him. But what most historians are unaware of is that Naismith moved to the Denver YMCA just a few years later, and from then on had relatively little to do in the rapid expansion of the game.

With Naismith's departure, Luther Gulick inherited the new sport and, except for a little diversion now and then, brought fame and fortune to the new sport (the only world sport invented by an American).

One of the more interesting "diversions" in the history of the game was a strange case of deja vu. By the late 1890's the rambunctious group of youngsters that had inspired Naismith's invention must have staged a comeback. Basketball suddenly took a dip. "Those friendly games of basketball" began reverting to little mobs of swearing, pushing, and elbowing rowdies.

The mortified physical directors at the Springfield Y were appalled by the intrusion of unchristian-like behavior in their gym, and even considered dropping the "rowdy" game from their program.

Enter Luther Gulick. To save basketball from its newfound combative revival, Gulick composed and circulated a circular that he called the "YMCA Clean Sport Roll" that became widely accepted in Y and other clubs throughout the land.


1. The rules of games are to be regarded as mutual agreements, the spirits or letter of which one would no sooner try to evade or break than he would any other agreement between gentlemen. The stealing of advantage in sport is to be regarded as stealing of any other kind.

2. Visiting teams are the honored guests of the home team, and the mutual relationships in all participants [are] to be governed by the spirits that are supposed to guide such relationships.

3. No action is to be taken, nor course of conduct pursued which would seem ungentlemanly or dishonorable.

4. No advantage is to be sought over others that are part of the game.

5. Officials should avoid laxity in their interpretation and enforcement of the rules.

6. Officers and opponents are to be regarded and treated as honest in intention. When opponents are obviously not gentlemen, and officers manifestly dishonest or incompetent, it is perfectly simple to avoid future relationships with them.

7. Decisions of officials, even when they seem unfair, are to be abided by.

8. Ungentlemanly or unfair tactics should not be used even when used by the opponents.

9. Good points in others should be appreciated and suitable recognition given.

Gulick wanted basketball to be a clean sport. In his way of thinking, Christ's kingdom should include the athletic world. He further reasoned that the influence of athletics upon character must be on the side of Christian courtesy.

When it was suggested that players be asked to sign their names to the roll before playing, Gulick retorted that it would be a "serious error." According to the astute administrator, "A man becomes a gentleman not because he has agreed to do so, but because there is something within him that responds to an appeal (to do the right things.)"

The third inspired presence in Springfield at the time was an outstanding educator and coach named Professor Ernest Blood, a member of the YMCA during his youth and later a YMCA physical director and basketball coach (1895-1906), was more than familiar with Gulick's philosophy--he lived it.

It never hindered his career. To this day he holds the record for consecutive victories--159! He established it while coaching Passaic HS in New Jersey during the early 1920's. His teams were noted for their style of play and spotless behavior.

No evidence exists of "Prof" Blood ever wavering from or compromising Gulick's views on sportsmanship in any of his endeavors before or after his "Wonder Team" years.

Are Gulick's Clean Sports Roll standards too antiquated for basketball today? Would they place a team at a disadvantage? Would Gulick's philosophy of competition be impossible to resurrect?

In a sport that has been riddled with scandals--past and present--there is no better time than now for basketball coaches to acquaint themselves with Gulick's "Clean Sport Role" and resurrect the early ideals of the game's pioneers.

It never kept "Prof" Blood from winning, could it possibly hinder coaches today?

Chic Hess, Ed. D., is the author of Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball's First Great Coach,

By Charles "Chic" Hess, Ed. D., Kailua, HI
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Title Annotation:COACHING
Author:Hess, Charles "Chic"
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:Performance evaluation by student-athletes.
Next Article:You can't cheat D-Cleater for cross training and resistance.

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