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Article 2: Civic sport: using high school athletics to teach civic values in the progressive era.

During the fall of 1891, a group of young men entered the gymnasium at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts to play a new sport developed by a physical education instructor. Two baskets had been nailed to the balcony rails at either end of the gym, and over the next half hour, the men engaged in this new game, which within a few months would be called basketball. Those men played with so much enthusiasm that spectators soon gathered in the balcony to watch, including some teachers from a nearby grade school, who inquired whether girls could play, too. The YMCA instructor, James Naismith responded affirmatively, and thus, basketball was born (Naismith 1996). Why did this sport develop, and why was it encouraged for both boys and girls? The development of basketball and athletics during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reflected a greater movement of education reform, civic development, and gender in the United States.

In the twentieth century, Progressive Era reformers sought to remedy the ills of society such as urbanization, industrialization, and the lack of democratic knowledge amongst immigrants, through government-sponsored reform. Public education reformers believed that schools could assimilate immigrants and train children to be democratic citizens, thus creating a democratic community. During the Progressive Era, secondary school athletics became increasingly important as a method of creating a community of democratic men.

Luther Gulick and James Naismith emerged as leaders in the athletic movement during the Progressive Era. Gulick, president of the Playground and Recreation Association, believed playgrounds could develop civic values by teaching children to play together and to sacrifice their individual actions for the good of the whole (Gulick 1907). As a physical educator, Gulick perceived athletics not as physical fitness, but rather social engagement. Gulick worked with James Naismith to teach children sports, such as basketball, to develop moral character within its participants. At the YMCA, where both Gulick and Naismith worked, athletics were connected to democratic enjoyment and democratic values. Sport was an amateur endeavor, where athletic participants did not compete for money, or use athletics to make a living (Smith 1988). In other words, participants were to play "for the love of the sport" and embrace the democratic values of sport, not competition (Smith 1988, 167). This philosophy shaped the development of high school athletics.

As schools focused on inculcating civic values amongst the students, physical educators sought to legitimize the place of athletics in schools (Lewis 1969). By embracing the rhetoric of citizenship, physical educators blurred the lines between physical education and social education. Therefore, athletics became associated with both physical education and social studies departments, and when school administrators needed faculty coaches, they looked to teachers in both curricular areas. Since sports developed citizenship, athletic expertise was not the sole focus of physical education. Thus, high school athletics developed as one of many Progressive Era reforms that trained future citizens, particularly immigrants, in civic values. These civic ends have been hidden in recent years with the development of athletic scholarships and the increased focus on the professionalization of sport. However, Gulick and Naismith illustrate the Progressive origins and civic goals of high school athletics.

From approximately 1880-1924, America saw its greatest number of immigrants. In the early twentieth century over 30 percent of the population in the United States came from Europe, and over half of those immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe (Hirschman 2005). During the early twentieth century, primary and secondary schools emerged to educate the masses. Reformers during this era believed government institutions and policies could be used to help immigrants, especially in urban areas, assimilate into American culture. Schools became training centers for citizenship, and children were taught to value the democratic community, received a nationalist history of America, and celebrated its accomplishments (Evans 2004). During the early twentieth century, several physical education reformers introduced athletics as a method of teaching civic values and assimilating immigrant children.

Sports history, however, has often been overlooked in general analyses of cultural and social history (Bass 2014). Nonetheless, sports historians and historians of physical education have studied the developments of sports in schools. Lewis (1969) provided a critical study of how physical education curriculum shifted from a focus on gymnastics to sports education during the Progressive Era. Lewis created a foundational narrative describing how sports became part of the curriculum, but his study lacked analysis regarding why sports became so important in physical education. Spring (1974) placed physical education into a broader argument of social control during the early twentieth century. Continuing Lewis's explanation, Spring argued that athletics provided social training for children, teaching them discipline and obedience. He connected physical education development to Progressive Era theories regarding control of the masses. Spring represents a significant shift in sports history, incorporating social and cultural interpretations of sports history.

More recent studies continued to critically analyze athletic development, including how it developed differently for each gender. Cahn (1994) comprehensively analyzed how women participated in athletic development throughout the twentieth century. Azzarito, Munro, and Solmon (2004) explained how discourses of politics, education, and gender influenced physical education development during the Progressive Era. Wiggins (2013) sought to contextualize sports development by analyzing historical influences on various sports programs, beginning in the nineteenth century. Although these studies have described the emergence of sports, they have not been visible in the greater discourse surrounding school history and purpose.


Physical education for the masses developed in Europe in two significant areas: calisthenics and sport (Pruter 2013). Calisthenics focused on individual physical fitness and "gymnastic exercises" (Lewis 1969, 36). Physical educators in countries such as Germany, France, and Sweden advocated gymnastics for the people, and packed gyms with lines of individuals doing stretches and jumping jacks in unison. Calisthenics reflected the nationalist principles of Germany and France throughout the late nineteenth century. As leaders in both European nations sought to centralize their states, they also sought to reduce regional affiliations and emphasize loyalty to the state (Applegate 1999). Team sports heightened regional pride through competition, whereas individual physical activity made everyone equally submissive to a central authority, the one leading the exercises.

In addition, physical educators also believed that individual calisthenics helped improve female health and prevented middle class women from becoming frail (Cahn 1994). In the early twentieth century, physical educators continued to argue for the benefits regarding female health as a part of the burgeoning eugenics movement, encouraging women to engage in physical fitness to procreate a "fit race" (Cahn 1994, 29). Thus, for both nationalist and women's causes, calisthenics proved useful. Promoting calisthenics for men, however, proved more tenuous.

In England and the United States, during the nineteenth century, "muscular Christianity" emerged as an argument for male physical fitness (Neddam 2004; Cahn 1994). As work for middle class men shifted away from physical labor, muscular Christianity provided men with physical exercises that trained individuals to exhibit physical control (Cahn 1994). Popularized by Theodore Roosevelt, the physical fitness movement promoted "rugged individualism," discipline, and control (Lewis 1969). That control allowed men to discipline themselves to control immoral thought and actions, promoting a proper Christian life. Muscular Christianity eradicated the evils of urbanization and industrialization through strengthening the "mind, body, and spirit" (Wiggins 2013, 66). Contrary to the white collar image of muscular Christianity, male immigrants who worked as physical laborers created a significant working class that threatened the masculinity of the middle class. Thus, the middle class focused on reclaiming their status as masculine by claiming the working class had excessive energy (Cahn 1994). This excessive energy could only be harnessed through middle class values of control and discipline. To preserve their status, middle class men redefined masculinity.

Physical educators implemented racially charged notions of perfecting the white "civilized race" by emphasizing physical fitness (Azzarito, Munro and Solmon 2004). Progressive reformers labeled the working class as unruly and in need of control. So, educators in the late nineteenth century such as G. Stanley Hall argued for the civilizing nature of schools. For Hall, young boys acted uncivilized, as their ancestors had, and educators needed to channel those primitive impulses into civilized behavior. Once civilized, these young men would provide a powerful foundation to the future of civilization (Bederman 1995). Therefore, the athletics movement developed within physical education as a means of controlling working-class masculinity and promoting middle class values. For example, boxing, which had been seen as a savage blood sport in the nineteenth century, taught control through physical training. According to Hall, this primitive savagery could be converted into civilized manliness through control and discipline. In particular, boys needed to access their passionate energy, but they needed to learn to control this energy, as well. Athletic play in schools provided physical activity, but with rules to temper unruliness (Bederman 1995).

On the other hand, physical educators in England emphasized sports and games. Rather than focusing on physical fitness, sports and games developed values such as teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play (Adair 1993; Neddam 2004). The English also stressed amateurism, rather than professionalism. Sports and games were played, not to make money, but simply for the "love of the game" (Smith 1988). Moreover, sports like rugby taught boys leadership, which developed them as future statesmen of England (Stacy 2014). As sports developed in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, children developed student-led athletic associations and served as student-coaches, reflecting the amateur beliefs found in England.


As the United States developed in the early nineteenth century, Americans utilized the English model of civics as statesmanship. English civic education taught young men to become leaders and future statesmen of their society (Stacy 2014). Americans converted statesmanship in England to citizenship in the United States, and valued political representation and voting. Therefore, civics and citizenship were defined as political participation. This definition excluded those who could not directly participate in politics, namely women and African-Americans, but also non-landowning white men. Thus, civics was focused on the elite (Reuben 1997). Moreover, political participation was a public endeavor, outside of the home, and reinforced gendered notions of men as public and women as private.

During the Progressive Era, reformers redefined civics and citizenship. They envisioned citizenship beyond the confines of voting and believed all people could be citizens, even children (Dewey 1916). All people were citizens because they voluntarily chose to join and participate in a group. Therefore, citizenship changed from republican representation to democratic participation. All people could participate in their democracy by interacting with each other in public. Public interaction created a community, and thus community became the foundation of civic space. By defining civics as participatory, Progressive Era reformers acknowledged the civic participation of women and African-Americans that existed in the United States throughout the nineteenth century in women's associations, abolitionist groups, and religious communities. These voluntary associations reflected a wide variety of purposes, representing many different interests. These associations provided a platform for citizens to express their voices outside of voting and fostered the culture of participatory democracy (Ryan 1999).

Citizens chose to form communities, and civic education needed to teach children about how to appropriately act within those groups (Reuben 1997). Civic education focused on young children and taught them proper behaviors, such as cooperation and obedience. For example, civic educators explained that students needed to "submit to authority" in order to respect laws. If students respected authority figures, such as teachers or public officials, they would see those in power as experts in the community (Reuben 1997). Rather than individual political participation, civics became a set of proper behaviors of "good citizenship" (Reuben 1997, 413). Even though Progressive reformers saw children as part of the community, they believed children should not challenge the experts in charge.


Embracing the English model of sports and games, in 1906 the Playground Association of America (PAA) developed and encouraged sport and play throughout urban areas of New York City (Azzarito, Munro and Solmon 2004). For leaders of the PAA, physical wellbeing was defined more by values than by fitness. PAA president Luther Gulick explained, "It [the playground]... gives the opportunity for the social experiences of democracy of self and group government" (Gulick 1907, 243); thus, the playground at schools provided an ideal environment for children to practice putting others first. Therefore, at the playground, self and group government involved negotiating space and playing with each other, so children practiced obedience to foster order and cooperation. Gulick believed democracy functioned best as a community where everyone is "obedien[t] to the law.... The playground, then, if it is to accomplish its first duty, if it is to meet the deeper need of the times, must be a democracy" (Gulick 1907, 243). Children, then, learned how to be cooperative citizens through play.

During his earlier tenure as instructor and superintendent at the Springfield, Massachusetts Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) from 1887-1900, Luther Gulick implemented muscular Christianity, creating the iconic YMCA triangle labeled, "mind, body, spirit" (Hackensmith 1966). Working with G. Stanley Hall, they developed arguments supporting play as a natural, evolutionary stage of life. Using play, and by extension athletic games, children could grow morally and religiously (Wiggins 2013). Gulick criticized educators who believed in physical fitness as the primary purpose of physical education and athletics. Instead, he argued, "athletics are primarily social and moral in their nature" (Gulick 1906, 676). Both athletic participants and spectators could display spirit and loyalty, fair play and courteousness at athletic events. He further explained that team sports taught boys to place the group above themselves. Teamwork and cooperation created a power greater than the individual, and this provided a model for boys to understand that "social honesty," that is being honest and fair in a group (social) setting was even more powerful than "individual honesty" (Gulick 1906, 677). During the same time, the rhetoric of social education also advocated that school should teach students the value of community and its importance over the individual (Evans 2004). Gulick specifically connected athletics to the argument that "social education is going on with all boys" (Gulick 1906, 678). Therefore, civic values could be taught in all aspects of school, including physical education and athletics.

Moreover, similar to John Dewey's argument for experiential education (Dewey 1938), Gulick explained that athletics taught young boys values through experience. He described, "a boy does not have honesty become a part of his character until it has worked out in action..." (Gulick 1906, 677). In order for boys to learn loyalty to their community, they must engage in activities that value the group over the individual, and team athletics taught cooperation inherent in a functioning community. Gulick, however, warned against gangs that were unmonitored. He maintained, "it is the function of school athletics, when rightly conducted, to convert this gang instinct from evil to righteousness" (Gulick 1906, 677). Schools and coaches provided necessary guidance and facilitated experiences for boys to learn moral and civic values.

Gulick also embraced existing notions of gender differences in his celebration of athletics. He clarified, "the gang is the masculine social unit" (Gulick 1906, 678) and justified athletics in the context of male civic responsibility. Athletics could teach boys to focus their social power on loyalty and honesty, preparing them for citizenship. Thus, athletics primarily focused on male citizenship, reaffirming separate spheres for men and women (Azzarito, Munro and Solmon 2004). During the Progressive Era, gender was perceived as a division between public and private, where men participated as citizens publicly, and women participated only on issues deemed feminine (Stacy 2014). Since women could not be active citizens, athletics did not serve the same civic practices for them, and those specific practices are discussed below.

In the struggle over definition in the emerging field of physical education, educators like Gulick embraced the moral and civic purposes articulated by other Progressive Era educators, pushing the callisthenic and physical fitness arguments to the margins (Spring 1974). While working at the YMCA, Gulick encouraged other instructors to develop athletics and games to develop moral and civic values in young men.


Luther Halsey Gulick's colleague at the YMCA, James Naismith, also advocated for the civic value of sport. Naismith studied physical education at McGill University, but he rejected the German gymnasium model of physical education. At McGill, he had played rugby, a game created in England to cultivate moral values amongst its players (Adair 1993; W. J. Baker 1996; Neddam 2004; Stacy 2014). As American boys had already begun playing American football when Naismith arrived at the YMCA in 1890, he and fellow instructor Amos Alonzo Stagg coached the Springfield YMCA football team (Baker 1996). Naismith recounted that Stagg saw football as a means for boys to "show the true Christian spirit" (Naismith 1996, 27). Though football reflected muscular Christianity, the game could not be played through the winter, and Gulick tasked his instructors with developing an indoor game.

Gulick and Naismith looked to the European physical fitness models of Germany, France and Sweden, but found them lacking (Naismith 1996). Naismith explained, "When they compared the thrills of football with those of the mass and squad gymnastics, they were frankly discontented. ... What this new generation wanted was pleasure and thrill, rather than physical benefits" (Naismith 1996, 30). That is, athletics were not perceived as physical fitness, but rather social interaction between players. As a physical educator, Naismith delineated himself from physical fitness advocates when he wrote, "Gymnastics did not appeal to me as the sports did" (Naismith 1996, 37) and moved forward in creating athletic games that focused on the group.

Naismith developed basketball as a game to promote social engagement through teamwork. Rather than encouraging physical fitness, Naismith believed that basketball inculcated disciplined characteristics, such as the "control of nerves" (Naismith 1996, 184). This control directly reflects Progressive reformers' goals of training immigrant children to become part of the group. Controlling oneself was essential to participating in a group, whether a democratic community or an athletic team (Spring 1974).

Players who developed individual initiative did not rely on the coach to make decisions, they acted as leaders on the court; this leadership trained them to be leaders within their communities, as well. Even though players were encouraged to develop initiative, basketball also taught them cooperation. According to Naismith, basketball improved initiative, "the ability to meet new conditions with efficiency" (Naismith 1996, 184). Naismith believed this to be the most important attribute, connecting initiative to self-reliance (Naismith 1996).

For Naismith, working together as a team was essential for success in basketball, and if one person did not work with the team, the entire team was at a "serious disadvantage" (Naismith 1996, 185). Here, Naismith blatantly challenged the notion of callisthenic individualism; in order for the team to be successful, he believed that everyone must choose to work together. Within a democracy, individuals choose to work together as a community. Moreover, Naismith identified self-sacrifice as another attribute taught by basketball. Players learned to "place the good of the team above one's personal ambitions.... There is no place in basketball for the egoist" (Naismith 1996, 187). Playing basketball taught young men the importance of choosing the community over one's self and helped create a civic life within the American community.

Finally, basketball taught players sportsmanship, which Naismith defined as "the player's insistence on his own rights and his observance of the rights of others" (Naismith 1996, 187). Naismith's use of the word "rights" in his definition of sportsmanship shaped the civic nature of basketball. Rather than using terms such as "space" or "body," Naismith deliberately uses the word "rights," because rights are protected in the Bill of Rights. Further, sportsmanship involved following and upholding the rules, just as citizens follow and uphold laws of their democracy. True sportsmen also "graciously" accepted defeat and won "courteously" (Naismith 1996, 187). Naismith constructed a definition of civic values, which defined good citizens as participating in community by cooperating with others. In basketball, sportsmanship taught this definition of civic values through cooperation.

Though basketball instilled moral attributes such as cooperation, self-control, self-sacrifice, and sportsmanship, children only developed these attributes under "properly conducted leadership" (Naismith 1996, 184). As with other Progressive reformers, Naismith believed that children needed to be guided and controlled. Left unorganized, children could become unruly, so a formal coach needed to teach the values of basketball. In the appendix to his book on basketball, Naismith listed six categories developed by athletics: muscular development, skill, mental, emotions, social, and moral (Naismith 1996). Many of these attributes focused on non-physical characteristics.

Within mental attributes, Naismith named initiative and observation (Naismith 1996). These attributes represented a relationship between the individual and the community, because individuals had initiative, or motivation, to act, but they needed to observe the environment around them, or the community. Emotional attributes included ambition, enthusiasm, joy, loyalty, remorse, self-confidence, and self-respect. Each of these attributes fostered both individual and community development. Civic engagement meant citizens participated as individuals in the community (Reuben 1997). Individuals connected to the community through the joy and loyalty they felt towards others. In addition, they recognized the community through remorse over the mistreatment of others. This is why Naismith defined sportsmanship in terms of rights of others; good citizens recognized the rights of the community as well as protecting their own rights.

Self-confidence and self-respect reflected the value of the individual within the community. Individuals made up the community, so people needed to recognize their own self-worth as an essential part of that community. In other words, each individual person needed to participate, as each individual player needed to participate in the basketball game. Teams did not exist in the abstract, but rather were made up of actual individuals. Communities, then, functioned in a similar manner; the individual was part of the community and needed to be recognized.

At the same time, however, individual values needed to be tempered. In basketball, moral attributes such as self-control and self-sacrifice trained players to place the team above themselves (Naismith 1996). Naismith labeled these values as moral, meaning they were good characteristics. Therefore, Naismith also saw that good citizens valued the community over themselves, willingly controlled themselves, and sacrificed for the good of the whole. In addition, Naismith identified the social attributes as teamwork, cooperation, observing rules, leadership, and sportsmanship (Naismith 1996). Labeling these attributes as "social" illustrated that Naismith valued interaction between people, again emphasizing the community. Teamwork involved individuals willingly joining a group, just as individual citizens were willingly part of a community. He saw that functioning communities included rules for citizens to follow, just as there were rules to basketball. Naismith defined the respect for those rules as sportsmanship in order to train people to value rules. Furthermore, good leaders modeled sportsmanship for others. The best basketball players were the best sportsmen, and the best citizens followed the rules of the community.

Coaches provided guidance and education to develop moral and civic attributes in players. For Gulick and Naismith, athletics was connected to democratic enjoyment and democratic values. Specifically, athletics could train boys to be "modern mass" men, engaging in American democracy by becoming part of the community; however, women remained excluded (Spring 1974, 486).


Though physical educators recognized benefits of calisthenics for girls, they more readily challenged women's participation in sports. They argued that athletics threatened the femininity of women, and if women were allowed to play sports with men, men would be emasculated (Cahn 1994). Moreover, muscular Christianity was deliberately masculine. As American women increasingly became the religious center of the household in the nineteenth century, men sought to emphasize masculine attributes of Christian morality. Muscular Christianity defined Christian men as "physically active" (Baker 1996).

Female physical educators, though frustrated by the exclusion from sports, found a professional space through the discourse of separate spheres. Men, such as Dudley Sargent, created physical education schools and collegiate departments to train physical educators, and women entered these schools through embracing the gendered differences of physical education (Cahn 1994; Azzarito, Munro and Solmon 2004). Smith College athletic director Senda Berenson legitimized female physical educators through concepts like "moderation" (Cahn 1994, 24). To protect women's physical wellbeing, they should only play sports in moderation and in a calm fashion. Women best understood the health of other women, so female educators took control of newly-created gender-specific athletic associations to monitor their activity. Basketball became one acceptable sport for women because women's mobility could be limited.

Women's basketball experiences were described only in their relation to the men's experiences. Naismith recounted that within a month after basketball's beginning, girls wanted to play. In their first practices, the girls wore long dresses with large sleeves and used "none of the fundamentals" (Naismith 1996, 162). The original rules became the default standard of play, and soon boys' rules were seen as "too strenuous" for the girls (Naismith 1996, 166). Girls' rules, according to Naismith, provided "a much better game for the girls than the boys' game is for the girls" (Naismith 1996, 166).

Naismith's rhetoric of separate games reflected the rhetoric of separate spheres pervasive in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Though both boys and girls played sports, they did not play the same way. Even coaching was gendered separately, as Naismith argued that a "competent woman" should coach girls, but not a man (Naismith 1996, 170). A man could endanger the "welfare of the girls" (Naismith 1996, 170). Women and girls entered public spaces to play basketball, and therefore would be seen by spectators. Traditionally, only men were visible in public spaces, and Naismith's concern about the girls' welfare reflected fears of women in public spaces. In the private sphere of the home, men could protect women, but protection was difficult in public, because of outside influences. In order to preserve the dignity of the girls, men and girls should not interact. Senda Berenson helped further develop women's basketball by embracing gendered separation, yet at the same time, encouraging women to participate in the public activity of basketball games.

Jane Addams valued sports and games as democratic play. She believed that sports taught cooperation and encouraged girls to play basketball at Hull House (Azzarito, Munro and Solmon 2004). Addams defined democracy as a community, and she argued that cooperation was essential to the development of community. Basketball required children to cooperate as a team, and was useful in training children to be part of a democratic community. Thus, basketball both taught democracy, and kept women socially separated from men.


The development of games on the playground and the organization of youth into student-led sports clubs, eventually migrated into schools. Physical education emerged as a field during the same time as public schools for the masses developed. Initially, to establish a professional place in the schools, physical educators argued that physical education was a necessary component of the school curriculum because of physical fitness and hygiene (Spring 1974). However, school administrators saw calisthenics, or physical fitness, as too individual and European. In order to become part of the curriculum, physical educators embraced the sports movement and shifted their focus to argue that physical education was necessary because it taught children sports (Lewis 1969). Using the rhetoric of civic values, physical educators explained sports provided opportunities for students to learn civic-mindedness, fairness, and rules. Therefore, all students needed access to a sports education, creating the "sports for all" movement, and the physical education curriculum became units on various sports. Students learned the rules of sports, and they played them during their physical education classes. Physical educators de-emphasized health and physical fitness, instead advocating that athletics were educational (Lewis 1969).

In addition to sports becoming the focus of physical education, competitive athletics became part of the high school curriculum during the Progressive Era. Although student-led organizations had competed in sports for several decades, education reformers felt that these amateur sports were unregulated and unmonitored. Left alone, students developed bad habits and corrupt behavior in sports, so administrators worked to establish formal control over athletics (Lewis 1969). Associations like the Public School Athletic League emerged around the country to establish rules and monitor high school sports (Wiggins 2013). Formal rules taught students discipline and respect for authority, which, according to Progressive reformers, were attributes of a civic state (Pruter 2013). Social control groomed students to become productive, respectful citizens of society. Thus, the mission of athletics in schools became social development, not physical development.

Within schools, and organized by school administrators, athletics also taught students loyalty. Luther Gulick explained, "There is no one thing in a school which makes for school loyalty so much as good school athletics" (Gulick 1906, 678). School loyalty could be extrapolated into civic loyalty, or loyalty to community and country, which Progressive reformers saw as essential to assimilating immigrants. Athletics could train students to become loyal citizens of their country (Pruter 2013).

Since educators needed to monitor athletics to ensure the dissemination of loyalty and obedience to rules, coaching shifted from a student responsibility to a school responsibility. Coaches were often faculty members, rather than professional coaches. Critics of professional coaching in schools during the Progressive Era, advocated for classroom teachers to take on coaching duties because teachers fully understood the civic purposes of schools and sports. Unchecked, coaches could transform schools into training grounds for "modern gladiators, not modern citizens" (Morrill 1924). Furthermore, critics of professional coaches feared an overemphasis on winning that would incite immoral behavior among coaches, such as lying or cheating (Pruter 2013). Athletics needed to remain in their proper place as part of the school, so coaches should also be part of the school, not an outside professional. Because physical education departments in secondary schools legitimized the educational value of athletics (Figone 1994), many physical education teachers also served as athletic coaches. However, because civic development, not physical development, was emphasized as the purpose of athletics, coaches did not need to be physical educators. School administrators could find coaches, from a variety of disciplines, to temper the drive for professional athletic success.

More specifically, social studies teachers focused on civic education. During the Progressive era, the National Education Association (NEA) organized a Social Studies Committee to review the existing history curriculum. The NEA deemed the history curriculum too individual and demanded a revised curriculum that focused on society and societal issues (Evans 2004). Influenced by John Dewey, the Social Studies Committee emphasized good citizenship as the purpose of social studies education. In addition to US history courses, social studies teachers taught classes on community civics and "Problems in Democracy," where students learned how to become part of the American community and studied social problems (Evans 2004). Because both social studies and athletics focused on civic education, schools hired social studies teachers to also be athletic coaches (Weller 2002; Chiodo, Martin and Rowan 2002). Through their focus on the civic purposes of athletics, physical educators expanded opportunities for coaching outside of their own departments. In their civic rhetoric of legitimacy for athletics, they weakened their own claims of expertise, opening the door for social studies teachers to coach athletics, as well.


During the Progressive Era, sports emerged as a method of building a democratic community among the culturally diverse children in America. Rather than focusing on the physical fitness model of Europe, educators in America supported the philosophy of "sport for all." As a result, sports rules, regulations, and play became the foundation of physical education curricula in schools. Moreover, because educators emphasized the civic purpose of athletics, school officials found coaches in disciplines outside of physical education, such as social studies. Over time, professional athletics, the NCAA, and professional coaching overwhelmed the amateur, civic purpose of athletics. During the second half of the twentieth century, the NCAA began offering athletic scholarships, which led to high school athletics becoming increasingly competitive (Figone 1994). Coaching, then, became more equated with winning rather than teaching civics, and coaching itself more directly became a profession (Stacy 2014). These developments shifted school athletics away from their original purpose and challenged the civic role of sports. Despite these challenges, at their origins, school sports and athletics focused on civic values.

Michelle Stacy

St. Louis University


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Author:Stacy, Michelle
Publication:American Educational History Journal
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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