Physical Characteristics Of The Athlete 46

Figure 16, c. {See description, page 95.) start with, and by dint of systematic exercise and correct habits of living, this young man has worked his way up through the fifty, sixty, seventy, and eighty per cent classes to a position approximately near the ninety per cent class. The measurements on this line may be reasonably considered to define his normal proportions, whereas the parts remaining on the so-called normal or typical line are the only ones in which he is defective.

The point, then, which is of the greatest significance is, not to see how many of your measurements come in the centre of the chart, but to first endeavor to straighten your own 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 full-orbed and harmonious development of all parts of the body.

By so doing you will help raise the standard of the mean, and assist in determining the exact ratio between the different heights and girths that exists in a fully developed man.

We have seen that 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, etc., have in a measure been acquired by long and arduous practice in these sports. In many cases the special qualifications that make a man a first-class athlete are gifts of nature. Add to this inheritance the prolonged training that tends to cultivate these special powers to the extreme, and we get sometimes a prodigy, but more often a failure.

It would be of interest to know if an inch added to Myers's legs would have made him a greater runner than an inch added to his sitting height; or an inch added to Hanlan's long body would have made him a greater oarsman than an inch added to his relatively short legs. There is certainly a limit beyond which the development of special parts cannot be carried without interfering with the functions of other parts upon which their ability to act effectually depends. This and many other problems of a similar nature can never be decided until an immense amount of data has been collected, and many experiments have been performed. In the meantime we feel prepared to affirm that mankind would be better served by a more general cultivation of athletics than by the cultivation of specialties to an extreme; that the development of athletes themselves would be more complete, and that they would even realize a greater progress in the pursuit of their specialties, if they participated in a greater range of exercises. The runner would find it to his advantage to practise rowing, and to use the gymnasium for the purpose of cultivating the muscles used in forced respiration. The oarsman would add greatly to his breathing capacity by long-distance running, and acquire dash and vim through foot-ball and lawn tennis. The jumper could add to his agility by frequent trials at short-distance running and occasional spins on the bicycle. The gymnast would be likely to add to the permanency of his development, and improve his constitutional vigor, by indulging more freely in out-of-door sports.

Physical Characteristics Of The Athlete 47

Figs. 15 ..................

Chart VII., Plotted from Figs. 14, 15, and 16.

And so on through all the range of specialties. Let the active learn something from the strong, and the strong take lessons from the active, while both acquire the great secret of enduring. When our athletes shall have learned the full value of indirect training, we shall not only have greater athletic performances, but better specimens of physical manhood.

In conclusion, let it be said, whatever may be the physical qualifications 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. As a means of developing such qualities, added to those of coolness, presence of mind, and the rapid and responsible exercise of judgment under trying circumstances, which are so desirable in the "battle of life," athletics should be kept from degenerating into the bad associations that often accompany professionalism, and be elevated to a high plane by the lovers of manly sport.