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PROPER classification of the Athletic Clubs should put the Colleges at the head of the list. Doubtless the Presidents of Princeton, or Yale, or Harvard would object to their ancient institutions being indexed as Athletic Clubs. Yet, whether their motive be educational or advertising, the colleges are making athletics as much of a pursuit as is any of the avowed athletic associations, and the facilities that are offered by them are the most complete and systematic that can be found anywhere. The whole body of undergraduates is imbued with the spirit of athletics, and the external form of college life is fashioned about the intercollegiate contests. It was the larger colleges that first caught the Athletic Impulse that has been a distinguishing feature of the past twenty-five years. And indeed, it may fairly be said that it has been their influence more than any
other single cause that has been responsible for the growth of the athletic spirit that has lifted the American nose from the grindstone of business, that has developed in the American people a keenness for outdoor sports, and that has made the rising generation so big and lusty and pleasant to look upon. The intercollegiate contests have awakened the interest of thousands unconnected with the colleges that participate, and have given to athletics a tone and a favor that is undeniable. And the summer dispersion of the undergraduates, with their ducks and Madras shirts and brier pipes and brown skins, has provided a strong athletic leaven for the vacation communities.
The first evidence of the spreading of the athletic impulse outside of the colleges was the formation of the New York Athletic Club, in 1868. Before that time the Caledonian Societies used to give Athletic Games at which the canny Scots tossed the caber, ran footraces, and drank good Scotch whiskey in honor of Robbie Burns and the domestic affections. There were boat
ibs in the vicinity of New York, whose embers used to row to the historic lysian Fields in Hoboken and there organize impromptu games. But there was no association in existence formed with the single purpose and definite aim of cultivating manly sports and athletic exercises, until the New York Athletic
Club called itself into being and endeavored to fashion its life upon the model of the London Athletic Club.
The first phase of existence upon which the athletic clubs entered in this country was simple enough. Track athletics in reality comprised the whole of their trade. The ideal athletic club twenty-five years ago consisted of a vacant city block, with a high board fence about it (usually let out to advertisers), a cinder track, and a set of bleachers. A boat-house with an equipment of shells, even if a long distance from the athletic field, was deemed a great luxury, while a thoroughly fur
sium was looked upon as the ultimate goal to ward which all the energies of the club might be directed.
Until about 1874, the athletic clubs met with only moderate success, but at that time the tide began to run very strongly toward them. And so rapid has been their development since that time, that their founders have in many instances been unable to keep up with them. Just as soon as it was discovered that athletics were in the way of a boom, with proper American spirit all hands interested set to work to make their own athletic clubs just as big as possible. The consequence was that the membership of the athletic clubs lost its distinctively athletic character. While perhaps a sporting tendency animated the whole, a great part of the "boom
members were more interested in watching others exercise than in getting in the "rigor of the game themselves. Immediately the task was set for the directors to furnish attractions for this weakly athletic element, and immediately they began to reach out for the facilities of a social club, and later for the luxury of a country club. Soon it be
came quite apparent to everyone that the energetic athletic clubs were offering more for the money demanded than any other kind of club, and there forthwith set in an invasion of them by that very numerous class of American people that appreciates a bargain. But this class was certainly non-athletic in character, and had no coherency save in its appreciation of the value it might receive for its money. These new members called very loudly upon directors to give them equivalents for their money, and the Governing Boards of the athletic clubs have been forced to meet that demand, even at the risk of sacrificing the interests of athletics.
forcibly declare that he de-
The consequence has been that "athletes" are growing less and less important in athletic clubs, and the "old timers" sit together and hold indignation meetings over the course of the clubs which they have fathered. I was present at a meeting of the members of a certain athletic club, called to consider the advisability of the club's ceasing to be represented by a football
But however the athletic clubs may have fallen away from the original intention of their founders, however deplorable some of the phases of their be to those enpresent condition thusiasts who regard their associations as having only one reason for existence the making of physical and moral manhood and however regrettable may be the ascendancy of the café over the gymnasium, that tendency or consequence has been a very natural one. The formative period of the athletic
clubs is ended, and they have become settled institutions supplying gratification to continuing needs, and only responding occasionally to an enthusiasm for athletics, according to the composition of their membership.
The Hall, New York Athletic Club.
team. This particular club has grown out of a football eleven, and had achieved many victories on the "gridiron" that had filled its parlors with banners. I there heard one of these older members rouse himself to great indignation over the proposition, and
Further, they reflect the present attitude of the community toward athletics. It needs no demonstration to make clear the fact that athletics have been pushed to excess, and that there is now a reaction. Among the colleges there appears to be no diminution of the athletic fury, but among the athletic clubs proper, competitive athletics are being softened into a pursuit of exercise, open-air life, and good fellowship. The interest in competitive sports is quite as great as formerly, but no longer includes personal competition, but is rather confined to a side line interest in them.
The country club feature is the most pronounced evidence of this change.
The high-board-fence athletic field has been supplanted by the country house, designed not for its athletic facilities, but for the pleasures of a country life. And indeed the country club feature, when it has been introduced, is a further cause in itself for modifying the excess of athletics. For any rational man would prefer to the monotonous pounding of a cinder track in city air and surroundings, the transporting of his thoughts and his body to the ameliorating surrounding of the country; and the indulgence there in open-air sports, not as a labor or with any purpose save the uncontrollable one of naturally using his body, with only such rivalry as demands no arduous training yet gives a zest to the game, and can be measured by long glasses afterward. Travers Island is the best known of these country athletic fields. It is one of the rocky, wooded, dromedary-backed formations that are characteristic of the north shore of the Long Island Sound. It was originally an island by the courtesy of the high tide, but a roadway has joined it hard and fast to the shore as a peninsula. It is shoreward of picturesque Glen Island, and between it and Glen Island, and stretching farther away under the shore of Hunters Island, is a straight-away course of nearly two miles of as good rowing water as a sweep could dip.
On one knoll of the Island sits the club-house, facing the outlet into the Sound, which focusing between Glen Island and the heavily wooded eastern shore of Hunters Island, holds a view of the farther water and the distant shore of Long Island as if one were looking through the lens of a camera. It is the delight of a summer's evening to dine upon the club-house piazzas and catch the drifting picture of distant yachts and coasters and snowy Sound steamers. Somewhat farther toward the mainland is a larger knoll, left in its natural state and covered with trees, save where some tennis courts are laid out. Beyond the trees are the boat house and the yachting quarters. Between the two knolls lies a level bit of turf as smooth and soft and rich as if it were a cloak of Lincoln green thrown upon the earth, and about it runs the dark border of a cinder track. From the club-house and from the grassy slopes reaching down to the track, a view of the field is given as if one were looking down upon the arena of a natural coliseum; and as one glances at the surrounding hills that give a sense of seclusion to the place and help to concentrate the view upon the field itself, one could scarcely keep from thinking, that if the athletic sports of Greece were to be revived, if the somewh t grandiloquent French project to re-establish the ancient athletic games with
The New York A. C. at Travers Island.