Academic journal article American Studies

The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control, 1880-1930

Academic journal article American Studies

The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control, 1880-1930

Article excerpt

THE RISE OF AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS AND THE SEARCH FOR CONTROL, 1880-1930. By Robert Prouter. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. 2013.

Robert Prouter's new book offers scholars a much-needed organizational history of high school athletics in the United States during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Prouter's basic narrative is cut into three distinct eras. The first era, which encompasses the years 1880 to 1900, addresses the impromptu, studentrun athletic programs that first emerged in the elite private schools of the Northeast. Prouter contends that although administrators at these schools approved these types of activities, officiating, facilities, and sponsorship were often provided by adult authorities outside the schools-most notably universities and private athletic clubs.

Prouter then discusses the rise of athletic programs in public high schools between 1900 and 1920, paying special attention to how educators began to assume greater control over interscholastic sports due to fears of rowdyism, allegations of fraud, and a general belief that too great an emphasis on athletics was devaluing the overall educational experience. This was the era in which high school athletics were re-organized at the school level, the league level, and the state level. Universities and private athletics clubs still played a significant role in interscholastic sports during this period, but their influence was slowly being eroded as World War I neared.

The final section of the book examines the emergence of high school athletics as a truly national phenomenon between 1920 and 1930. Prouter claims that the control and governance of interscholastic sports during the years leading up to the Great Depression were taken over by the National Federation of State High School Athletics Association, which effectively ended sponsorship from universities and private athletic clubs. …

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