Freshman year. I enjoyed the sport, became a 'good oar,' and rapidly recovered my strength and vigor. From that time I joined regularly in the sports of the seasons as they came round. I have a set of heavy Indian clubs which I have used for forty-five years.
During my Senior year in college a vacancy occurred in the university crew and it seemed to be necessary for me to pull an oar in the 'Harvard.' There were special reasons for hard study in a particular direction on my part, and I was very unwilling to abridge or interfere with my hours for work. Moreover, I was a member of a cricket club which had been challenged to play by a lower class, and I could not refuse to meet with the club during practice hours.
Meanwhile, I had, of course, my daily lessons and exercises to prepare, and the regular recitations and lectures to attend. With reason, I said that my hands were already full; and yet the case was so urgent, and I loved rowing so much, that I concluded to try the experiment and see if, with more regular habits of eating and sleeping, and a steady, hard pull of eight miles per day, I could not do as much work in the time that remained as I had been accustomed to. I drank neither tea nor coffee, used no tobacco, and indulged in neither wine nor beer; I ate neither puddings nor pies, strawberries nor ice cream. My diet was chiefly beef, mutton, potatoes, oatmeal, bread and milk. I went to bed at ten o'clock. To my surprise, I found I could do about two hours' steady work in one, my head was as clear as a bell, I was as strong as an ox, and I had never felt so gloriously in my life. I should add that I have never had any reason to regret the decision I then made.
My own experience thus confirms the statement of Dr. Mitchell, and I have no doubt that your experience and observation point in the same direction. One conclusion then seems to be reached: To be able to perform our intellectual labor successfully, we must alternate it with active exercise which is intense enough to absorb the attention without taxing those areas of the brain that need rest. Such active exercise as a general thing is found in the manly sports. Therefore, our intellectual well-being demands as a general thing that we participate in them rationally and regularly.
The Moral Influence.
But there is more in athletics than mere physical and mental health. There is a moral training which is of equal if not of greater value. One acquires from successful athletics as from gymnastics a mental dexterity which is of infinite worth. In an emergency, one must not lose his head or forget his hands. Be it a shipwreck, a midnight fire, a school panic, a summer camp—the man of brain and brawn is a saving help.