The Book Page


A potpourri for sport buffs

Sport Canadiana, by Barbara Schrodt, Gerald Redmond and Richard Baka, Executive Sport Publications, Edmonton, 1980, $14.95 softcover.

Three Canadian sport historians — Schrodt teaches at UBC, Redmond at the University of Alberta, and Baka in Australia —have put together this attractive volume on virtually every organized sport ever played in Canada, from Archery to Yachting, with a brief history of each and a chronological listing of each sport’s highpoints. Interspersed among the data are vintage prints (conveniently captioned with their Public Archives Canada order numbers) of Canadians at play. There is also some satirical sports verse, mostly from 19th century Chatham, Ont. newspapers (the number of courageously bad poets that came out of Chatham is staggering).

Some representative nuggets:

*1844 — The first international cricket match in history is played between Canada and the U.S.

*1850 — Alexander Muir, composer of The Maple Leaf Forever, sets a record of 45 feet in the hop-step-and-jump, a mark that stands for 20 years.

*1895 — Louis Cyr, the Quebec strongman, lifts 4337 lbs, consisting of 18 fat men standing on a platform, on his back. (Cyr once lifted 553 lbs with his middle finger.)

*1908 — Canada’s first official Olympic team receives $15,000 from the federal government — through the Ministry of Agriculture.

*1913 — The Amateur Athletic Union of Canada rules that “no coloured boxer will be allowed to compete for the Canadian championships.”

*1918 — All sport in Canada is banned from mid-October to early November because of the Spanish flu epidemic.

*1921 — A Canadian suggestion that host cities be allowed to include sports of their choice in the Olympic Games is adopted by the IOC.

*1927 — The Ontario legislature passes a bill that taxes pro sport two per cent of gross receipts to go into a fund to help sports that don’t produce revenue. DMcD

Art and a Century of Canadian Rowing, by Peter King, Amberly House Ltd., Toronto, 1980, 70 pages, $16.95 clothbound. Introduction by Roger Jackson.

Peter King, editor of the national rowing magazine Catch and a former national rowing champion, is responsible for this beautifully produced coffee table book, which unfortunately suffers from a severe case of thematic overreaching.

King not only strives to make his slight text serve as the first history of rowing in Canada since 1933, he also, by analysis of paintings and sculptures featuring rowing, seeks to reassert the Greek ideal that sport and art are complementary.

It is not a very fruitful approach. One of its main difficulties lies in the fact that rowing, unlike flowers or the lives of the saints, is rarely little more than an incidental theme in art.

For instance, as King himself points out, the Impressionists — Monet, Sisley, and Renoir among them — occasionally featured rowing in their work. It was not, however, because they were closet scullers; what interested them was water and what water and light did to each other, rowing being simply an activity that occurs on rivers and ponds. Rowing, of course, remained a peripheral subject in virtually all art until the likes of Canadians R. Tait McKenzie and Ken Danby, who are directly concerned with sport as subject matter.

A much tidier approach would obviously have been to focus on the history of rowing and let the illustrations speak for themselves.

Still, beginning with Virgil, King presents some interesting historical perspective. The wild popularity of rowing in Victorian Canada, for instance, was due as much to the huge sums bet on the outcome of major events as any other factor. (A Ned Hanlan race in 1880 reportedly had more than £100,000 wagered on it.)

And the early national champions King writes about — Hanlan, George Brown, Jake Gaudaur Sr., George Brown Jr. — are among the most colourful sports heroes Canada has produced. Too bad King doesn’t devote more space to their exploits and less to his forced attempt to establish rowing’s place in art history.

What King seems to have lacked in the writing of this book is the input of a good editor. It’s an all too familiar story in Canadian publishing.

A good editor would not only have encouraged King to channel his obvious passion and feel for the sport into a manageable thesis, he or she would also have caught the many typos and spelling mistakes that mar an otherwise excellent physical presentation of the book. R. Tait McKenzie becomes MacKenzie and then McKenzie again, and we’re forced to stumble over “Phyrric” victories, talk of “priviledge”, and even a “Fosberry Flip” (as in high jumping).

A good editor, too, would have spared us such hyberbole as this from Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Roger Jackson’s introduction: “The sport has almost as many real heroes as all the great wars combined.”

Art and a Century of Canadian Rowing (would that it were simply A Century of Canadian Rowing), however, features fine colour reproductions (there are 61 illustrations all told) and an impressive 17-page appendix of rowing records — two features alone that make King’s volume indispensible for any serious rowing fan or sport historian.

Peak Performance: Mental Game Plans for Maximizing Your Athletic Potential, by David R. Kauss, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1980, 300 pages.

There appears to have been a glut of books on the market recently that purport to contain the antidote to idiopathic poisoning of the athlete’s psyche, a.k.a., athlete psyche-out.

It’s really not important to know whether the glut is due to a realization that the mind must be trained as much as the body or if the onus should be laid on the book publishers, who sense an eager market for yet another book which promises “to improve your concentration, motivation, confidence, poise, and aggressiveness.” All you have to do, author David Kauss contends, is follow his instructions.

Peak Performance deals with the mental side of competitive athletics and is aimed at coaches and athletes alike. Eschewing technical jargon, Kauss describes a two-step readying approach. First the athlete observes his/her thoughts and behaviours to learn what leads to a good performance. The next step is to learn how to control these factors in order to achieve full athletic potential.

Kauss takes a look at the emotional factors affecting performance and explains their effects on arousal and energy levels. He suggests that athletes should turn the emotional factors to their advantage and not necessarily eradicate them. Attitudes are also examined and again the emphasis is on control rather than on eradication of the unwanted factors.

Throughout the book Kauss reveals a slight bias in favour of the coach handling the athlete as opposed to the athlete handling him/himself. In the latter chapters, however, he does present information which can be pertinent and applicable to the athlete.

He outlines, for example, the Athletic Performance Improvement Survey (APIS) which is used in identifying the particular psychological needs of an athlete. Once this is done, Kauss says it is possible to utilize six psychological techniques — relaxation, positive imagery, negative imagery, the “feeling”, attention clearing and focussing, and planning and study — in order to help improve performance.

Despite Kauss’ bias towards the coach, athletes will undoubtedly learn from his approach, primarily on the strength of the final third of the book. I guess a .333 batting average isn’t too bad. Bob Neill

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