We all recognize that the quality and previous training of the men this country is sending into service have a very potent bearing upon the length of time required to make fighters of them. For, after all, the man whose training and discipline have been along a kindred line becomes serviceable much earlier than the man who has to acquire the necessary spirit and quality. No one who has listened to the coaches of our various college teams, or who has read either the preliminary prospects of a game or the account of it afterward, but must have been impressed with the continual repetition of emphasis upon the “fighting spirit.”
Hence, when our athletes flock almost en masse to the colors, it means that we are enlisting a large number of picked men who have been in training both mentally and physically, and who, under discipline, will make obedient, courageous, and enthusiastic fighters. But a large number of these have been out of college or out of strenuous athletics a year or two, or longer, and they need physical conditioning to get back.
There is thus a new idea of considerable importance involved in these condensed setting-up exercises. For the world does move, and those who thought themselves up to date on boats, aeroplanes, drill, and the like have found even within a year that they must make acquaintance with advanced theories and new and improved methods.
Probably the most vital point is that the setting-up exercises should not “take it out of the men.” If we find a man exhilarated and made eager to work at the end of his setting-up we have accomplished far more than if we tire him out or exhaust any of his store of vitality. If, in addition to this, we can reduce the amount of time occupied in these setting-up exercises and yet obtain results, we have saved that much more time for other work.
Because they did take it out of the men, the old-time conventional setting-up exercises were shirked and the leaders were unable to detect this shirking; men went through the motions, but slacked the real work.
Furthermore, all these systems tended to take a longer period of time than was necessary to accomplish the desired results, and made “muscle bound” the men who practised them.
It has been found in sports and athletic games that over-developed biceps, startling pectoral muscles, and tremendously muscled legs are a disadvantage rather than an advantage. The real essential is, after all, the engine, the part under the hood, as it were—lungs, heart, and trunk. Finally, if we give a man endurance and suppleness he becomes more available in time of need.
Another point of equal importance is that the setting-up exercises should be rendered as simple as possible. If we are obliged to spend a considerable period of time in teaching the leader so that he can handle setting-up exercises, extension of the number of leaders is rendered increasingly difficult. If, therefore, we can make this leadership so simple that a long course of instruction is not necessary, we save here, in these days of necessarily rapid preparation, a very material amount of time.