“No, I never read the story, but I have certainly seen your point prove itself to-day. I shall read it at once. Meanwhile, I want to speak to that clever girl who could catch a point like that and use it.”
“Take care, please, that you do not mention it to her at all,” said the friend. “You will draw her attention back to herself and likely as not make her lose the next game. Points like that have got to be worked on without self-consciousness, not talked about.”
And so the women told the child they were glad that her side won the game and never mentioned her own part in it at all. After all she had only found the law that the more passive you can be when it is time to rest, the more alert you are and the more powerful in activity. The polo pony knew it as a matter of course. We humans have to discover it.
Let us, just for the interest of it, follow that same basket-ball player a little more closely. Was she well developed and evenly trained in her muscles? Yes, very. Did she go to gymnasium, or did she scorn it? She went, twice a week regularly, and had good fun there; but there was just this contrast between her and most of the girls in the class: Jane, as we will call her, went to gymnasium as a means to an end. She found that she got an even development there which enabled her to walk better, to play better, and to work better. In gymnasium she laid her muscular foundation on which to build all the good, active work of her life. The gymnasium she went to, however, was managed in an unusual way except for the chest weights, which always “opened the ball,” the members of the class never knew what work they were to do. Their minds were kept alert throughout the hour and a half. If their attention wavered they tripped or got behind in the exercise, and the mental action which went into the movement of every muscle made the body alive with the healthy activity of a well-concentrated, well-directed mind.
Another point which our young friend learned at gymnasium was to direct her mind only on to the muscles that were needed. Did you ever try to clench your fist so tight that it could not be opened? If not, try it, and relax all over your body while you are keeping your fist tight closed. You will see that the more limp your body becomes the tighter you can keep your fist clenched. All the force goes in that one direction. In this way a moderately strong girl can keep a strong man hard at work for several minutes before he can make any impression on the closed hand. That illustrates in a simple way the fact that the most wholesome concentration is that which comes from dropping everything that interferes—letting the force of mind or body flow only in the direction in which it is to be used.
Many girls use their brains in the wrong way while on the gymnasium floor by saying to themselves, “I cannot do that.” The brain is so full of that thought that the impression an open brain would receive has no chance to enter, and the result is an awkward, nervous, and uncertain movement. If a girl’s brain and muscle were so relaxed that the impression on the one would cause a correct use and movement of the other how easy it would be thereafter to apply the proper tension to the muscle at the proper time without overtaxing the nerves.