- Psychology Gets in the Game: Sport, Mind, and Behavior, 1880-1960, and: Copying It Down: An Anecdotal Memoir: Sport as Art
Christopher Green and Ludy Benjamin add insightful introductory and concluding thoughts to nine essays from various academic psychologists. The collection is deftly edited to collectively establish a sense of sport psychology's "prehistory." The sub-field did not emerge as an organized intellectual discipline and practical profession until the 1960s, but introductory sport psychology textbooks generally look for precursory roots in the earlier history of American experimental psychology. Psychology Gets in the Game presents several fascinating narratives of early studies that blazed intellectual trails, but each essayist is careful not to imply cohesive, self-conscious efforts toward establishing a new field. This perspective is best summarized by Benjamin and Frank Baugh in referring to "the scattered studies of the 1890s" as "anticipations and not foundations of sport psychology" (p. 172).
In the volume's first essay Günther Bäumler traces the roots of European sport psychology from 1880 to 1930. He views the disparate studies that later coalesced into a formal discipline as somewhat ad hoc, inspired as they were by the limited personal interests of diverse individuals seeking answers for specific questions. In the early 1920s, for example, English "alpinist" Geoffrey Howard inquired into his own incurable fascination with inhospitable altitudes "since, as he stated, 'I die several deaths on a mountain'" (p. 39). University-based researchers conducted more professional inquiries, such as a 1925 Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Psychotechnics study of cognitive testing performance by entrants to the Moscow International Chess Tournament. As a whole Bäumler calls these early pioneers "inexperienced researchers whose main support was their own enthusiasm" (p. 47).
The remaining eight essays strike the same note in detailing early sport psychology work in North America, connecting university laboratory studies with the modern profession only tentatively. James Goodwin discusses the career of Edward Wheeler Scripture, a German-trained experimental psychologist who headed Yale's new research laboratory during the 1890s. Scripture researched many topics, including mental reaction times and task execution speeds in athletes. In all his work he aggressively promoted the new European movement toward experimental method and controversially dismissed non-quantitative elder lights as "arm-chair psychologists" (p. 78). Goodwin shows that Scripture's fleeting interest in athletics only came about as a factor of his quest to prove the practical value applied method.
Several subsequent essays discuss other researchers who demonstrated only limited temporary interest in experimental answers for questions of sport. Stephen Davis, Matthew [End Page 464] Huss, and Angela Becker contribute an essay on Norman Triplett's 1898 University of Indiana master's thesis research comparing solo practice times to competitive race results of velodrome cyclists. Triplett produced the first treatment of competition as a social dynamic, but despite an enduring personal interest in athletics he never pursued experimental research further. Frank Baugh and Ludy Benjamin consider a similarly brief research in their essay on offensive line reaction time experiments conducted at Stanford in 1930. Master's student B.C. Graves had coached football at West Texas State and hoped to learn secrets for improved performance that would earn him a higher profile job. Walter Miles, the head of Stanford's psychology lab, tended to conduct "very eclectic research" largely stimulated by "student-initiated questions" (p. 176). Grave's work briefly captured Miles's interest due to the complex equipment developed for tests, not from any lasting attachment to athletics.
Alfred Fuchs's essay discusses an incident in 1921 when sportswriter Hugh Fullerton took George Herman "Babe" Ruth to Columbia University for tests of his mental reactions and bat-speed. Fullerton hoped to identify unique mental traits that might help reveal other players with Ruth's potential. Stephen Graef, Alan Kornspan, and David Baker's essay details pioneering football coach Paul Brown's use of psychological tests...