Salient. An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23. No. 7. Monday, August 8, 1960.
Sir,—I feel compelled to reply to "B.G.R's" article entitled "Discrimination in University Sport" published in your issue of June 22, as the author does not appear to know very much about University sport in general and Tournament in particular.
I would first like to inform "B.G.R." of the nature of Tournament, in 1900 Tournament came into being after lengthy correspondence between the members of certain sports clubs in the constituent Colleges of the University of New Zealand. The intention was that Tournament would be a contest between University Sports Clubs. That was, and still is, the Intention of Tournament, This is the point that "B.G.R." could have borne in mind before he decried the eligibility of members for Tournament.
However, "B.G.R." goes further. He attacks the whole system of University sport, and claims that the Clubs, particularly the Athletic Clubs "are not interested in Athletics as a whole or in Varsity Athletics." Now this statement is completely without foundation. University sportsmen play their sport hard, and work at it to their own satisfaction. To my mind that is all that any sportsman should be required to do in order to show his interest in his sport. The majority of University sportsmen are not fanatics for sport, and It may be for this reason "B.G.R." considers that they are not "interested" in sport. If this is so, then I would say that "B.G.R." has the wrong attitude to sport.
Sport is a recreation, and the traditional University approach to sport Is summed up in the hackneyed, but still valid, maxim "Mens sana in corpore sano". Sport is an activity to be enjoyed, and here we come back to the nature of Tournament. "B.G.R." states that young athletes are "Poached", that they succumb to the lure of a "Blue", and that very little is offered. It is obvious that "B.G.R." has never been to a University Tournament, for if he had he could not honestly say that little is offered.
Why do students go to Tournament? Some go for a Blue, but only when they know what a Blue really is, and when they know that they are capable of getting one. The majority go to have fun, and that is why they go back year after year. During a day at Tournament, the students compete against each other with no quarter asked or given. When the sport is over, champion and also-ran adjourn to the pub and then to the other social delights of Tournament.
Do I hear "B.G.R." cry out in disgust? If I do, I pity him, for he does not appreciate that the glory of sport is the fellowship that one sees after the game has become a statistic in the record book.
So that, "B.G.R.", is the "lure" to which the young athlete "succumbs". Is it wrong that he should do so? I think not. Is it wrong that he should support his University club, before he can participate in Tournament, bearing in mind that the University clubs have made Tournament what it is? Again, I think not. I admit that it is difficult for an athlete to leave his old Club, but many do it and very few regret it. I do not admit that he is "poached." On ocasions I have had the distasteful task of approaching athletes on the question of Tournament eligibility. The approach is always made with a view to setting out the facts, and with no attempt to persuade an athlete. The decision is left to him. Yet when the athlete makes up his own mind the University Club is abused by the athlete's old club for "poaching." Some day these Clubs, and "B.G.R.", will realise that there are some students who consider that there is more to University life than lectures, and who take pride in the University and are loyal to it.
"B.G.R." also refers to "a poor Club spirit and lack of enthusiasm." A poor Club spirit, and yet we are prepared to put up with the poor facilities and other things to which "B.G.R." refers, and we would not exchange the University Club for any facility.
Finally, "B.G.R.", you talk of coaches' disapproval. My only comment is that when these notable coaches understand that they don't own athletes, and that the University approach to sport is the correct one, sport in this country will once again become a recreation and not a religion.
Peter V. O'Brien,
N.Z. University Sports Union.
(No time for reply from B.G.R. —Editor.)