Who is the most influential athlete in Skidmore College history?
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 20:10
Skidmore College isn't exactly known for producing professional athletes. But believe it or not, Skidmore has a rich athletic tradition. With the help of Professor Mary C. Lynn, her book about the history of Skidmore College (Make No Small Plans), and other Skidmore College faculty, I aim to piece together this history for you.
This week, I examine the origins of athletics at Skidmore College, which of course would not have been possible without Skidmore’s most influential athlete: Lucy Scribner.
Skidmore's athletic teams are often the victim of the student body's apathy towards anything not artsy and avant-garde. However, sports at Skidmore College have been around just as long as the college has, and Lucy Scribner herself was behind them. Sports were a huge part of the early Skidmore education and co-curricular life.
In the early 20th century, the ideal physical health was achieved by daily cold showers, as recommended by Dean Sarah Gridley Ross and the physical education faculty. Skidmore, though, started physical activities back when it was known as the Young Women's Industrial Club and not even a fully-accredited college. These activities? Clogging, folk dancing and calisthenics.
According to Professor Mary C. Lynn's book on the history of Skidmore, Make No Small Plans, all these activities were "aimed at making students graceful ornaments to society." In fact, individual competition was discouraged because it didn't make the students “graceful ornaments,” it made them "unfeminine."
Lucy Scribner, Skidmore’s founder, was very in touch with the school after its founding, staying involved in social activities and club meetings, and continuing to implement progressive changes. Scribner, who herself exercised daily, always stressed the physical health of students, and the mission of Skidmore College reflected that from the beginning.
Scribner wanted to instill a healthy life-style mantra within the curriculum of Skidmore as well. A physical education major began to be offered in 1918. According to Professor Lynn, Skidmore was known for educating a very large percentage of the physical education teachers in the Northeast.
In 1920, Skidmore even began to offer a Physical Education camp, in which two teams of students, the Pis and the Pics, competed against each other in soccer, tennis, field hockey, lacrosse, archery, canoeing, riding, hiking and camp craft.
Despite having to compete with societal norms, like becoming graceful ornaments, the female students were able to start competing on some teams, just not with other schools.
Instead, Skidmore's women were deeply involved in interclass and club sports. The women often spent the falls playing field hockey and the winters playing basketball. And instead of playing against other schools, class teams played each other in basketball, soccer, swimming, volleyball and field hockey. Often times, the best individual players from these class teams formed one "varsity" team and competed against local club teams.
By 1976, Skidmore had varsity sports for both men and women. Tennis, basketball, swimming, and field hockey were played by women, and tennis, soccer and basketball were played by men.
Of course these teams needed a new mascot, as “Wombats” just wasn’t cutting it. In 1981, the Skidmore College Wombats became the Skidmore College Thoroughbreds, and the school colors became yellow, white and dark green.
Today, there are 19 varsity athletic teams that compete on various fields and in various buildings. However, those teams and facilities weren't always there, and some are relatively new in Skidmore's sporting history. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without Skidmore’s most influential athlete, Lucy Scribner.
Skidmore has a rich tradition that is, unfortunately, relatively unknown. Do you know when the first athletic field was purchased? Or that Skidmore is undefeated in football? How did Title IX affect Skidmore compared to other schools?
My goal with these reports is to inform you about the athletic history of Skidmore College athletics, Because yes, we have one.