Posted by: Laura | August 18, 2011

A Window into Building the Cyclone Spirit of Years Past: A Football Manual from the 1930s

The plain and simple cover of the 1930s era football manual recently donated to our University Archives – inside is some wonderful insight into the Cyclone football team of that time.

A football manual from the 1930s was recently donated to the University Archives, and may have even been written by George Veenker, the football coach at that time.  In paging through the manual, you only came across a few photographs.  Even so, the manual is itself a wonderful picture of the spirit and advice given to football players years ago!  It is fun to imagine the manual tucked away in the dorm rooms of every football player, being read diligently every night (really – we’re sure they did!).

The manual opened to the first page (Introduction).

The manual contains an introduction which describes the reason for the booklet:

“If after being told by a coach about a certain rule, a play or what to do under certain conditions, each player would know and remember his job, the coaching of football would be a bed of roses.  If, after having it repeated a certain number of times, all would get the instructions, it would still be alright…”  The manual goes on to say that that, however, does not happen on a regular basis and “Some boys will pick it up reading it in the quiet of their rooms quicker than in the hustle and rush on the field…IT IS FOR THIS PURPOSE THIS NOTE BOOK HAS BEEN ASSEMBLED.”  (And yes, this final sentence is in all caps!).

The bulk of the book contains advice and strategies for the game.  When one looks at the photograph below from a 1938 game, one can only wonder how many of those players were following the advice contained in the manual!

1938 football team

One of my favorite sections is the “Rules and regulations on the care and use of this book” in which the manual explains that “There is a lot of valuable dope in this book which, if gotten into the hands of our opponents, would ruin us…It is secret to the extent that it is the way we really are doing things.  It is valuable to them only to that extent and it is plenty.”  Players are not to share the manual with anyone, including their other football players!  The final part of the section explains that the book is to be eventually turned in and not kept by the player – one can only wonder how many Cyclone football players owned this particular manual while on the team…or if it was the coach’s own personal copy!

The manual contains wonderful pieces of general advice, often in found in all-caps.  An example found in the “Morale” section states:  “IT NEVER DOES ONE ANY HARM TO HAVE HIGH AMBITIONS AND IDEALS, IF TEMPERED WITH COMMON SENSE AND ABILITY TO STAND DISAPPOINTMENT” (many of these are great sayings anyone, whether or not a football player, would benefit to keep in mind!).  Another fun section to read through is the “More than Poetry” section.  One paragraph states “Be sure to dance during the season.  You have lots of energy to spare anyhow.”

Jack Trice and his teammates in 1923.

One final part of the book I would like to highlight is the page about Jack Trice, and the entire section could be thought of as equivalent to these sayings found throughout since it is quite clear the author meant for Jack Trice to be an example to current football players.  The manual states “He had the right attitude, the right spirit and a fine sense of loyalty.”  I won’t quote it at length here, but I highly encourage visitors requesting the manual to take a look at this page!  (More information on Jack Trice can be found in the finding aid for his papers and on our Flickr page).

The gym plaque mentioned in the section on Jack Trice.

The manual closes with a March 4, 1933 editorial, “There’s Something to Cyclone ‘Spirit’”, by Harold Ingle, sports editor of Iowa State Student.  One can think that this manual might be one of those “seeds” mentioned in a paragraph of the editorial:  “When we take note of the heroes who are now here and consider what they are doing to remain, we know that there has been planted here a virile seed that cannot die out.  Repeat to us the hardships that our pioneer classes endured to plant this seed, and we will tell you of the proud and courageous children who are carrying on in face of even greater difficulties.”

The football manual came to us in fragile condition, and the library’s Preservation Department did a wonderful job in making sure the manual will be  well-preserved for future generations!  Please take a look at the Preservation Department’s blog post about how the manual was preserved.  If you would like to find out about other records we have in the University Archives about football and other athletic teams, click here for a listing of the various collections’ finding aids.


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