- School History
Over the last few years, The Archives has noticed an uptick in questions about the history of club sports. Object Lesson is here to answer these and more!
When did club sports begin?
Clubs began at Loomis in 1929. A faculty committee recommended replacing the three dormitory teams to make for more even competition. The new plan assigned each student randomly to one of three teams, known as A, B, and C. Two years later, the school adopted Allyn, Ludlow, and Wolcott as team names. The 1931 yearbook noted, “The direct result of this [naming] was to make the clubs seem more real and a more integral part of the school.”
Who are Allyn, Ludlow, and Wolcott?
These names belong to families who settled in Windsor during the 17th century. It’s not clear why these were chosen or by whom, but they stuck with the teams for almost 50 years. Each club had a patch bearing their name and color. Student creativity made for some clever nicknames too: Green Machine; Big Blue; Crimson Wave.
How did students participate?
When not playing interscholastics, Loomis boys played on their club teams. Sports included football, basketball, hockey, soccer, cross country, wrestling, baseball, and lacrosse with some added in or phased out over the years. Up until the early 1970s, tallies for the annual championship were kept through the year, and teams could earn “scholarship points” with academic achievement. After the formal full year program drifted out of use, it was replaced with club offerings in soccer, basketball, and lacrosse with teams created each season. Andy Herson ’96 noted, in a letter supporting these clubs, that they encouraged students to “socialize athletically.”
What about the Chaffee School?
The student-run Chaffee Athletic Association formed in the school’s first year, 1927, to encourage individual participation in “healthful sports,” such as hiking and daily exercise. In 1931, the Athletic Association divided the entire school into two teams: the Pelicans and the Greyhounds. Students enjoyed this athletic rivalry that encouraged sportsmanship, team cheers, and school pride, even as the school eventually introduced limited interscholastic sports.
When the Chaffee School opened, it adopted Loomis’ mascot, the Pelican. Shortly after, students conducting genealogical research discovered two Loomis family coat of arms. One bore a pelican, the other a greyhound. The greyhound became Chaffee’s official mascot, and both were used for clubs.
Were club games just for fun?
Yes…and no! As evidenced by legendary 1960s and 70s Wolcott coach Al Beebe’s extensive notes and diagrams, these were not informal pick-up leagues. Beebe kept a 13-page play book for his Club A basketball team with a full court defensive press, inbounds plays, and zone and man-to-man offenses and defenses. Beebe’s football plays--the Power V Formation and the Kansas City Spread Offense, just two of around three dozen--were mounted on sheets of cardboard. It’s easy to imagine the Beebs with these in hand at the center of a time-out huddle.
What are some highlights?
During the spring of 1942, Loomis canceled its interscholastic athletics “for the duration” of World War II as part of the national conservation of gas and tires. In the absence of competitions against other schools, the Loomis boys rallied around their club teams. Headmaster Batchelder reflected a few months later, “[T]he plan turned out to be an astonishing success. There is a fever pitch of excitement over the campus much of the time…[with] the enthusiasm, the spontaneous cheering sections, and the hard-playing teams…Many people are convinced that the elusive feeling of unity know as ‘school spirit’ has never been better.”
In 1929, a second outdoor ice rink was constructed in the Meadows to accommodate the student body that had grown in 15 years from around three dozen students to almost 200. The newly re-organized club program inherited the outdoor rink on the so-called hockey pond by the causeway, and the “First Squad” played on the new rink. This was a watershed moment in the school’s commitment to making space for everyone to play on a team, club or interscholastic.
Stan Shimkus directed Club Sports for decades before his retirement in the 1970s. Al Beebe remembered the program as Stan’s “monumental achievement” and “[stood] in awe of…the pride of belonging shown by [students]. It was the Stan Shimkus Show.” The North Gym, home to Club Basketball for many generations, was renamed Shimkus Gym in honor of Stan.
And while some alumni/ae surely have their own personal highlights reel from clubs, Richard J. Osborne ’69 captured the program’s enduring philosophy in his junior-year essay titled, “In Defense of the Non-Jocks.” Referring to then Athletic Director Ralph Erickson and Head of School Fred Torrey, Richard wrote, “the beauty of the system is the organization. You are a Wolcott man from the day Mr. Erickson tells all the new students not to steal towels or cheat on PE test, until Mr. Torrey hands you your parchment.”