Each year NASSH celebrates research and publications in sports history through the NASSH Book Prize. The Society makes two awards annually, for the best monograph and the best anthology. The scholarly historical study of sport resonates across the wider discipline and into cognate areas as the social, cultural, political, and economic significance of sport in recognized. We are no longer rescuing sport “from the enormous condescension of posterity” (to invoke E P Thompson) but engaging with a wider discipline that is coming to recognize the importance of the everyday and the banal practices of leisure as potent historical forces. In celebrating the best of research in our field, we are marking work of considerable historical significance.

Monographs Announcement

We are honored to announce the winner for the monographs prize for 2020.

For the NASSH Monographs Prize Committee 2020: Cat Ariail, Adam Criblez, Steve Reiss, Maureen Smith, and Malcolm MacLean.

Kathleen Bachynski No Game for Boys to Play: The History of Youth Football and the Origins of a Public Health Crisis (University of North Carolina Press) Kathleen Bachynski’s blending of health and sport history explores and opens up the difficult question of player injury and well-being in youth football. This is an impressive multi-stranded approach to doing history building on debates and developments in fields that should talk together more often. Furthermore, in focusing on youth and not professional football, and in taking a national perspective she enriches and extends discussions of American football, all the while grappling with a significant contemporary public health issue. Bachynski brings an understanding of the techniques of epidemiology together with social and business history and policy analysis to emphasize public health through and historical lens. As a social historian of sport she also brings skills and insights to her reading of the social forces – institutional, corporate, and cultural – that shape the identification of these issues and response in the wider sport cultural complex. In this she has given us a vital engagement with these questions of sport, health and injury, and taken the discipline into a pressing contemporary public health issue. (https://uncpress.org/book/9781469653709/no-game-for-boys-to-play/)


Below, in alphabetical order, are those who were named to the short list along with our award winner.


Benjamin Sacks Cricket, Kirikiti and Imperialism in Samoa, 1879-1939 (Palgrave Macmillan) Ben Sacks traverses sport, imperial and national history in a way that in focusing on a small case challenges a dominant historiographical approach. Cricket in Samoa is distinct because alongside the ‘traditional’ game an indigenous variation, kirikiti, has developed and spread through the Samoan diaspora. Sacks explores the development of cricket within both colonial and Indigenous communities in the late 19th century alongside the transformation of the imperial game into kirikiti, a game grounded in fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) built on the relations that shape and drive the Samoan world. This is a rich, multilayered history that treats its subject (both cricket/kirikiti and colonial Samoa) as diverse, nuanced and subtle, made more so by the multiple colonial regimes and Sacks’ skills at disaggregating both the colonial and Samoan worlds. It shows the rich potential of Pacific sport histories, an area the barely registers in the discipline. (https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030272678)

Jason P. Shurley, Jan Todd, and Terry Todd Strength Coaching in America: A History of the Innovation That Transformed Sports (University of Texas Press) In making the argument that the development of strength training is the key development in 20th century performance sport, Jason P. Shurley, Jan, and Terry Todd, two of whom were leading figures in the development of the field, bring to the analysis the power of critical insider analysis. They trace the shift in attitude from the perceived unhealthiness of excessive musculature to the rise of strength development through the rise of cultures of strength in and around sport. In doing so they explore changes in both the cultures of sport and strength as well as developments in medical and other scientific research highlighting both the rehabilitative and performance potential of muscle-building. This combined cultural and medical insight underpins a growing recognition of strength as a sport performance factor that grew into an institutionalised practice and field. In exploring the process of institutionalisation, this is a compelling, reflexive, multi-disciplinary history of the cultures of strength in sport that opens up wider debates and calls out for further collaborative analysis. (https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/shurley-todd-strength-coaching-in-america)

Derrick E. White Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Jake Gaither, Florida A&M, and the History of Black College Football (University of North Carolina Press) This well-crafted social history unpicks the reasons for the deep engagement with football in one very successful historically Black college and university (Florida A&M), and in doing so raises profound questions about the distinctiveness of football in, and of the social networks underpinning, HCBUs. White adapts a notion developed elsewhere in African American history, where ‘segregation produced the congregation’ built from and resulting in a coalition of groups and networks that sustained the community institutions of the oppressed and in doing so sustained their communities. He develops and extends this to a notion of the sporting congregation. Drawing on this notion he makes the case that while part of Florida A&M’s success lay in its success, a more important force was the sporting congregation around the school that incorporated most of the state’s African American community and others from the white elite. At the center of this congregation was Jake Gaither: adequate college footballer, outstanding college football coach. In doing so he has constructed a biography telling a historiographically disruptive and sophisticated wider story. (https://uncpress.org/book/9781469652443/blood-sweat-and-tears/)

Anthologies Announcement: 2019

I am grateful to my fellow assessors, Cat Ariail, Adam Criblez, Rita Liberti, and Jason Shurley, for the time and effort they have devoted to reviewing and evaluating a rich set of publications in the field. We are honored to announce the winner for the anthology prize for 2020.

Malcolm MacLean

For the NASSH Anthologies Prize Committee 2020: Cat Ariail, Adam Criblez, Rita Liberti, and Jason Shurley.

Barbara J Keys (ed) – The Ideals of Global Sport: From Peace to Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press) This impressive collection of essays explores the early 21st century vision of sport’s moral effects, where it is seen as helping to build peace, combat discrimination, shore up and reinforce (or bring about) democracy, and enhance human rights. The contributors, representing a wide range of disciplines, invoke historical and sociological evidence, making this a rich trans-disciplinary collection. After highlighting four major themes – friendship, democracy, anti-discrimination, and peace, the second section focuses on human rights exploring organizations and their inter-relations with specific cases linked to mega-events in the last 40 years. The collection is built on two premises, that 1) the claims for sports’ moral influence is liturgical – that is, it is true because it is repeatedly asserted, and 2) there is little if any evidence to demonstrate sport’s moral and political effects as claimed in that liturgy. The authors investigate not the truthfulness of these claims but the reasons these claims are made and why they have power. (see https://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15956.html)


Below, in alphabetical order, are those who were named to the short list along with our award winner.


Georgia Cervin and Claire Nicolas (eds) – Histories of Women’s Work in Global Sport: A Man’s World? (Palgrave Macmillan) This impressive set of essays is designed as an historiographical intervention. The authors, for the most part early career scholars, open up questions of women’s work in sport through a collection of sharp, often transnational, methodologically innovative, cross-disciplinary historical analyses demonstrating the extent of the field and working collaboratively in a field where evidence is often hard to find. Although predominantly European focused, the collection is internationalist in outlook including case studies exploring Côte d’Ivoire and Mexico, and with collective biographies drawing on evidence from beyond Europe. Many of the essays develop an intersectional analysis, retaining an emphasis on gender but taking account of class, ‘race’, location and other spatial factors to provide rich, nuanced interpretations and insights to a complex field. (see https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030269081)

Gerald R Gems & Gertrude Pfister (eds) – Touchdown: An American Obsession (Berkshire Publishing) In this important collection of essays many of the leading scholars of American Football explore its many aspects, presenting a state of the art analysis of the game in and beyond the USA. The substance of this significant collection focuses on the game as it is played, experienced, and followed in the USA: the American obsession. Along with this focus however, one third of the essays deal with Football’s global reach, looking at the game and versions of it in Canada, Europe, Latin America, East Asia, and through Pacific colonies and other zones of influence. The nineteen essays provide an insightful historically aware exploration of Football. This is a useful, accessible, and informative introduction to and analysis of the game with considerable pedagogic potential that should introduce scholarly analyses of the sport to wider audiences. (see https://www.berkshirepublishing.com/title/football-an-american-obsession/)

Robert J Lake (with Carol Osborne) (ed) – Routledge Handbook of Tennis: History, Culture and Politics (Routledge) As more than one of the contributors to this important overview of the state of tennis note, for a sport so widely played and so popularly supported, it has  been the subject of a surprisingly small amount of scholarly research. Built around three principle groupings – historical approaches, cultures & representations, and politics and ‘social issues’ – the collection is a major contribution to scholarship of tennis, emphasizing historical and historically aware approaches. Alongside this awareness there is across the collection close attention paid to the continuity-change dialectic, grounding many of the most contemporary focused analyses in an historical outlook. In addition to this historical assessment the collection also has a strong sense of needs in the field, providing new important research findings, assessing the state of the art, and providing insights into research needs. (see https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-Tennis-History-Culture-and-Politics-1st-Edition/Lake-Osborne/p/book/9781138691933)