Godmothers of Performance Analysis (2)



Last week, I wrote an introductory post about the godmothers of performance analysis.
In this post I present the work of Pauline Hodgson, Anna Espenschade and Nancy Miner as precursors of present-day performance analysis. Their work is rarely mentioned or acknowledged.
I am hopeful this post will be regarded as a companion post to the sociology of knowledge approach I took to sharing Lloyd Messermith‘s and Charles Reep‘s work.
I am mindful of Lynn Couturier’s (2010) observations about gender and class in 1920s and 1930s United States of America. She writes:

as women moved further into competitive athletics, their performance challenged stereotypes about women’s physical abilities as well as pushed the boundaries of what was formerly considered masculine territory within the greater context of social unease about changing gender roles. (p.112.)


This paper reports the work of three pioneers in the observation and analysis of women’s basketball performance. Pauline Hodgson, Anna Espenschade and Nancy Miner were researching women’s basketball in the United States of America in the 1930s at the time of Lloyd Messermith’s investigations into distances traversed in men’s basketball. Their work has remained largely unreported. This paper discusses their approach to activity profiles as evidenced by four publications in the Research Quarterly.


There was a burst of research activity in the United States of America in the 1930s on the subject of distances traversed in basketball. Whilst there has been an acknowledgement of the work of Lloyd Messersmith and his co-researches (McCallum, 1968; Lyons, 2011) there is no such recognition for Pauline Hodgson, Anna Espenschade and Nancy Miner at the University of California, Berkeley, for their work in women’s basketball. Park (2010) does pay tribute to Pauline and Anna for roles they took as leaders in physical education. There is a detailed discussion of Anna’s work in Roberta Park’s (2000) paper “Time Given Freely to Worthwhile Causes”.
Women’s basketball had two forms of the game in the 1930s. One form (codified by Senda Berenson in the 1890s) divided the basketball court into three zones, and prohibited players from leaving their assigned zone on the court. Each team had three players in each zone. This game was known as three-court basketball (Melnick, 2007). In the 1930s women played a two-zone game on a basketball court with three players from each team in each zone. This game was known as two-court basketball. It was not until 1970 that a five player, full court game was adopted for women’s basketball.


This paper uses content analysis (Krippendorf, 2004) to report on three papers (Hodgson, 1936a, 1936b; Miner, Hodgson and Espenschade, 1940). Contextual information is presented to locate the data from these papers as a particular form of scholarship from a particular historical epoch. A fourth paper, Hodgson (1939), was not accessed for this review. It contains information about three-court basketball data collected in 1936 and reported in Hodgson (1936b).


The first of the three papers analysed here (Hodgson, 1936a), reports an investigation of ‘certain physiological reactions of college women to measured activity’ (p.4). Hodgson’s interest in the organic demand of an ideal physical education program led her to explore ‘a factual basis for the wise selection and adaptation of activities in the physical education program’ (p.4).
The fourteen participants in the study were students at the University of California at Berkley during the academic year 1934-1935. Hodgson provided information about these participants’ age, year at University, height (in inches), weight (in pounds) and vital capacity (in litres). She kept records of each participant’s sleep, exercise, diet, menstruation and illness for the first semester of the study.
The paper reports data for basal conditions and two exercise experiments. One of these exercise experiments ‘involved work of considerable severity in which it is believed the subjects approached their maximum effort’ (p.24). A steady state was approximated in the second experiment through the use of a bicycle ergometer activity.
Four of the participants in the first paper, each of them a physical education major, were involved in a separate study that formed the basis of Hodgson’s second Research Quarterly paper (Hodgson, 1936b). In that paper she points out in her introduction that ‘few systematic studies have been made and few data have been reported as to the demands of the game (of basketball) or the reactions of individuals to it’ (p.45). Her paper reports data from the four players (two guards and two forwards) in the 1935 basketball season in practice and tournament play in two-court basketball.
These four participants:

were selected for this study on the basis of their extensive previous participation in the game of basketball, skill in the techniques of the game, and experience in playing various positions. All had played the three-court game for several seasons during the high school and college periods, and the two-court game for at least one season (1936b, p.45).

In addition, they were:

qualified for regular physical activity by the university physicians, and were participating in other vigorous physical activities from two to four hours per week. They understood the purpose of the study and were interested in both the practical and theoretical implications of the results. Their cooperation was at all times intelligent and sincere (1936b, p.45ff).

She integrated her work on the physiology of activity (respiratory metabolism, pulse rate, systolic and diastolic pressures and respiratory rate) with distances travelled and activity play measured by three colleagues (two of whom were Anna Espenschade and Nancy Miner). (Nancy Miner graduated at UC Berkley in 1936.)
Nancy, Pauline and Anna (1940) investigated the distances travelled and time spent in activities of different speed and intensity of effort in two-court and three-court basketball. They charted the path of each player on an onion-skin paper ‘superimposed on stiff cardboard on which the playing court was drawn to scale’ (p.94). They compiled records for each minute of play.
They used two to four observers to observe each minute of play and reported the level of inter-observer agreement for these records. They noted the degree of intensity for each player’s activity too (a standing or walking;  b running or jumping; c dashing). They reported:

Each time a girl completed one of these types of activity, a dot was placed on the record and marked a, b or c accordingly. At the same time, a, b or c was called out to an assistant time-keeper who recorded the letter and the time at which it was called.

Nancy, Pauline and Anna concluded from their research:

In this study on girls of college age, the distance traveled and the amount of time spent in strenuous activity by a superior player seem to depend upon her skill and that of the group rather than upon the type of game played. The less skillful players observed were more active in the three-court than in the two-court game although the possibility must be recognized that the differences noted may be due to a difference in skill between the two groups studied rather than to a difference in the type of game played.



Pauline Hodgson (1898-1983) taught at the University of California, Berkley, for thirty-four years. Anna Espenschade (1903-1998) taught there for forty years. Nancy Miner (1914-1999) moved to the University of Nebraska after completing her Masters degree with Anna Espenschade and taught there for two years until 1941. There are tributes to Pauline and Anna on the University of California, Berkley, obituaries page. All three appear to have completed their research into women’s basketball with the publication of Nancy Miner’s work in 1940. Nancy taught at the University of Nebraska for two years as an assistant professor (Wilke, 1973) and appears to have moved on to research and teach at the University of Chicago. She was listed as a member of the American Association of Anatomists in 1980.
Lloyd Messersmith (1942) cites Pauline Hodgson’s three papers (1936a, 1936b, 1939) and the 1940 paper co-authored by Nancy Miner, Pauline Hodgson and Anna Espenschade. There is no indication if the four of them ever met despite having a shared interest in basketball.
I see them as fundamental to the origins of notational and performance analysis.
I do like the idea that whilst Lloyd was thinking about and measuring traversing, Nancy, Pauline and Anna were trying to find ways to quantify dashing as an activity.
I wonder what kind of research they might have produced with current technologies.
I wonder too what became of their onion-skin records of movement. Like Charles Reep’s wallpaper roll of the 1958 Football World Cup Final, these are important artifacts that connect us as a community of practice.


Espenschade, A. (1939) A study of motor performance in adolescence. Unpublished PhD thesis University of California Berkeley.
Hodgson, P. (1932) Studies on the dilatation of the spleen. Unpublished PhD thesis University of California Berkeley.
Hodgson, P. (1936a) Studies in the Physiology of Activity: I, On Certain Reactions of College Women to Measured Activity. Research Quarterly, VII (1), 3-25.
Hodgson, P. (1936b) Studies in the Physiology of Activity: II, On Certain Reactions of College Women Following Participation in Two-Court Basketball. Research Quarterly, VII (2), 45-55.
Hodgson, P. (1939) Studies in the Physiology of Activity: III, On Certain Reactions of College Women Following Participation in Three-Court Basketball. Research Quarterly, X (3), 53-60.
Krippendorf, K. (2004) Content Analysis: An Introduction to its Methodology. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Lyons, K. (2011) Lloyd Lowell Messersmith and the Origins of Notational Analysis. https://keithlyons.me/2011/03/31/lloyd-lowell-messersmith-and-the-origins-of-notational-analysis/ accessed 8 April 2014.
McCallum, M. (1968) A Case Study Concerning Time Motion in Athletics. Unpublished Masters thesis University of British Columbia.
Melnick, R. (2007) Senda Berenson: The Unlikely Founder of Women’s Basketball. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Messersmith, L. (1942) The Development Of A Measurement Technique For Determining The Distances Traversed By Players in Basketball. Unpublished Doctor of Education thesis Indiana University.
Miner, N. (1938) A study of the distance traversed and the time spent in walking, moderate running, and dashing in women’s three-court and two-court basketball. Unpublished Masters thesis University of California, Berkeley.
Miner, N., Hodgson, P. & Espenschade, A. (1940) Study of Distance Traversed and Time Spent in Active Play in Women’s Basketball. Research Quarterly, XI (1), 94-101.

Park, R. (2000) Time Given Freely to Worthwhile Causes: Anna S. Espenschade’s Contributions to Physical Education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 71 (2), 99-115. DOI:10.1080/02701367.2000.10608888

Park, R. (2010) Women as Leaders: What Women Have Attained In and Through the Field of Physical Education. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 27 (1), 1250-1276.
Wilke, P. (1973) The History of Physical Education For Women At The University of Nebraska From The Early Beginnings To 1952. Open Access Thesis, University of Nebraska.

Photo Credits

Western College on College Day 1912 (Miami University Libraries, no known copyright restrictions)
Arrow Woman’s College of Due West Yearbook 1921 (Internet Archive, no known copyright restrictions)
Goshen College Women’s Basketball 1967 (Mennonite Church USA, no known copyright restrictions)
Pierce Junior High School Girl’s Basketball Team (Florida Memory, no known copyright restrictions)



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