What is Sokol?

Sokol, a Czech organization that began in Prague, Bohemia, in 1862 and was brought to this country by Czechs, is an educational organization dedicated to the physical, mental, and cultural advancement of its members and the children who use its gymnasiums. It is based upon the theory that only physically fit, mentally alert, and culturally well-developed citizens can form a healthy, strong nation. The organization was founded by Dr. Miroslav Tyrš, a teacher in the physical education institute of Jan Malypetr in Prague, who modeled his institution on the physical education of ancient Greece. His cofounder was Jindrich Feugner. The word sokol means "falcon." The first Sokol in the United States was formed in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1865, the first in Texas in Ennis in 1908. By 1909 Sokol units had been organized in Shiner, Hallettsville, and Granger. Others followed in Waco, Dallas, Fort Worth, Penelope, Guy, Seaton, Buckholts, Houston, Crosby, Rowena, Galveston, Corpus Christi, Placedo, Floresville, San Antonio, and East Bernard. Many units disbanded during the Great Depression. In 1930 there were fourteen. In 1985 units were located in Corpus Christi, Dallas, Ennis, Fort Worth, Houston, and West. Modern gymnasiums are the trademark of Sokol, and gymnastics is part of the Sokol philosophy of mixing mental, moral, cultural, and physical training. At the end of 1984, Sokol members older than seventeen numbered 1,086 in the southern district, which includes Texas and Oklahoma and is the fourth largest of the six districts in the United States.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Clinton Machann and James W. Mendl, Krásná Amerika: A Study of the Texas Czechs, 1851–1939 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983). Mollie Emma Stasney, The Czechs in Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1938).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Sylvia J. Laznovsky, "SOKOL," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pls01), accessed October 07, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

What is the American Sokol Organization?

The first Sokol unit was founded on February 14, 1865, in St. Louis, Missouri by three men:

Founders of the first Sokol Unit in America

Within a few years Sokol units were formed in Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cedar Rapids, Omaha, etc. Since then they have expanded from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Rio Grande. This was the age of heavy immigration. The newcomers imbued with the spirit of reawakening in the old homeland brought with them the fire, ideals and culture of a new age. They found the freedom and democracy of this country to be fertile soil for their efforts. As the settlers pushed out to virgin land or moved to urban areas in need of their varied skills they took their Sokol, fraternal organizations, choral, theatrical and cultural ideals with them. Next to the building of their own homes, they ached for community centers where they could carry on the many-sided training of their young. This they did out of their own hard earned resources. They instinctively felt that in this way they were repaying at least in part their debt of gratitude. By 1879 they had their first competitions in New York with 19 competitors from 7 units. As the American Sokol grew so did the participation at its Slets in 1893, 194 competitors from 24 units-368 children, 300 men and 275 women in mass calisthenics. 1925 saw 617 men, 320 women competing and 1,382 men and women, 170 junior boys, 264 junior girls and 491 children in the mass calisthenics. In 1961 there were 2,253 participating in the Slet. They came from all parts of the country and carried home with them inspiration to carry on their Sokol activities. The most surprising thing about the early units up to 1878 is that they were organized and grew spontaneously. There was no drive or concentrated effort to form new units. This speaks volumes for the high mental caliber and ability of our forefathers.

American Sokol Today
Well into its second century, American Sokol remains an organization dedicated to the physical, mental, and cultural advancement of its members, the youth and adults that attend its programs, and the local communities we serve. The mission of the American Sokol is to provide fitness and community for individuals and families through physical, educational, cultural and social programs. There are currently 35 American Sokol units, or clubs, operating in North America. For 145 years in the United States, American Sokol has been shaping the lives of Olympians, Diplomats, Artists, Athletes, and most importantly, the families in the communities in which we serve.

"Ask not what you can get from your country, but what you can do for it. I appreciate the part the American Sokol Movement has played in establishing physical fitness and good sportsmanship as major objectives of recreation, education and our way of life. In years to come, I hope American Sokol's example will inspire millions more to join in this pursuit of excellence." – President John F. Kennedy

"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical fitness; it is a part of his profession as a citizen to keep himself in good condition, ready to serve his state at a moment's notice. Finally what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. Why even in the 13rocess of thinking, in which the use of the body seems to be reduced to a minimum, it is a matter of common knowledge that grave mistakes may often be traced to bad health." – Socrates

"Gymnastics as well as music should receive careful attention in childhood and continue through life. I believe that the teachers of both have in view chiefly the improvement of the soul." – Plato

What does KHB stand for?

The initials of Karel Havlicek Borovsky a Czech writer, poet, political journalist, publisher. He advocated ideas like universal suffrage (right to vote) and Czech national independence. Our Ennis unit is named for him.

What is the Sokol motto?

A healthy mind in a strong body.

What is the saying at the end of every class?

The instructor calls out, “Nazdar!” which is the Czech word for “To Success!”  The students then answer, “Zdar!” which means simply, “Success!”

What is a Slet?

A Sokol gymnastics meet. Our Southern District (Texas and Oklahoma) has a slet every June. The American Sokol hosts a national slet every 4 years.

Is there a gymnastic class for all ages?

Classes are available for ages 3 & up

What are the requirements to become a member?

Applicants must be age 17 or older and an American citizen.

Is the pool open to the public?

Tyrš pool is a members only pool. Must be a member of Sokol Ennis to swim.

Why do we have to pay a fee to use the pool?

A fee is charged to help pay for the upkeep of the pool. All members do not utilize the use of the pool; therefore, when you join the Sokol that fee is not included.

What do the membership dues contribute to?

Membership dues contribute to the programs, activities, and publications of Sokol Ennis, Southern District, and American Sokol (national).