The American Sports Institute was founded in 1985, as a nonprofit, nongovernmental (NGO) organization just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, California.
Founded by Joel Kirsch, Ph.D., a former secondary-school and university educator, and a former radio sports producer-director, Kirsch had just spent two years as the sports psychologist and human resources director for the San Francisco Giants baseball club. Hoping to use this platform to make important changes in sport and, thus, influence American culture, Kirsch achieved a number of successes, but was concerned that the positions he held with the Giants did not provide enough opportunities to pursue his mission fully.
After resigning from the Giants at the end of the 1984 baseball season, Kirsch began investigating how he could move forward with his mission in the context of his two passions—education and sport. Discovering that, unlike most other nations in the world, America did not have a national sports institute, the American Sports Institute was born.
Having earned his doctorate under the tutelage of social theorist, writer, United States Army Air Corps fighter pilot, and martial-arts black belt George Leonard, Kirsch informed ASI with his learning experience under Leonard. This included Leonard’s visionary work as an education writer, earning 12 national awards for education writing, more than any other writer in America.
Leonard’s books include the seminal Education and Ecstasy, The Ultimate Athlete, The Transformation, The Silent Pulse, and Mastery, among others. In addition to education, Leonard wrote articles on politics, civil rights, foreign affairs, health, and social change for The Atlantic, Esquire, Harper’s, The Nation, New York Magazine, Saturday Review, and Look Magazine where he was a senior editor for 17 years.
Having died in 2010, Leonard’s work lives on today as a foundation that informs both the American Sports Institute’s mission and vision. Yet, words here do not do justice to Leonard’s work and impact on the American Sports Institute and America itself.
Given this foundation, to date, the programs and services of the American Sports Institute have focused on sport and education, and related issues. In particular, the American Sports Institute has developed innovative programs in its effort to create a model educational framework that can play a significant role in transforming America’s public-school system by applying the principles and practices the work in sport culture, physical education, and wellness to pressing educational concerns.
Through these and future programs, the American Sports Institute endeavors to fulfill its mission and realize its vision. This includes returning sport to its rightful place of honor in the arts, humanities, and sciences, a position it once held at the height of the Athenian era in ancient Greece some 2,500 years ago, and witnessing the reunification of the body with the mind in America and nations around the world.