OLYMPIC SPORTS OF BASKETBALL AND VOLLEYBALL STARTED AS YMCA GAMES
HOOP CONTESTS AT OLYMPICS ARE LEGACY OF JAMES NAISMITH AND YMCA PEACH BASKETS
As the world’s best athletes head to the Olympic competition, and world attention focuses on the Summer Games, very few contests will create more excitement than those on the basketball court.
Basketball has captivated Americans and millions upon millions around the world, while lifting Michael Jordan and countless others to celebrity status. And it all began at a YMCA gym with 2 peach baskets and a soccer ball.
In 1891, at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., Program Director Luther Gulick asked gym teacherJames Naismith to invent an indoor sport to keep Y staff fit during the winter. Naismith hung 2 peach baskets from an elevated running track, posted thirteen simple rules and – basketball was born.
Over time, such sports notables as Amos Alonzo Stagg, Harlem Globetrotter Curly Neal, Elgin Baylor, NBA stars Wilt Chamberlain and Christian Laettner would claim that a YMCA nurtured their interest in basketball.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Olympic track star Jesse Owens, baseball legend Jackie Robinson and former U.N. Ambassador Rev. Andrew Young, all honed their athletic skills and built friendships on YMCA basketball courts.
While basketball was creating excitement in Springfield, Mass., another YMCA instructor, William Morgan, thought it “too strenuous for sedate businessmen.” He blended elements of basketball, tennis and handball into a new game he called “Mintonette.” The 1st game was played at Morgan’s Holyoke, Mass.
YMCA in winter 1895, by middle-aged businessmen. Morgan introduced the game using a borrowed tennis net raised to 6 feet, 6 inches – a head taller than the average man. The name “volley ball” was first used in 1896 and the net was raised to increase the game’s difficulty. Between 1918 and 1919, more than a million American WWI soldiers participated in YMCA- organized volleyball games. Returning home, they brought the new game with them.
Today, more than 46 million Americans – and 100’s of millions of people internationally – play volleyball. Some nine-hundred American YMCAs offer volleyball for children and adults.
“These are wonderful sports and YMCA legacies,” said Ken Gladish, Ph.D., national executive director, YMCA of the USA. “They’re fun, they teach values and teamwork, and provide an excellent form of exercise – all part of the YMCAs’ goal of building healthy spirit, mind and body.”
Together, 2,575 YMCAs are the United States largest not-for-profit community service organization. At the heart of community life, YMCAs serve 18.9 million people, including 9.3 million children through a broad range of programs. YMCAs are for people of all faiths, races, ages, incomes and abilities. Financial assistance available.