Did March Madness start at the YMCA?
While we can’t lay claim to the college championship tournament, the YMCA is where basketball was created.
In 1891, at the Springfield YMCA in Massachusetts where he worked as a physical education teacher, Dr. James Naismith was seeking ways to keep his students active and healthy during the New England winters. He was given direction from the head of physical education to create an indoor game in under 14 days that would provide an “athletic distraction.”
Dr. Naismith set out with safety in mind. He chose a large, soft ball that he deemed to be the safest. He made passing the only legal way to move the ball between players, thereby reducing physical contact. Then, he placed the goals above the players’ heads, eliminating the need for a player to protect the goal and thus risk injury. Points were scored by throwing soft shots into baskets at either end of the court, which in the early days were actually peach baskets secured to the gym railings.
In the beginning, players indeed passed the ball back and forth, but the first game still resulted in tackling, kicking and punching. To refocus on safety, the most important rule was added: No running with the ball. The need to dribble resulted in less physical contact and more safety for the players.
From here, the sport of “Basket Ball” was christened, and in 1893, the sport was introduced internationally by the YMCA movement. In 1896, Dr. Naismith joined the physical education staff of the Denver YMCA and introduced the sport to Denver.
As you cheer on your favorite teams during March Madness, give a special shout out to the YMCA!