Basketball debuts at the YMCA: today in history.

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YMCA of Greater Birmingham To Offer Safe And Enriching After School Programming In Walker County

Beginning Monday, October 3, the YMCA of Greater Birmingham will begin offering its YMCA Afterschool Academy in Walker County. Made possible thanks to a 21st Century Learning grant in partnership with United Way of Central Alabama and Walker County Schools, the Afterschool Academy Program will provide a safe and structured learning environment to children in kindergarten through eighth grade at Oakman Elementary School. The grant will allow the Y to offer the program to all families with children attending Oakman Elementary regardless of household income or inability to pay.

“We are excited about this partnership between Walker County Schools and the United Way of Central Alabama bringing our after school programming to the children and families of Walker County,” said Stan Law, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham. “Research shows that youth who participate in after school programs perform better academically are healthier, and make better decisions, and we are thrilled to be able to fill this important resource gap to families in Walker County.”

The YMCA of Greater Birmingham’s Afterschool Academy provides comprehensive, age-appropriate, engaging programming designed to help youth in every community succeed developmentally and academically. Through the program, children participate in academic enrichment, leadership development, service learning, and health and wellness activities. Learn more about the YMCA’s Afterschool Academy at

About the YMCA of Greater Birmingham

The YMCA of Greater Birmingham is a charitable organization dedicated to making our community a healthier place to live. Throughout the Greater Birmingham area, the Y is engaged in every neighborhood, nurturing the potential of children and teens, improving the community’s health and well-being, and providing opportunities to give back and support others. That’s why we focus our work in three areas: Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. Learn more about the YMCA of Greater Birmingham at


Basketball debuts at the YMCA: today in history.

It was on this day [January 20] in 1892 that the first official game of basketball was played in Springfield, Massachusetts.

It was invented by a 31-year-old Canadian graduate student named James Naismith, who was teaching at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College). Naismith graduated in theology from the Presbyterian College in Montreal, but his real love was sports, so he went to the YMCA Training School to study the relatively new subject of physical education.

The undergraduates were divided into two groups: half wanted to be physical directors, and the other half wanted to be YMCA administrators. In fall, the daily physical activity was football, which everyone loved. But winter indoors, in a small gym, proved a challenge. Instructors led the undergraduates in calisthenics and marching. The future physical directors were fine with this curriculum, since they considered it part of a well-rounded education in athletics; but the future administrators were bored and rebellious.

One particularly difficult class, of 18 students, went through two instructors — after the first instructor's marching and calisthenics failed, the school brought in their most respected professor, who tried to make the young men do potato races and various kids' games to keep them active. The students complained that they were starting to hate athletics in general. At faculty meetings, the group was labeled as hopeless. James Naismith disagreed.

He said at one meeting: "The trouble is not with the men but with the system that we are using. The kind of work for this particular class should be of a recreational nature, something that would appeal to their play instincts." In response, the head of the faculty assigned the class to Naismith.

Naismith was already teaching canoeing, wrestling, swimming, boxing, psychology, and Bible study. He tried to get out of this new assignment, but to no avail. Naismith tried modifying football to play it indoors, but had to eliminate tackling because there wasn't enough space, so no one liked it anymore. He tried a modified version of soccer, but the students were required to wear soft-soled shoes inside, and no matter how many times Naismith warned them to kick the ball softly, they kept forgetting and injuring their feet — plus they broke several windows.

He tried lacrosse, but almost everyone ended up with serious injuries to their hands or faces. Naismith was desperate to come up with something before his two-week report to the faculty.

He said: "It was worse than losing a game. All the stubbornness of my Scotch ancestry was aroused, all my pride of achievement urged me on; I would not go back and admit that I had failed."

The night before his two-week review, he sat in his office above the locker room and considered the theory of games, determined to come up with something new. He wanted a game with simple rules and a lightweight ball so anyone could throw it or catch it without much practice. He chose a large ball because small-balled games like baseball and lacrosse needed additional equipment.

By the end of the night, he had a framework, and the next morning before class, he wrote a list of 13 rules for the game. He grabbed a soccer ball and asked the janitor for boxes to use as goals. The janitor didn't have boxes but he had peach baskets in the storeroom, so Naismith nailed those on the walls.

The game was such a success that his students didn't want to quit playing at the end of class time. Soon everyone wanted to play, not just the troublemakers in Naismith's class.

In a couple of weeks, spectators were packing into the gym to watch, including a group of female teachers from a nearby school, who soon put together the first women's team.

One of Naismith's students suggested that they name the game "Naismith ball," but Naismith refused. So the student proposed "basket ball," which was written as two words until the 1920s. Naismith introduced basketball to his students on December 21st, 1891.

A few weeks later, on this day in 1892, the first official game was played at the YMCA in Albany, New York — it was the first time it had been played outside of the Training School where it was invented.

With thanks to The Writer’s Almanac, January 20, 2014.


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