When my son was eight years old, I took him to visit the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many of the exhibits are interactive, and most focus on the achievements of basketball's greatest players and teams. But off in a corner, in a room that had few visitors the day I was there, one can find a modest exhibit on the origins and early history of basketball.
The photos and memorabilia told a story that I had often heard before. In the winter of 1891-92, Dr. James Naismith was a young "physical education instructor" at Springfield College. As one pamphlet puts it, his "bored students were young men suffering through a required gymnasium class." Determined to end the boredom, Naismith set out to invent a new winter or indoor game that would be as exciting for his student-athletes as football in the fall or baseball in the summer. So he thought up some rules, nailed two half-bushel peach baskets to the lower rail of the gymnasium balcony, one at each end, and basketball was born.
But as I reimmersed myself in this great old story, one odd detail in one photograph in the exhibit caught my eye. The photograph shows the building in which basketball was invented. Almost all the literature refers to this building as "Springfield College." But the sign above the main entrance of the building in the photograph clearly says "School for Christian Workers." What's that? Looking more carefully through the exhibit, and searching the footnotes and fine print in the main literature on basketball, one can also find occasional references to this building, the forerunner of today's Springfield College, as the "International YMCA Training School."
It seems that there ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more