Springfield Massachusetts is a beautiful place, like much of the state it is especially elegant in the months of the spring and fall. The seasons most associated with baseball and football, though another game is held dear to the heart of the community. Also like the rest of the state the winters can be long and covered in snow.
In this small community of Springfield, sits a campus of higher education. Springfield College is every bit as regal as the community which supports it and it’s members. The campus and it’s storied past seem to speak, be aware of its heritage. The old buildings, halls and gymnasium, though modified and renovated since the founding of the institute, remain to hold to its past.
In the early 1890’s Springfield College was known officially as The International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School. It is here at The YMCA Training School that a young man was hired by the school’s director as a new physical education instructor. Young Jim, in the process of his interview for the position, after giving a brief discription of his short background, was handed an extrodinary task.
The director asked Jim to do one thing in his new position. Given just one task, he became obsessed with seeing it through. The quest undertaken by the new addition to the faculty was to fill the gap between football and baseball. Those long winter months, of snow and freezing winds always seemed to find athletes not ready to play at the opening of spring baseball. It was as if the winter not only froze physical fitness but also the spirit of competition.
Jim first purposed a regiment of gymnastics and cardio workouts. The YMCA director noted, this could keep the men somewhat fit but did nothing at all to maintain the drive of competition. This brought about the greatest thought that young Jim thus far had. He came up with a game, one now played everywhere, a game that would ensure physical fitness and drive athletes to succeed. The game would in Jim’s mind combine the athleticism of football and the precision of baseball.
Standing in the schools gymnasium as snow fell outside, Jim presented a short list of ten rules to a group he would say, “simply wouldn’t play ‘Duck on a Rock'”. There in the fall of 1891, fulfilling his obligation, with a standard soccer ball and two peach baskets, James Naismith invented the only solely American sport, and the first game of basketball was played.
all photos from Springfield College archives