November 6: James Naismith

Presbyterians Show Up in the Most Interesting Places
by Rev. David T Myers

To many of our subscribers and readers, the phrase “March Madness” can refer to only one topic. They know that the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four brackets refer to the best of the best in college basketball. But do you know that the inventor of basketball was a Presbyterian?

His name was James Naismith. Born in Canada on November 6, 1861 in a town no longer in existence, James and his four brothers and sisters grew up in difficult circumstances. His Scotch parents had emigrated from Scotland to Canada, but died after a few years in their new country, leaving James and his brothers and sisters to be reared by a strict uncle. They moved a few times, with James always being involved in sports, like rugby, soccer, football, lacrosse and gymnastics. He would graduate from McGill University in Montreal as well as earning a diploma from the Presbyterian seminary in Montreal in 1890. While never did he become ordained, he did minister in the pulpits of Canadian Presbyterian Churches.

It was while he was working at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts that James Naismith was given the task by his employer to “come up with” an indoor game which would help the youths of the district to mature into young adults. The assignment, which was given a fourteen day limit, resulted in what we know as basketball.

Granted the ten rules which he wrote down were changed as the new sport developed. For example, the first basket at either end was a peach basket! When the soccer ball, which was first used, would be shot into it, it stayed there until someone climber a ladder at either end of the court to remove it. Time was lost in that exercise until a net and a “basketball” was used.

James and his wife moved to the United States and became citizens. Eventually, he was hired by the University of Kansas to be its basketball coach. Interestingly, he had more losses than wins in the university at Lawrence, Kansas. But others, including some he had trained, became more proficient in the sport, and today . . . it is found the world over.

Words to Live By:
John the apostle wrote in his first letter in 1 John 2:14 “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (NIV) While this description is true in the spiritual lives of our covenant young men and women, it is not true in those who continue to be strangers to the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord. Take a spiritual look at the young people in your congregations, dear reader. The greatest need they have now is the Lord Jesus in their spiritual lives. Let that be your prayer and purpose in your spiritual relationships to them. And if you can do it better via a sport, such as basketball, then let that be a medium for evangelism. Then let that sport, or another one, be the medium for a ministry of discipleship in their lives.

(Note: This post was recommended by this author’s married daughter, Ann Stegall, of Lawrence, Kansas.)

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