Three Sports That Were Invented at the YMCA

June 8, 2023


The YMCA was founded in London, England, in 1844, and came to the United States in 1851. During its long history, three sports were invented at the YMCA that are still played today; basketball, volleyball, and racquetball.

In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian that had moved to the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented the game of basketball. Naismith was a graduate student at the time, and a faculty member at the school from one of his summer sessions had tasked the students with inventing a new game that would be easy to learn and easy to play indoors during the winter. Naismith came up with a game that used a soccer ball and two elevated goals. He made it illegal to move with the ball so it would establish teamwork during the game. The only thing he could find to make suitable goals were two peach baskets. The first game was played on December 21, 1891, and the score was 1–0 since Naismith hadn’t thought to cut out the bottoms of the baskets.

In 1895, an instructor at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, named William G. Morgan, wanted to invent a game that had less contact than basketball. He came up with volleyball, which was a mixture of baseball, tennis, basketball, and handball. He set the net at 6 feet 6 inches, which was slightly taller than the average man.

Racquetball wasn’t invented until 1949, when a professional tennis player named Joe Sobek began playing handball with a tennis racket at a YMCA in Greenwich, Connecticut. He made a shorter racket and began to sell them to other members of the YMCA. The game soon became very popular. In 1952, tennis pro Bob McInerny came up with the name “racquetball.”

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Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites (you can find out how to join below). I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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