How to use this site   About Us   Submissions   Feedback   Donate   Links - School Assemblies for every season for everyone

Decorative image - Secondary

Email Twitter Facebook


Inspirational ideas

Using the example of the invention of basketball by James A. Naismith, to understand that simple ideas can have massive effects.

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


Using the example of the invention of basketball by James A. Naismith, to understand that simple ideas can have massive effects.

Preparation and materials

  • A ball and a box or basket big enough to hold the ball.
  • Background: the college where Naismith was a teacher was an international training school for workers with the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association). The YMCA was founded in 1844 for the purpose of putting Christian principles into practice by developing ‘a healthy spirit, mind and body’ in young men. It quickly became a world-wide movement. The YWCA works with young women.


  1. Show pupils the two resources. What could we do with these? Share ideas about how they could be used. Encourage students to be creative and not to hold back.

    Explain that sometimes amazing ideas, which have massive effects, can be created by mistake or by simple thought.
  2. Ask students where they think the game of basketball was invented. Ask if they know who invented it, and why.

    Explain that basketball was invented by a Canadian called James Naismith, who at the time was a PE teacher at a college in the town of Springfield in Massachusetts, USA. (There are many towns in the USA called ‘Springfield’, including Bart Simpson’s home - the Springfield referred to in this assembly is real!)
  3. In his PE classes, Naismith struggled with a rowdy set of students, who were fed up with being confined to indoor games during the harsh New England winters.

    Dr Luther Gulick, who was head of Springfield YMCA Physical Education Department, told Naismith that the solution was to create an indoor game that would provide an ‘athletic distraction’ for the unruly class. Dr Gulick made the following stipulations:

    -  the game must not take up much room
    -  it must help its track athletes to keep in shape
    -  it must be ‘fair for all players and not too rough’ (Gulick emphasized this point).

    Finally, Dr Gulick told Naismith that he had 14 days to come up with this new game.
  4. In his attempt to think up a new game, Naismith was guided by three main thoughts.

    First, the ball. He analysed the most popular games of those times - rugby, lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey and baseball - and decided that the big soft soccer ball was safest.

    Second, he saw that most physical contact in ball games occurred while running with the ball, dribbling or hitting it. He decided that passing was the only safe option.

    Finally, Naismith decided that the best way to stop the game getting too rough would be to reduce body contact by making the goal unguardable, that is, by placing it high above the players’ heads. He ruled that to score a goal, the players should throw a soft lobbing shot.

    He asked the building supervisor for two boxes, but none were suitable, and he was given two peach baskets instead. Naismith christened his new game ‘Basket Ball’. And he wrote down 13 basic rules.

    The first game of basket ball was played by Naismith’s class in December 1891. In a handwritten report, Naismith described the inaugural match. In contrast to modern basketball, the players played nine versus nine and handled a soccer ball, not a basketball.
  5. By 1892, basket ball had grown so popular on the college campus that Dennis Horkenbach (editor-in-chief of The Triangle, the college newspaper) featured it in an article called ‘A New Game’. There were calls for this new game to be known as ‘Naismith Ball’, but Naismith refused.
    However, in 1893 net bags attached to metal hoops replaced the peach baskets.

    Basketball quickly became popular throughout the States and by 1893 it had been introduced internationally by the YMCA movement.

    Discuss the popularity of the game today. Out of all American games it is probably the most successful export.
  6. Discuss the fact that everyone is capable of being creative. George Bernard Shaw said, ‘Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.’

    A creative idea might not inspire the world, or even the nation, but it could inspire someone. And who knows, like basketball, thought up by a PE teacher, it could have a tremendous effect.

Time for reflection

Ask students to think which of Jesus’ teachings most inspires their life choices. (‘Love your neighbour’?)

The Lord’s Prayer


‘Michael Jordan' by Five for Fighting (widely available to download)

Publication date: January 2012   (Vol.14 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
Print this page