Arts and Leisure

Flashback Photo: Smith College Basketball Team, 1904

smith zone defense(Northampton, Mass.) Smith College gymnastics instructor Senda Berenson began to teach ‘Basket Ball’ in the winter of 1892, less than a year after James Naismith invented the game in nearby Springfield, Mass., in December 1891. Basketball is one of the few sports in which the women’s version developed in tandem with the men’s.

The Smithies originally played with a soccer ball and peach baskets, like the men, but each team had nine players. The court was divided into three sections, with three players in each. The ball was moved by passing or dribbling three times. Players weren’t allowed to snatch or bat the ball away from opposing players, and a center jump was tossed after each basket.

The rules were meant to prevent the young ladies from developing ‘dangerous nervous tendencies and losing the grace and dignity and self-respect we would all have her foster.’ Versions of Berenson’s rules quickly spread throughout YMCAs and women’s colleges. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985.

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