Article Display
Email  |  My Account  |  Donate
The once-discouraged gym teacher, James Naismith, had invented a sport which would go on to become one of the most popular in the world.
Disheartened after another day of failing to connect with his students, the young teacher trudged upstairs to his office and slumped down at his desk chair in defeat. He was angry, and he had every right to be mad. After all, his boss at the YMCA had assigned him a seemingly impossible task. He had been handed a classroom full of misbehaving mischief-makers whom he somehow was expected to make enthusiastic about physical fitness—within two weeks.

His three predecessors each had been dismissed after unsuccessful attempts to interest the unruly young men in exercise. Unless something changed, it looked like he would be following their footsteps out the door.

As for activities, his options were limited. Winter weather had forced the physical education class indoors to the gymnasium, and his students showed absolutely no attraction to the usual calisthenics: push-ups, sit-ups, and the like.

Also, since many of the students were notorious troublemakers, any sport lending itself to rough play was off limits. He had found that out the hard way after an aborted attempt to introduce lacrosse had ended in a slew of injuries. He had tried derivations of indoor soccer too, but the students had been completely unreceptive to them.

Mulling over the predicament, the young gym instructor concluded that nothing of the usual variety would hold the attention of his students. He needed to come up with a new game. He then began to think abstractly about the team sports he knew, recognizing that, at root, each involved a ball and a goal. He decided a larger, softer ball would be most appropriate for an indoor game. To eliminate violence, he wanted to move away from a type of goal which encouraged forceful or fast-moving shots as in hockey or soccer.

Consequently, he hit upon the idea of a goal with an opening at the top rather than on the side to require an arcing or looping trajectory for shots. Since defenders could easily surround and guard such a box-goal, he chose to mount it above their heads. Finally, to prevent the rough collisions of tackling, he stipulated that the person with the ball could not advance it on foot but only by passing.

After several hours spent pondering how the game would be played, the young teacher drew up a list of thirteen rules and had them typed out. He then asked the gymnasium’s facility manger for two wooden boxes so that he could construct the goals. The building superintendent did not have any boxes but provided two peach baskets instead. The next day the young instructor nailed the baskets about 10-feet above the floor of the gym and put the rules of his newly created sport on display.

Not only did the game appeal to his students, within a matter of months basket-ball had caught on at YMCAs around the country. The once-discouraged gym teacher, James Naismith, had invented a sport which would go on to become one of the most popular in the world. In 2010 its original rules, which Naismith had scrawled on two pieces of paper, sold for $4.3 million!

James Naismith faced a crisis; his job depended on exciting a group of cynical, asocial youth about exercise. At this juncture, he could have complained about the unfairness of his assignment or griped about the behavioral problems of his students. However, rather than being consumed by the difficulties in front of him, Naismith stayed focused on finding a way to connect with his students.

What sticky situation are you presently facing at work? How can you encourage your team to stay focused on searching for a solution rather than worrying about the size of the problem?

James Naismith’s first few attempts to engage his students failed miserably, yet he kept moving forward. How have you moved on from failures in your life, and what lessons have you learned from those failures? Based on your experience, how might you influence your teammates to respond to failure?

This article is used by permission from Leadership Wired, Dr. John C. Maxwell's premiere leadership newsletter, available for free subscriptin at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

About Us

The online ministry of cfaith has been helping people discover faith, friends and freedom in the Word since 2000. Cfaith provides a unique and comprehensive collection of faith-building resources for the worldwide faith community.

At cfaith, you can strengthen your faith and deepen your understanding of the Word of God by digging into the vast collection of teaching articles, streaming audio and video messages, and daily devotionals. No other website offers such a unique and extensive collection of spiritual-growth resources aimed at helping you grow in your knowledge of the Word.




Support Us

Why support cfaith?

(All contributions are 100% tax deductible)


For every Internet search you make using
goodsearch, cfaith will receive one penny!

GS Logo 250x38

Contact Us

Business Hours:

Monday—Friday: 9 a.m.—5 p.m. CST
Saturday & Sunday: Closed


(763) 488-7800 or (800) 748-8107

Mailing Address:
9201 75th Avenue North
Brooklyn Park, MN 55428


Login Form

Please ignore the “Secret Key” field; it is not needed to log in to cfaith.

Login Change Article

You need to enable user registration from User Manager/Options in the backend of Joomla before this module will activate.