Women’s Basketball

It’s safe to say that women’s basketball has come a long way since Dr. James Naismith invented the game in Springfield Massachusetts in 1891. Less than a hundred years later girls basketball players can dunk and play the game with a skill-set that rivals the men’s game. Just like the Men; there are 1000’s of women’s basketball scholarships available every year.

Now recruiting, scouting, and scholarships are all an accepted part of women’s basketball. But it can be both instructive and amusing to remember how women’s basketball started.

In 1892, just down the road from where Naismith invented the game, a female physical education teacher began to teach the game of basketball to young women. Only in girls basketball circa 1892 there were special rules for girls: you could only hold the ball for three seconds and only dribble three times before passing the ball.

This may seem laughable now as you are likely to see a women’s basketball player get the ball at one end of the court, dribble between her legs, then behind her back before hitting a streaking teammate for a lay-up at the other end. And all that likely won’t take much longer than three seconds!

In the first days of womens basketball—long before scouting, recruiting, and scholarships were a realistic possibility—the female players would post guards at the doors and windows of the gymnasium to keep the men from watching them. Now, even though women’s basketball receives wide exposure, many women would love to see men interested enough in their game to climb a ladder and watch through a window.

There really are only minor differences today between womens basketball and men’s basketball. The ball is smaller, the three-point line is closer and the game is not played above the rim. But there are certainly many more parallels than there are differences.

For one thing, with the introduction of scholarships for girls basketball, scouting and recruiting figure prominently as permanent fixtures in women’s basketball. And another thing: Womens basketball has its own pro league now, the WNBA.

The game continues to evolve for women. The process seemed to kick into overdrive in 1979 after Ann Meyers was actually given a tryout with the Indiana Pacers before being cut. Publicity stunt? Perhaps. But the gauntlet had been thrown down—the women’s game was here to stay.

Now every few years there is a new and improved model. There was Nancy Lieberman, known as the first lady of hoops, Cheryl Miller (sister of Reggie), and Lisa Leslie, an outspoken advocate for womens basketball. And, of course, the UCONN women’s basketball team, who just continues to do things that have never been done before.

When they first taught women the game over a century ago, teamwork and cooperation were emphasized over competition. While girls basketball is certainly competitive, that sense of teamwork and cooperation remains the most visible part of the game. In fact, for many basketball purists, the women’s game is a more accurate reflection of how the game is meant to be played. Sure, they play closer to the ground and don’t throw down as many rim-rattling dunks as men, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It may even be a good thing.

What girls basketball does do is pass, rely on ball movement to get open shots, and demonstrate that the spirit of teamwork and cooperation—the foundations of the game—are alive and well thank you very much. Combine that with the will to compete like a champion and you have a game all its own and well worth watching.

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