For a sport with such a glamorous, larger-than-life reputation, basketball sprang from remarkably humble beginnings. Our January exhibit takes you on a spin through decades of Worthington's basketball history.
The game was famously invented by James Naismith in 1891, when he was a teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Massachusetts. Struggling to create a sport that would hold the interest of his classroom of “incorrigibles” (as he called them), Naismith had the inspiration to place two baskets as goals above the players’ heads. Armed with a soccer ball and two peach baskets, Naismith premiered the new sport to his jaded class on December 21, 1891—and it was a wild success. Within a year, the game had spread from its Massachusetts roots to be played all over the country.
The sport was a hit with girls and women, and numerous high school girls’ teams sprang up across the U.S. In the early 1900s, Worthington High School (WHS) girls’ teams played in bloomers and knee socks, graduating to gym clothes by the 1950s. The game remained popular for girls throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s; along with cheerleading and field hockey, it was the only girls’ sport to receive mention in the “Cardinal” yearbook. The Girls’ Athletic Association at WHS oversaw girls’ sports and, as the 1971 “Cardinal” explains, “Membership in GAA is open to any girl who accumulates the required points by participating in intramurals and other club activities, and who donates two bags of clothing to Goodwill.” The passage of Title IX in 1972 was reflected in the WHS yearbooks from that decade, which abruptly feature a much greater variety of women’s sports, including gymnastics, lacrosse, swim club, wrestling, track, tennis and softball.
Boys’ basketball was a major draw as well, with teams winning numerous championships and drawing hundreds of people to celebratory events. Ray Heischman was a popular coach of the WHS boys’ basketball team throughout the 1940s. He arrived at the school as a coach in 1938 after graduating from Capital University, and became principal of the high school in 1942. He led the 1944 boys’ basketball team to the State Class B semifinals, and the 1946 team made it all the way to the finals, where they were defeated. In 1949, Heischman was one of 21 coaches nationwide to be inducted into the Sports Trail Century Club in Chicago, which was open to all college and school athletic coaches whose teams had won 100 or more contests in any sport. Heischman resigned as principal in 1955 and, following his death in 1962, a scholarship fund was established at the high school in his name.
Whether it’s suspense during a close game, elation at victory or plain old satisfaction at sinking the perfect shot, basketball incites a variety of emotions. One thing is certain: Worthington has never had a shortage of enthusiasm for this all-American game.