Today is the championship game of the NCAA basketball tournament. For those fanatics among us, this day was circled in red a year ago! In my own not-so-humble opinion, this three week tournament is the best sporting event of the year, even if we all squabble about which teams should be in it!
But I am wondering if you know much about the origin of the game of basketball? You might know that James Naismith, a Canadian/American sports coach is credited with inventing the game. He wanted to invent a new indoor game that bored students could play during the cold winters in Massachusetts. Apparently he spent weeks tinkering with a variety of games trying to find an interesting version of soccer/football/lacrosse.
What you might not know is that Naismith was the gym teacher at the International Training School of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Springfield, Mass. From his perspective, it was his main function “to win men for the Master through the gym.”
Basketball was invented as a witnessing tool for this Godly coach!
As Tommy Kyle, a former north Alabama high school basketball coach said in the “Alabama Baptist Online” website, “Basketball was invented to bring young men to Christ. No other sport can say that.”
Naismith was a pioneer in the “muscular Christianity” movement. He was “among the first to integrate prayer and Bible study with athletics.” But there is a long line of Christian athletes who have matched their competitive skills and their self-discipline with their willingness to be a witness for Christ. Their athletic prowess opens doors for their evangelistic message.
Do you remember Eric Liddel, the 1920 Olympic runner who refused to run on Sundays? A hundred years later we still know who he was, what he stood for, how his faith impacted his life and the sport he loved.
And there have been many others. Recently, did you notice how the Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow captured the imagination of football fans everywhere as he wore Bible verse references on his face each game day? Do you recall the humble testimony of Colt McCoy (the Texas quarterback) who wasn’t able to play much in the national championship game because of injury? He gave God the glory for his career and he refused to question God’s plan for that game, even if he couldn’t participate.
So, as conversation centers around basketball this week, add your two cents worth and let folks know that the inventor of the game did so as an evangelistic tool…it makes watching the Final Four even more fun!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel