5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The YMCA

On Dec 29, 1851, the first American Young Men's Christian Association was organized in Boston. Here are 5 facts you probably didn’t know about the history of the YMCA...


The Early YMCA Objected to Exercise Programs The early YMCA was geared toward improving a young man’s spiritual condition through holding Bible classes and prayer meetings and formulating ways to improve society. Several of the people associated with the YMCA believed because it was theologically inclined that exercise programs should not become a part of it. This attitude continued until the late 1800s when exercise programs were included to teach the importance of exercise, good health, and sportsmanship.

Thank a YMCA Instructor for the Invention of Basketball James Naismith was a Canadian-born instructor at the International Training College of the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, when he invented a game that would take the country by storm. That winter in 1891, he invented the game of basketball, in which the nine players on each team used a soccer ball and hoops made of peach baskets. Unfortunately, that first game caused a free-for-all in the gym with one boy being knocked unconscious, one suffering a dislocated shoulder, and another getting a black eye, so the rules had to be changed.


Another YMCA Teacher Invented Volleyball William G. Morgan met James Naismith while he was attending college in Springfield, Massachusetts, and decided to become an instructor of physical education at the YMCA. He invented a game that he called "Mintonette" for older members who needed an exercise game less strenuous than basketball to play. It was later renamed “Volleyball” because of the way the ball was volleyed back and forth between the players.

The First Father’s Day Celebration Was Held at a YMCA Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington pitched the idea of having a special day to honor dads everywhere at a regional YMCA meeting.  The organization was enthusiastic about her idea, and the first celebration of Father’s Day was held on June 19, 1910. Father’s Day became observed nationally in 1972 on the third Sunday in June.

The YMCA Sued The Village People for Their Hit Song “Y.M.C.A.” is one of the most iconic disco tracks ever created, thanks to the disco group Village People. It turns out that the Young Men's Christian Association, for whom the song is named, wasn't too thrilled about being at the center of what arguably began as a gay disco anthem and sued the disco group for copyright infringement (the case was eventually dropped).