In the early 1890s Naismith found himself tasked with developing a new game when he worked for the YMCA. He turned to a game from his childhood known as “Duck on a Rock”.
Duck on a Rock
When Naismith was a child in Ramsay Townership, a stone sat in the blacksmith’s yard adjacent to the Bennie’s Corners school that he attended. They played a game on this stone called “Duck on a Rock” which was a game that combined tag with throwing.
Players formed a line from a distance of 15-20 feet from the base stone. Each player used a fist-sized stone. The object was to dislodge the “guards” stone from the top of the base stone, by throwing, taking turns. The guard would be positioned in a neutral area away from the thrower. If one succeeded, they would go to the back of the line. If you missed the guards’ stone, the “chase” would be on and if tagged before the stone was recovered, the players would trade places.
Over time, they discovered that if the stone was hurled like a baseball it would bound far away and increase the likelihood of being caught by the guard. The players developed a lobbed arcing shot that proved to be more controllable, more accurate, and less likely to bounce away, thus increasing their chance of retrieval.
A New Game: Basket Ball
While working for the YMCA, James was given the task of introducing a new indoor game in 1891, with two main objectives – “make it fair for all players, and free of rough play”.
James analyzed the games of the day (rugby, lacrosse, football, soccer, hockey and baseball) and observed that the larger ball didn’t move as swift as the smaller balls, so he chose the soccer ball for the new game. Next he observed that contact and rough play in the other games occurred when the object was carried, dribbled, stick handled etc. His first decision was to remove running with the ball.
The next observation was that there was much jostling and rough play in the defense of the goal, net or goal line in the other games. He chose to place the goal overhead where it couldn’t be guarded.
This posed a new problem, since this was the first game with the goal above the plane of the playing area. How would they shoot to score?
Remembering back to “Duck on a Rock” and how successful the lobbed arcing shot proved, Naismith incorporated it into the shooting method for his new game Basket Ball.