The importance of nurturing the Body, Mind and Spirit
The ebbs and flows of Naismith’s life, early on, lead him to develop a very strong belief in the importance of nurturing the body, mind and spirit in balance. Throughout his youth and early adult-hood, the realization of not only the importance but the clear interconnectedness of the principles of nurturing the body, mind and spirit were developed through his various hardships and how he lived his day to day life.
The importance of physicality either through work or play was common place in Naismith’s life. When Naismith ventured to McGill University, he was an avid participant in Rugby, Lacrosse, Football and ground Gymnastics. Sport became much more than just a passion as a participant; it also became a platform to build men’s character. However, in those days spirituality and sport were not seen as compatible. As an avid athlete, Naismith was soon to discover that the two, in fact, were very much related. This realization lead him to the YMCA where the idea of “Muscular Christianity” was common place. Muscular Christianity saw athletics as a way to develop a strength to use faith to fight life’s battles, a strength to live a life in fulfillment of the Bible (or other scriptures), and a strength to actively bring the full scope of faith and spiritual living to the physical body in order to be life and serve others.
Naismith was not an exemplary student in his early years, but he soon came to realize that education would be a key component to a fruitful and happy life. After this realization, Naismith returned to finish high school when he was 20 years old, after having dropped out at the age of 15. His hunger for knowledge, lead him to excel in academics once he realized his passion for education, sport and theology. Before the age of 35, Naismith had four doctorate degrees.
Religion had a strong presence in the Naismith family; therefore Naismith’s interest in pursuing Theology at the University of McGill was no surprise. It was during this time that he realized that sport, which is well documented to being an effective means of developing positive character traits, was a perfect means to help build Christian character, instilling the key values of the faith through sport – or in other words, instilling good sportsmanship.