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Today's Tidbit... The YMCA And Football's Growth
The YMCA had an underappreciated role in football's development. The organization developed out of the same Muscular Christianity stream that promoted the need to exercise the mind and body, with some, like Teddy Roosevelt, considering it vital to ensuring the right sort of people dominated the world.
The YMCA's influence began in 1890 when Yale graduate Amos Alonzo Stagg enrolled in the School for Christian Workers' one-year graduate course to become a YMCA Physical Director. The school became the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School and is now Springfield College.
Stagg coached and played for Springfield in 1890 and 1891. Among the members of his teams were John Naismith, the inventor of basketball, and William G. Morgan, who invented volleyball. Springfield had solid teams over the years, particularly under James Huff McCurdy, who coached Springfield from 1895 to 1916, save for a three-year break in the middle. Although they primarily played small colleges, the YMCA team regularly stepped up to play Yale and other Eastern powers.
Over the years, YMCA Training School alums organized and managed YMCAs nationwide, many of which fielded youth football teams. Other locations had teams that competed with high school and small college teams.
The YMCA extended its role in spreading football during WWI when YMCA personnel managed "huts" on military bases in the US and Europe that provided stationery, academic courses, and all forms of recreation.
The YMCA supplied $80 million (in current dollars) worth of football equipment and other sporting goods and organized many regimental leagues on these bases, giving hundreds of thousands their first exposure to organized football. This exposure boosts football's popularity in the 1920s and beyond.
Post-WWI, the YMCA's role in football was largely confined to youth football. Still, its emphasis on exercise and fitness and providing the facilities and equipment to participate in those activities contributed significantly to the growth of organized fitness in the United States.
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