Houston's Rich History
Houston was a sleepy bayou town with a population of some 25,000 people when a group of Houston businessman launched the YMCA of Greater Houston on February 7, 1886. At the fledgling Association's very first annual meeting just eight months later, these Y volunteers reported that although the Association had enrolled 421 members, "Money came in slow, but by the help of God and hard work by the board, enough money was raised to carry us through. May God bless the Young Men's Christian Association in the future and may the members become in the thousands."
The Houston Y began in various rented quarters on Main St., then acquired its first permanent site in 1907 at the corner of Fannin and McKinney. The new building (completed in 1908) provided a 135 room dormitory for young men as well as reading rooms, classes and recreation programs. Technical training and night school classes began, in what was to be a 59-year program in formal education. Summer camping started up in 1910, and we were able to open a permanent site in 1924. The Y began serving young men in the military who traveled through Houston during World Wars I and II. We also developed an active International program, and took pride in being one of the country's model YMCAs.
A second Y in Houston was launched in 1919, primarily to serve minority military personnel returning home from World War I. It later merged with original Houston Y in 1931 and became known as the Bagby St. YMCA. Centers were then established in the Heights in 1938 and Houston's East End in 1939. A new home for the Houston Y at 1600 Louisiana St. (now known as the Downtown Y) was dedicated in 1941, and the original facility was turned over to the USO for soldiers serving in World War II.
In 1948 the Houston Y changed to a Metropolitan style organization, now having a few Centers, a main building, colleges and camp. A capital campaign was completed in 1954, resulting in the construction of the first five community Y facilities.
On this Foundation the pillars for our Centers were laid…and the rest of their life stories, as they say, is history.
~ Gary Nichols,YMCA of Greater Houston Historian
The YMCA Sports History
In December 1891, at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., the school's director, Dr. Luther Gulick, gave physical education teacher James Naismith two weeks to create an indoor winter game to challenge a class of future Y directors. Naismith hung peach baskets to the bottom of a second-level running track and taught the men his new game: basketball. Today, basketball is second only to soccer as the most popular sport in the world.
In the 1890s, YMCA instructor William Morgan thought basketball was too strenuous for businessmen, so he blended elements of basketball, tennis and handball, and called his invention "mintonette." In 1896, at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., the name "volleyball" was first used to describe the back-and-forth manner in which the ball flew over the net. Today, more than 46 million Americans play volleyball.
In 1950, YMCA volunteer Joe Sobek invented racquetball in Greenwich, Conn. as an alternative to squash and handball. Like previous YMCA inventors, Sobek was not paid for his invention; he bestowed it as a gift to all who play the game today.
In the mid 1970s, the national YMCA and the NBA Players Association created the Youth Basketball Association (YBA) to organize youth into recreational sports programs that stress skills and teamwork over winning at any cost.