NORTHAMPTON, Mass. - In 1893, Smith College Physical Education Teacher Senda Berenson officiated the first women's basketball game inside the Alumnae Gymnasium.
What You Need To Know
- In 1893, Smith College Physical Education Teacher Senda Berenson officiated the first women's basketball game inside the Alumnae Gymnasium.
- Berenson is known as the "mother" womens basketball and was among the first women inducted into the basketball hall of fame in Springfield.
- Berenson was also part of the first class enshrined in the women's basketball hall of fame.
- The trophy given to women's hall of fame inductees is now being named after Berenson.
Known as the “mother” of women's basketball was among the first women inducted into the basketball hall of the fame in Springfield…and was part of the first class enshrined in the women’s basketball hall of fame.
Roughly 130 years later, the Smith College legend is being honored again, through the trophy given to women’s hall of fame inductees.
"For Senda Berenson to start basketball here and a lot of times especially being near Springfield," said Athletic Director Kristin Hughes. "People think the only name associated with basketball is Naismith and while he certainly did quite a bit for the game. We think Senda also did her part and did it at time where if women were playing sports, it was mostly tennis or swimming. It wasn't team sports so to start a sport like basketball and to have it take off as much as it did on this campus, and if you look back and hear some of their stories of the women who played and how central it was to their life, it's pretty impressive given the late 1800s when this is all happening."
Berenson's teaching of the game has grown into a sport played competitively by thousands at the amateur and professional level, including NCAA women's basketball, which is experiencing a surge in popularity.
"It's been incredible," said Head Coach Lynn Hersey. "Growing up, I remember being able to watch maybe one the championship, the NCAA women's championship on TV and that was the extent of it and now all 64 games for D1 are now on TV, the Division III national championship game is televised."
Her impact is still felt on Smith’s campus as well.
Where longtime women’s basketball Coach Lynn Hersey was honored as the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year this year.
Her team ranked in the top five nationally played their way into the final four, all the while, practicing their skills where the women’s game was founded.
The significance of the season not lost on Team Captain Jessie Ruffner.
"We put in so much work and effort as a group on and off the court," Ruffner said. "And you can't do something like that unless you're doing it with your family so it was just a really special moment, had to kind of take it in with everyone, and it fueled us, we got the No.1 seed going into the tournament so we're starting to get that recognition."
At Smith it’s about honoring the woman who pioneered the game.
While also keeping a commitment to grow the sport as well as the women who thrive on the court.
"If we're gonna associated ourselves with that greatness than we need to be great and I love that," Coach Hersey said. "That to me is the standard that we have here through our athletic programs through the community of Smith, and certainly in our basketball program and I think that partnership is one that promotes women being great and not being apologetic for that."