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Basketball– A Jump After Every Basket

Basketball was enthusiastically embraced by Wolfville residents; by the early 1900s, school, university and town all offered opportunities for play for boys and girls, men and women. Teams were sponsored by churches, by the Scouts and Guides, by the school and the university: St John’s Church Sunday School had a championship team in a Wolfville girls’ league in the mid-1910s. Students at Acadia played each other in intramural games, including the Horton boys and the Seminary girls. Acadia women students played each other and women’s teams from nearby towns such as Kentville, Middleton and Windsor. Games were popular events: “The matches [of 1906 interclass basketball at Acadia] have not only been watched by the students of the three institutions, but by members of the faculty, and the townsfolk also.”

Basketball rules changed significantly between 1900 and 1950. Before 1936, a centre jump was held after each basket for both men’s and women’s games. This meant that fast breaks were seldom possible. This slowed the pace of the game and resulted in lower scores than today.

Women’s rules, supposedly designed for women’s physical limitations, were even more restrictive. Terry Osborne, Acadia’s coach who led both men’s and women’s teams to championships, wrote about this in 1935 to a colleague from Shelburne Academy. “A word about the girls–all of our teams play girls rules as do the colleges and many of the schools. I am opposed to girls playing the game as set up for the boys. Girls rules are suited to their make up physically....Boys rules are not recommended for girls by the leaders of physical education.” These rules included zones for defence and offence and a 3-second limit for an offensive player to hold the ball before she had to pass, shoot or bounce the ball; dribbles were limited to three bounces for both offensive and defensive players in the women’s game.

In spite of these restrictions, and the clothing that restricted movement, women and girls played basketball. The girls of Wolfville High School had a number of successes. Basketball was the first intercollegiate sport for women. Acadia joined a league in 1921 and the women enthusiastically took to the game as they had earlier done for interclass and town-gown games. Acadia’s women won a number of intercollegiate championships and women of the town formed teams to play teams from other towns and the university. Marjorie Wickwire played basketball for town teams both before and after university and Jean Ingraham played in high school, university and afterwards for a town team.

The boys, too, enjoyed successes. At Wolfville High School, Rex Porter, a former star there and at Acadia coached basketball for many years from the mid-1930s. Acadia men had success on the floor, though they won fewer championships than the women during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The highlight was Acadia’s trip to the national finals in 1930 where they lost to a team from New Westminster, British Columbia.

(Acadia Athenaeum, April 1906, 263)

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