YMCA and FIBA: Sharing the cultural history of basketball

Date: 28 October 2022

Youth leadership. Social Impact. Basketball. 

The 84th World YMCA Executive Committee meetings opened on 28 October with a visit to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to celebrate the common heritage of both organizations. Committee members and the Global Staff Team toured the FIBA museum and learned more about the history of basketball and how it is helping to bring positive change.  

Our group photo

“With our having given birth to the sport, it’s like seeing our son after so many years,” said World YMCA President Soheila Hayek while touring the modern, state-of-the-art museum. “It’s amazing to see what FIBA has done 131 years later. “

Andreas Zagklis, Secretary General of FIBA, welcomed everyone and noted the synergy between the two organisations. James Naismith invented the game at the Springfield, Massachusetts, USA YMCA in 1891, and since then, “the YMCA has done so much for the game, which is truly global.” 

Look for more to come on how both organizations can work together. 


FIBA up close

FIBA is the world governing body for basketball. Founded in 1932 and located in Mies, Switzerland, it brings together 212 National Basketball Federations from all over the world. A nonprofit organisation, its mission is to develop and promote basketball and unite the wider basketball community, which counts more than 450 million players and fans.

Andreas Zagklis, Secretary General of FIBA greets the officers and World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee

In addition to establishing official basketball rules, FIBA organizes and oversees international competitions including the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup and the Olympic Basketball Tournaments.

Its House of Basketball museum incorporates the sport’s theme throughout, from the wooden floor that resembles a court to well-lit displays filled with jerseys, programs, posters and mementoes throughout the game’s history.  Admission is free and school trips are common. 

A highlight for YMCA attendees was the display featuring a replica of the peach basket. Over 130 years ago, physical education teacher James Naismith was challenged to come up with an indoor winter game. He hung two peach baskets from an elevated running track – and the rest is history. Fun fact: the first FIBA Secretary General, William Jones, was also a European Secretary of the World YMCA in the 1940s and 50s. 

Shared goals and collaboration

Both in-person and online Executive Committee members learned more about the FIBA Foundation and how its mission is closely aligned with that of the YMCA.  

The FIBA Foundation focuses on three recently adopted pillars:

  • Community Impact: Implement grassroots programmes in collaboration with the National Federations, linked to social issues relevant to that country. 
  • Youth Leadership: Identify youth leaders, usually aged 20-25, who want to make a difference in their communities.  
  • Mini basketball: Bring more 5-12-year-olds into the sport through game-based learning. 

“We’re not trying to find the next LeBron James,” said Foundation manager Theren (TJ) Bullock Jr. “If we do, great. But what we’re trying to do is increase our basketball citizens, those who will become a coach, teacher or leader in their community.” 

The YMCA and FIBA are exploring how the organisations can collaborate to use the power of basketball to initiate positive change and to empower youth to be leaders in their communities. 

“Youth around the world have an incredible power to create change and to be role models in their communities,” Theren said. “There is a lot of room to improve, but we can’t do it alone. We need to collaborate with organisations that have been doing this for a long time, and the YMCA is one of them.”