The popular ‘red triangle’, symbol of the YMCA, denoting the development of body, mind and spirit, was invented by Luther Halsey Gulick in 1891 at Springfield College of Physical Education, USA. It provided the rationale for giving physical education its proper place in YMCA programmes as a whole, which otherwise had so far emphasised only the spiritual and mental well-being of young people.
Physical education and sport have come to form a key factor in building the character of youth irrespective of caste, colour and religion. The Indian YMCA’s most significant contribution to the making of modern India is in drawing the attention of the nation to the importance of physical education. The YMCA secretaries in India sensed very early that the playground offered the best opportunity to break down social barriers. In the heat of play children’s caste identities were soon forgotten.
The Indian YMCA has always promoted rural sports and indigenous sports and has taken sports activities to the remotest of places.
First Indian Olympic Team trained at the YMCA
Ever since the restarting of the world Olympics in the last century, India was conspicuous by its absence in the games. When plans were being made for the Paris meeting in 1924, the World Olympics Committee decided to invite India to participate, and the invitation was addressed to the YMCAs of India. So it came about that the Madras YMCA School was asked to undertake a project which called for a nation-wide organisation and programme which would lead to India’s participation in the 1924 Olympics. The first Indian Olympics Team was trained at the YMCA College of Physical Education in Chennai.
Harry Crowe Buck, the National YMCA Secretary who founded the YMCA College of Physical Education, became coach and manager of the Indian Team and had the distinction of being the official starter at the Olympics.
The first coach of the Indian track and field team at the First Asian Games (1954) was a YMCA Secretary, Ted Arnold. His services were much sought after by all states in the Indian Union. YMCA College of Physical Education: sports for all
Since 1920 the YMCA College of Physical Education, Chennai, which is part of the National Council of YMCAs of India, has produced not only quality physical education teachers, but also community leaders with a special focus on young people.
The college provides special services to mentally challenged children who attend the YMCA’s Special School. The students are offered education, physiotherapy, adapted sports, games and recreation therapy such as aqua therapy, yogasana, gymnastics and calisthenics. They are exposed to challenging activities at the wading pool. The college offers a postgraduate diploma in Therapeutic Recreation to train teachers for differently abled children.
The YMCA College sports school is legendary for its sports and games at various levels and has a strong heritage of winning competitions. It is a centre of excellence with a strong focus on research in physical education and related sciences.
The YMCA College of Physical Education also produces trained personnel in physical education who are much in demand, thus helping young people to gain employment in schools and colleges.
Sport teaches life skills through a process of team building; team building in turn leads to community building. Through physical education programmes the YMCA College strives to foster community responsibility for God’s gift of human life – in body, mind and spirit.
YMCA ground-breaking achievements
The National Council of India through the YMCA College of Physical Education at Madras, has several firsts to their credit.
The College introduced physical education and sports as an integral part of education. It promoted public playgrounds in cities way back in 1915. The YMCA pioneered inter-school and inter-collegiate competitions and was the first to play volleyball and basketball in India. It also introduced the concept of coaching.
When the Government enforced prohibition to discourage youth from destroying their lives through alcoholism, the YMCA College of Physical Education introduced and promoted local rural sports like, ‘Kabaddi’, ‘Kho-kho’ for young people to divert their energy into meaningful exercises.
In addition, various local YMCAs organise sports events, some of which have become the selection events for the national team such as the boxing championship organised by the New Delhi YMCA, athletics by Bombay YMCA and basketball and volleyball tournaments by the YMCAs in Kerala (South India).
The Youth Work Department of the National Council of YMCAs of India organises national tournaments in table tennis and basketball on a regular basis and these tournaments have produced many national and international players.
The mission and commitment of the Indian YMCA is to transform the lives of young people, and sports and fitness is one of the key ways of doing this.