Nursing and Women’s Basketball Go Back a Long Way

Nursing Student Basketball Team, Grace Hospital, Detroit, 1924

By Maureen ‘Shawn’ Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

I’m a big college basketball fan (to me, professional teams seem less about the team and more about the players). When I was growing up in the city, playground basketball was the only sport that was accessible on a daily basis. (OK, there was a ping-pong table, but that just didn’t seem as exciting.) I learned to play the game there, and then played in high school and for one year in college as a freshman. After that, nursing classes and a part-time job interfered. More recently, I coached grammar school and middle school girls teams (one of the funnest things I’ve done!).

I love that the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament has received more and more coverage each year. A few years ago, one was hard-pressed to find out when the games were being televised. Now, they’re enjoying prime time, if not a prime channel. (Women’s games—and tonight’s championship game between Notre Dame and Texas A&M—are usually broadcast on cable, on ESPN.)

So here’s some trivia: many people may not know that most nursing schools had basketball teams in their early days—as far back as the 1920s. It’s always been interesting to me that, despite the oppressive and convent-like restrictions placed on nursing students, these young women could play basketball! There were leagues among schools—the AJN archives has articles and photos of early teams (the photo above shows the team at Grace Hospital in Detroit, in 1924; click through to the PDF version of the article to read an excerpt). Many schools maintained teams into the 1970s. I doubt that any continue today, since so many diploma schools of nursing have closed.

So, I wonder if any of the players who reached the “Final Four” are nursing students—does anyone know?

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2016-11-21T13:13:36+00:00 April 5th, 2011|Nursing|0 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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