Things not going as planned? Made a mistake at work? Do not fret! Some of Mankind’s greatest discoveries, inventions and success stories have evolved from mistakes, accidents and uncomfortable situations. Think of the burrs stuck in the dog’s fur that inspired Velcro ( Futterman); the candy bar that melted in a pocket leading to the Microwave ( Bostwick); and the accidental creation of a weak adhesive that led to the Post-It ( Bostwick).

And remember how, on a freezing winter’s day in Massachusetts, 1891, a young PE teacher used two peach storage baskets, nailed to the gymnasium balcony at 10 feet high, as improvised goals for a made-up game.  His restless, energetic class of boys – so bored of being kept in by the bad weather – ended up in a brawl of black eyes, a dislocated shoulder and general kicking and punching. A bad day at work for the teacher, James Naismith…but a brilliant start to the global sports phenomenon that is now Basketball.

A commerative statue of the inventor of basketball Dr James Naismith.

“After that first match, I was afraid they’d kill each other, but they kept nagging me to let them play again so I made up some more rules.”

Naismith wanted to create a game that would be simple to understand but complex enough to be interesting. The game had to be playable indoors, and it had to accommodate several players at once. The game also needed to provide plenty of exercise for the students. Yet, without the physicality of football, soccer, or rugby since those would threaten more severe injuries if played in a confined space. ( Toole).

An inauspicious start maybe but Naismith’s unpleasant day’s teaching of a group of brawling boys turned out to inspire the multi-billion pound global team game, Basketball, used as a demonstration activity in the 1904 Olympics and elevated to a fully-recognised Olympic sport by 1936! What is more… Naismith’s original two pages of handwritten notes on rules for the game sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 2010 for $4.3 million. ( Toole)

So, don’t despair over your bad day or misjudgement… who knows where it may lead!