“The Mermaids” to join VBL this summer

From Corsets to Court side and Bustier to the Black Tops

When Dr. James Naismith invented basketball it was a girl sport….

VBL is proud to announce this summer’s main attraction, the Venice Ball Mermaids. Showcasing Venice’s very first and very own female street ball team to compete against local women’s teams every weekend in the mix with the usual VBL festivities. As 2012 is a time for change we have taken it upon ourselves to recruit the finest 8 players to represent the VBL league from a female perspective. It seemed only proper to establish such a team and I would have it no other way. <3 AK 

After the final decision was made to draft the Venice Mermaids into this summer season schedule I decided to do a little research on the history of women’s basketball which began one year after the game was invented in 1891. It was quite a wake up call for how historical this team will be for gracing the legendary Venice Beach courts as their home court seeing as no other women’s team has, let alone a female street ball team.

To catch you up to speed on how far women have come through the constant adversity of our past and to showcase women’s capabilities to balance femininity and athleticism while shattering all stereotypes I’ve provided a brief history lesson from long dresses and combed tresses to baggy shorts and messy buns. (But for those of you not looking for a history lesson from the 1890’s to now skip to the last two paragraphs to see how to make a big splash with the Venice Ball Mermaids and sign-up to receive more information on participation). 

In 1892, following James Naismith’s invention and introduction of the game into American society, Senda Berenson pioneered women’s basketball and began spreading the movement from coast to coast with a specially adapted set of rules for females as to avoid an uproar from mainstream society. The original rules and regulations stated for women were as follows:

6 players on each team on a court that was divided into 3 sections

Each player was to stay in their designated section

No snatching the ball

No holding the ball for more than 3 seconds

No dribbling the ball more than 3 times.

Rules such as these were established to keep female players from ” dangerous nervous tendencies and losing the grace and dignity and self respect one would have her foster.” Other restrictions for the girls were that their hair must be combed to play, no chewing gum, no nicknames or slang and no sitting or lying on the floor. (I would  have been ejected from this league long ago if these rules were still applied).

1893 the first women’s college basketball game was played at Smith College (Berenson’s home court) and no men were admitted to watch.

By 1895 basketball was being played across the country from East to West amongst male and female outcries that allowing women to play competitive basketball was “eroding sacred concepts of womanhood.” Regardless of these nonsensical assumptions and accusations the first known women’s competitive college basketball gradually expanded each year with more colleges offering basketball to their female demographic. 

1896 “Bloomers” were introduced (finally!) after the realizations that maneuvering in a floor length dress might not be beneficial in an athletic environment (duh). Berkley and Stanford also played the very first intercollegiate games while still excluding men from spectating by shielding windows and locking doors. The first known games between two high school girls teams took place during this year as well.

1899-1920’s much deliberation, rule changes, opposition etc took place during this time from Berkley and Stanford banning intercollegiate women’s games to the Olympic commission and AAU believing that women should not play basketball in public. 

Not until 1924 did women get to self govern their own competitions and were showcased as an exhibition at the Olympics

1926 AAU held its first national tournament for women with 6 teams participating

1927-1928 AAU national tournament cancelled

1929 AAU restarts with its first selected All American Team

1930 AAU National championship included 28 teams

1938 3 zone court reduced to 2

1940’s-1970 National and International competitions. Women’s games were becoming more common and slightly more accepted by the majority. Also AAU was no longer the only union holding official women’s tournaments.

1970  Five player full court adopted for women’s competition

1972 Title IX enacted required federally funded schools to fund women’s sports equitably and the AAU established teams of girls younger than the college age.

1973  College scholarships offered to female athletes for the first time and the ABAUSA (Amateur Basketball Association of the USA) replaced the Amateur Athletic Union

1976 Women’s basketball finally makes it into the Olympics with the Soviet team winning gold and USA taking Silver

1978 8 team Women’s Basketball League established (WBL)

1979 WBL expanded to 14 teams

1980 First attempt at a Professional women’s team with the Ladies Professional Basketball Association with 6 teams; played less than a month before failing. Olympics were held but many nations boycotted led by the USA.

1981  WBL played its last season; First women’s NCAA Final Four championship held

1985  Senda Berenson Abbott, L. Margaret Wade, and Bertha F. Teague were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the first women to be so honored with many more to follow in the years to come including: players Carol Blazejowski, Anne Donovan and Cheryl Miller, Nancy Leibman… etc. etc.

1988 Olympic women’s basketball tournament won by the USA

The rest of the 80’s through the 90’s women’s basketball was accomplishing much and gaining more and more notoriety with less friction.

1996 NBA establishes the WNBA with 6 teams; Sheryle Swoops was the first player signed to the WNBA

1997 WNBA played their first game and added two more teams

1998 WNBA continues to expand

1999 WNBA adds four more teams

2000 USA team won Olympic gold medal

2002 Ashley McElhiney became the first woman head coach for a men’s professional basketball team (ABA, Nashville Rhythm); she resigned in 2005 with a 21-10 record

From 2002-2012 much more has been accomplished establishing female basketball as a popular force to be reckoned with and so much more in store for the future. As times change we continue to evolve the game in various ways and women’s street ball is next on the agenda. 

Throughout history women have fought long and hard to claim themselves a spot on the thrown as Queens of the Court and it is now time to take over the blacktop. As we have evolved the game in tandem with the Kings it is only natural for us to expand our sites to the tricks of the trade and seek to compete on the streets. Few women’s outdoor street ball teams have been organized and none have gained the recognition deserving of such respected attention. Not only will these 8 women be the best of the best in the surrounding areas but as with our past we will remain “elegant and graceful” as we compete against our opponents every Sunday, keeping the balance of femininity and athleticism at an equilibrium never before seen in women’s basketball. Both ends of the spectrum have been conquered from college basketball to topless leagues and the Venice Ball Mermaids will succeed in entertaining with talent, charisma and competition while setting a positive example for the girls that seek to follow in our jab steps.

For those interested in making history and think they have what it takes please send your contact information to veniceball@gmail.com as we will be holding try-outs for the best of the West in women’s street ball at the VBL where the game never stops! Must be 18 years or older to compete but we urge the youngin’s to come out and support as they may become the next Mermaids to carry on this newfound tradition. We also will continue the KVBL every Sunday morning starting in May.

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