From its founding in 1891, the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) emphasized physical activity and personal health. Curriculum in the first year of the school’s existence (1892-1893) included the Department of Physiology and Heath, which had two objectives: instruction in hygiene and an individualized program of exercise. A course in Physical Culture was actually required of all students. The work included gymnastics, calisthenics, and other exercises that were meant to promote the student’s general health and strength.
|1909 State Normal senior class basketball team|
Students at State Normal gravitated towards the game and actively sought opportunities for athletic competition. In 1900, the campus Athletic Association was formally established (15 years before the student government was founded). In a space that is now the site of the Petty Science Building, the women of the Athletic Association cleared and prepared playing grounds, marked the fields, and installed nets on four tennis courts and basketball goals. A primary goal of the Athletic Association was to support competitions between the classes (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors). They held their first basketball tournament in 1900, and in 1902, they adopted their official motto: “Athletics and active college work go hand in hand.”
|Intramural basketball game in Rosenthal Gym, 1942|
Permanent facilities were also constructed to allow space for basketball and other competitions. In 1922, a 50 x 90 foot outdoor gymnasium was constructed, and it hosted many of the Athletic Association competitions. The structure consisted of little more than a floor and a roof supported by posts. Rosenthal Gymnasium was completed in 1925. Boasting a swimming pool, basketball court, and other amenities, it was praised as one of the best facilities of its kind in the country. In spite of the upgrade to the facilities, the competitions continued to be intramural only.
|Intercollegiate basketball competition, 1963|
In 1963, the final year before WC became UNCG and admitted male students, the school began its first full schedule of intercollegiate women’s basketball competition. The 1963 team was coached by Ellen Griffin, a 1940 graduate of Woman’s College, an instructor in the physical education department, and a nationally renowned golfer. The team won three of its four games against nearby colleges and paved the way for the current Spartans women's basketball team.