A native of Oakland, California, James Smith began his athletic career at the University of Southern California in 1924. Smith coached the United States Pan American Water Polo Team in 1955 at the second Pan American Games in Mexico City. He authored several works on Water Polo and coaching (“Playing and coaching Water Polo”, 1936, 1948 and “the World Encyclopedia of Water Polo” 1989. Smith was an innovator and his creation of the modern day water polo ball was instrumental in the development of the above-the-water, faster-moving, ball-controlled game. From the 1912 Olympics, the leather soccer ball absorbed water and became extremely heavy, slippery and out-of-control when wet. Following the 1936 Olympic in Berlin, Smith developed a ball made with a cotton bladder, which later changed to nylon to improve performance, with a rubber fabric cover. The new ball was red, but by 1948 yellow was adopted for better visibility. It became an official Olympic ball in 1956.