History of Volleyball

The game of volleyball has evolved much in the century since its invention, and it has come a long way to claim worldwide following with millions of professional volleyball players present in every corner of the earth. However, the game of volleyball had a much humbler beginning than what many people would care to believe today, and it has in fact travelled much from the days when it was played by a handful few in the YMCA gymnasium of Holyoke in Massachusetts, USA. In fact, this game has had phenomenal success in the past few decades, with numerous global events being held. These events including FIVB World Championships, the FIVB World League, the FIVB World Grand Prix, the FIVB World Cup, and the FIVB Grand Champions Cup, in addition to regular presence in the Olympic Games, which all serve as a testimony to its ever-growing popularity and success. Thus, it would be quite interesting for the lovers of this game to become knowledgeable about the history of volleyball, and the way it grew from being the pastime of few to a worldwide phenomenon with more than 220 nations affiliated to its global body, FIVB, making the largest such sporting federation on the planet.

William G. Morgan invented Volleyball in 1895
William G. Morgan invented the game of Volleyball in 1895

The Beginning History of Volleyball

The man responsible for the invention of the game of volleyball is William G. Morgan, who originally named this game as Mintonette, but then the name volleyball was intended to enter through the archives of history. Morgan was born in the State of New York, and carried out his undergraduate education at the Springfield College, which belonged to the YMCA or the Young Men’s Christian Association. It was here that Morgan had a chance to meet and interact with James Naismith, the same man who had invented the game of basketball in the year 1891. This interaction would go down as an extremely important event in the archives of volleyball history because a few years down the line Morgan would come up with the notion of inventing a game of his own, the modern day volleyball.

William G. Morgan moved to the Auburn YMCA in the state of Maine after graduating for the summer of 1895, but then decided to move on to the Holyoke YMCA in Massachusetts. At the Holyoke YMCA, Morgan was appointed the director of physical education, and it was there that he first had the opportunity and responsibility to establish, develop, and direct excessive programs for the male adults. Morgan became widely popular in his new role, and he began to attract large number of people to his class. However, he realized the need to develop a game, which will provide holistic workout while also providing enough variety in the program to retain the interest of the participants. He further realized that even though basketball was an excellent form of competitive recreational for the young people, he needed something a lot less physical and demanding for the older bunch to play and cheer. This was an important point in the history of volleyball when Morgan seriously started considering devising a new game for the people attending his classes.

Developmental Phase in History

Volleyball lessons at Holyoke gym - YMCA
Volleyball lessons at Holyoke gym – YMCA

Morgan developed the game of volleyball from the scratch because he was quite aware that no other game existed at that time which could serve as a template for his own design. Initially, Morgan thought of tennis, but the sheer number of accessories and other facilities required made this idea a stillborn. According to the volleyball history, Morgan had also thought of adopting the net, and set it at a height of 6 feet, 6 inches above the ground, or just above the head of an average man. He also tried a number of different balls for the new game, which included a basketball bladder, which was found to be too light and slow, and even the entire basketball that they found to be too big and bulky for their requirements. Finally, Morgan decided to get his ball made from the company, A.G. Spalding & Bros, which manufactured at their factory near Chicopee, which was in Massachusetts.

The ball that Morgan received performed in a satisfactory manner for his game, and it came with a rubber inner tube and leather covering on the outside. Moreover, the ball had a circumference of not less than 25 inches but not more than 27 inches, while the weight was between the range of 9 and 12 ounces to be accurate. Morgan next focused upon the need to develop the basic concept of this new game, and asked for help from his friends, John Lynch and Dr. Frank Wood, to help develop the first 10 rules. This was a monumental development in the history of volleyball because the game not only had a fixed ball but also a set of standard rules to guide and govern it.

The first showcasing of the newly developed game of volleyball positions at the conference of YMCA Directors of Physical Education held at new game stadium in Springfield was a grand success. The audience appreciated the demonstration made by two teams, comprising of five men each, as well as, some loyal fans, with J.J. Curran, the mayor of Holyoke captaining one of the sides, while the chief of the fire brigade of Holyoke, John Lynch captained the other, with both teams securing permanent mention in the annals of volleyball history. Morgan further explained the primary objective of this game, which consisted of passing the ball from one side of the net to the other while ensuring that it does not touch the ground on the way. He also explained that he had designed this game keeping in mind the gymnasia or exercise halls, but that players could enjoy it in the open air as well.

The game changed its name to Volley Ball from the earlier Mintonette upon suggestion from Professor Alfred T. Halstead, and then later from Volley Ball to the present form of Volleyball. However, the United States Volleyball Association has continued with its earlier acronym of USVBA.

Spread & Global History of Volleyball

In 1964, Volleyball was introduced to the Olympics, at  Tokyo.
In 1964, Volleyball was introduced to the Olympics, at Tokyo.

The game of volleyball attracted attention from all quarters, and rapidly became a countrywide sensation. It made its first appearance overseas during the East Asian Games, and an offensive style of passing the ball was introduced in Manila, Philippines in 1916. The offensive style, known as setting and spiking, consisting of passing the in high trajectory and then hitting it in a forceful manner revolutionized the way the game was played till then. However, despite the widening reach of this game, there were still no standard rules available, which was necessary for conducting any tournament plays. Thus, the United States Volleyball Association or USVBA was formed in the year 1928, an important year in the history of volleyball.

How Beach Volleyball First Started

The game of Beach Volleyball was first played in Hawaii (1915)
The game of Beach Volleyball was first played in Hawaii (1915)

The game has made rapid progress since then, with the first two-man beach volleyball game being played within a couple of years of setting up the national association, and the first two-man beach volleyball tournament and the initial volleyball world championship taking place in the following decade. The Beach Volleyball game first started in Hawaii in the year 1915, when Canoe Club and the Outrigger Beach association decided to set up a volleyball court on the Waikiki Beach. Moreover, the first beach volleyball association made its appearance in California in the year 1965, while the association of professional players, the American Volleyball Professionals or AVP was founded in 1983. However, among the most significant milestones in the annals of volleyball history is its maiden appearance as an official sport in the Olympic Games of 1964 in Tokyo, Japan.

The two-man beach volleyball has been an official fixture at the Olympic Games since 1996, and the women’s teams enjoy some of the most widespread viewership of the all disciplines present in this quadrennial event. The game enjoys massive following in the present age, with more than 800 million volleyball players being present worldwide, while some 46 million of them belong to the USA. Studying the history of volleyball reveals how a game that began as part of exercise routine has emerged as a global sporting discipline, and liked by many people worldwide.


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