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History of volleyball


Volleyball was created by William G. Morgan, a physical education director of the YMCA on the 9th of February, 1985 in the town of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Borrowing elements from other sports, such as tennis and handball, volleyball was intended as a less physically demanding alternative to basketball (which was first played just 4 years previously and was rapidly gaining in popularity), as a means to offer a good workout for people that would otherwise be put off by the latter’s fast-paced gameplay and occasional violence.

Initially called Mintonette, the first rules drawn up by Morgan stipulated that a match should consist of 9 innings, with 3 serves per team for each inning, and an unlimited number of passes between team members before sending the ball towards the opposition.

Hitting the net was penalized with the loss of a point unless this was done during a first try serve since the rules allowed for repeating a serve. There was no limit imposed on the size of each team, but the dimensions of the playing field were set at 25 ft x 50 ft, which did impose some practical restrictions. The original height of the net was placed at 6 ft 6 in.

As if there was a need to mention, the objective of the game is to have the ball touch the ground in your opponent’s court, thus scoring a point. The fact that the ball could be passed around between any number of team members before being thrown over the net allowed players to perform sudden “hits” towards the opposite side of the court, thus adding a tactical dimension to the game.

The name “volleyball” was given early on in its history, during the first exhibition match at the International YMCA Training School (present-day Springfield College) in 1896, when Alfred Halstead, one of the game’s early promoters, noticed the “volleying” trajectory of the ball.

By the early 1900s, volleyball will spread all over the US and Canada, to the Orient and throughout the Southern Hemisphere, wherever the YMCA had chapters and the two colleges associated with it (Springfield and George Williams) held local societies. It arrives in Cuba in 1905, to Puerto Rico in 1909, to Paraguay in 1912, and by 1913 it’s popular enough in Asia to be featured in the program of the Far Eastern Games held in Manila.   

The American Expeditionary Force further contributes to the game’s popularity by distributing 16.000 volleyballs to their troops and allies at the end of WWI. This action will effectively introduce the new American sport to Western Europe.  

There were several changes in rules throughout the time, first of which being brought by the YMCA through Alfred Halstead immediately after the game’s inception.

The official 25” ball is said to have been provided by A.G. Spalding in 1896, to replace the basketball that was proving too heavy, but there are claims that the regulation ball was only introduced in 1900.

Between 1916 and 1920, members of the Elwood S. Brown Society in the Philippines introduce new regulation regarding the skill and power of the set and the spike. In 1919 the game was reduced from 21 to 15 points. The number of authorized contacts with the ball will be fixed at three in 1922.

In 1918, the number of players on each team was limited to six in order to solve the over-crowding problem characteristic of the early years, but for some decades after, Asian countries will continue to use “Brown” rules, which required 16 players.

As an indication of the popularity the game had reached, by 1916, a Spalding Volleyball Guide article estimates that around 200,000 people are playing volleyball worldwide: 70,000 of those are part of the YMCA with a further 50,000 belonging to its female branch, the YWCA; 25,000 in schools and 10,000 in colleges.

In 1916, Volleyball took its first steps towards becoming a collegiate sport, when the National Collegiate Athletic Association publishes its rules together with a series of articles to be distributed among university students.

Despite the game’s wide geographic reach, volleyball rules weren’t standardized on an international level until after the Second World War. International competitions were being held, however, but these were few in number and hamstrung by the fact that each team had to adapt to a previously unfamiliar set of rules, agreed upon ad-hoc.

It was an easier matter with national championships, among which those played in Eastern European countries had the highest level of competitivity. This holds up to the present day, with Russia and other members of the former Eastern Bloc often dominating international competitions.

The first international governing body — the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) — was established in 1947, with the first world championships being held in 1947 for men and 1952 for women. Besides Eastern Europe, the sport is also commonly practiced in Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, East and SE Asia, with its popularity in the US being on the increase.

As an Olympic discipline, Volleyball was first played in 1964, during the Summer Games in Tokyo. However, its history with the Olympics traces back to 1924, when an American team offered a demonstrative match at the Paris Games. Efforts to have the sport included in the Olympic calendar begun soon after the formation of the FIVB, and culminated with a special tournament being held in 1957 in Sofia, Bulgaria, to coincide with the IOC’s 53rd session.

Today, volleyball is among the big five international team sports, and the FIVB is the largest sporting federation in the world, with 220 affiliates.  




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