On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, William G. Morgan,
a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called
Mintonette as a pastime to be played preferably indoors and by
any number of players. The game took some of its characteristics
from tennis and handball. Another indoor sport, basketball, was
catching on in the area, having been invented just ten miles
away in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts only four years
before. Mintonette (as volleyball was then known) was designed
to be an indoor sport less rough than basketball for older members
of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort.
The first rules, written down by William G. Morgan
himself, called for a net 6 feet 6 inches high; a 25 x 50 foot
of players; a match composed of 9 innings with 3 serves for each
team in each inning; and no limit to the number of ball contacts
allowed each team before sending the ball to the opponents’ court.
In case of a serving error, a second try was allowed (as in tennis),
and a ball hitting the net was to be considered a foul (with
loss of the point or a side-out)--except in the case of the first-try
serve (as in tennis). To protect the fingers of the ladies, they
were allowed to catch the ball and then throw it again.
After an observer noticed the volleying nature of the game at
its first exhibition match in 1896 played at the Springfield YMCA,
the game quickly became known as volleyball (originally spelled
as two words). Volleyball rules, along with rules for basketball,
were slightly modified by the Springfield YMCA and spread around
the country to other YMCA locations.
An international federation, the Fédération
Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), was founded in 1947, and
the first World
Championships were held in 1949 (men) and 1952 (women). Volleyball
was added to the program of the Olympic Games in 1964, and has
been part ever since. Beach volleyball became a FIVB-endorsed variation
in 1986 and was added to the Olympic program at the 1996 Summer
The first foreign country to adapt volleyball was Canada, in 1900.
The sport is now popular in Brazil, Europe, Russia and neighboring
countries including China and the rest of Asia, as well as the
United States. The FIVB estimates that 1 in 6 people in the world
participate in or observe indoor volleyball, beach volleyball,
or backyard (recreational) volleyball.
Volleyball in the United States
The game is popular with both male and female participants of all
ages; however, almost all high schools and colleges have female
volleyball teams; signifigantly fewer have male teams. Some claim
this is due in part to the provisions of Title IX requiring institutions
to fund men's and women's sports equally overall but not necessarily
equally for an individual sport.
As a professional sport, volleyball has had limited success. Numerous
attempts have been made to start professional indoor women's volleyball
leagues. In 1987, the latest attempt went bankrupt due to lack
of fan interest and hence advertiser interest. Two-man and two-woman
professional beach volleyball leagues have done better, most notably
the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), but none have
gained a wide following that would get them coverage by the major
television networks. It is thought that one of the reasons for
this failure is the small stadium audiences that beach volleyball
competition attracts, which convey a degree of unpopularity to
television audiences. Part of the reason for such small stadium
audiences is the difficulty of erecting high stands on loose sand.
Those trying to make beach volleyball succeed as a professional
sport are trying to pattern it after professional tennis. Those
seeking to make indoor volleyball a professional sport are trying
to pattern it after professional basketball. Some think a possible
breakthrough for professional indoor volleyball will come with
the new emergence of indoor sand volleyball.
Today volleyball is the one of the most popular girls sports,
and strong high school and club programs are found throughout the
country. Arguably the biggest event in high school-age sports,
the annual Volleyball Festival in Reno, Nevada, (formerly in Sacramento,
California) draws over 10,000 players for its five-day tournament.
Boys volleyball is popular on a regional basis, and by far the
greatest number of boys teams are in Southern California.