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The History of Volleyball

Volleyball is a popular sport where teams separated by a high net hit a ball back and forth between the teams. Every team is allowed three hits to get the ball over the net to the other half. A point is scored if the ball hits the opponents' court, if the opponents commit a fault, or if they fail to return the ball properly.

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 court; any number 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 Olympics.

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.


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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