History of Volleyball - Origins and Evolution of the Game of Volleyball

Introduction to Volleyball

Volleyball (originally spelled with two words” volley ball ”) is a popular sport that was originally developed by William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director from Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States, who wanted to develop an indoor sport that was less energetic and rough than by then recently developed basketball (invented in 1891 just 10 miles away from him in city of Springfield, Massachusetts).

Women Playing Volleyball 1943

During the middle of 20th century, professional world of volleyball become much more organized with the arrival of Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) in 1947 who organized the first World Championships (1949 for men and 1952 for women). In the 2nd half of 20th century, Volleyball became very popular in Eastern Europe, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, China and several other Asian countries.

Originally showcased as a demonstration event at 1924 Summer Olympics, volleyball officially became part of Olympic Summer games in 1964.

Origin of Volleyball – Mintonette

After noticing that senior members of his YMCA chapter in Holyoke, Massachusetts could not enjoy more energetic and rough games such as tennis, handball and recently introduced basketball, physical education director William G. Morgan started devising his own set of rules for Mintonette, a precursor of modern-day volleyball.

Morgan took some elements form handball and tennis, and formed first rules for Mintonette that were as following:

  • Match consisted of 9 innings
  • Both teams had to serve three times in each inning
  • No limits on the number of ball contacts
  • No limits on number of players in teams
  • 25 ft × 50 ft (7.6 m × 15.2 m) court size
  • Net was placed 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) high
  • One serving error was allowed

In addition to basic rules for Mintonette, Morgan also had to standardize ball. Seeing that popular ball sizes of that time were not suited for his needs, he commissioned the creation of the new type of ball from sporting equipment company A.G. Spalding & Bros. They created smaller and lighter ball than those used in basketball (25-27 inches circumference, with 9-12 ounces in weight).

A first exhibition match of Morgan’s “mintonette” volleyball happened in 1885, with official balls being introduced between 1986 and 1900. By the time of First World War, American expeditionary forces managed to popularize this sport in Europe, and from there volleyball quickly started spreading all over the world.

The name “mintonette” was not met with great enthusiasm from the very moment that William G.Morgan presented the game to the public on February 9, 1895. While the present delegates were very enthusiastic about the game and it’s simple rules, professor Alfred T. Halsted gave a suggestion that would forever change the history of this sport. He noted that the game should be called “volley ball” since the main point of the game was to “volley” the ball over the net to the opposing team’s side of the court. Morgan agreed to that suggestion immediately.

William G. Morgan – Short Biography

William G. Morgan (1870 - 1942) was an American educator and inventor that is today best known as the father of “Mintonette”, a sport that very quickly after its inception morphed into what we know today as a volleyball.

Born on January 23, 1870 in Lockport, New York, United States, he received high school education at Northfield Mount Hermon School after which he quickly joined YMCA International Training School in Massachusetts (a facility that will later be renamed into Springfield College) as a recruit of James Naismith who was right then in the process of the invention of the famous team sport of basketball. Morgan graduated and became an educator at Holyoke YMCA, where he spent several years of career as a Director of Physical Education. Seeing the impact of basketball, in 1895 he invented a non-contact version of this sport called “Mintonette” that involved bouncing the ball between teams that were separated by a high net. This sport was almost immediately tuned and morphed into modern volleyball.

After success with the development of volleyball, William G. Morgan left YMCA in 1900 to pursue the career of business, which he managed to do when he started working for General Electric and Westinghouse. During his business career, he always remained in touch with the educators and events held at Springfield College, from where his Mintonette emerged and managed to become a worldwide sport in just a few short years.

William G Morgan Inventor Of The Volleyball

He died on December 27, 1942, in his hometown of Lockport, New York, at the age of 72.

Later Developments of Tennis

Very quickly as years went by, Mintonette started evolving with new rules being introduced from all around the world. This included three hits rule, switch to 15 points per set, use of volley serves and other rules such as the inability to hit from the back row.

As the volleyball spread across the Europe during First World War (US troops brought with them more than 16 thousand volleyballs), this sport experienced the meteoric rise of popularity all across the world. Naturally, the first country outside of the US that adapted volleyball was Canada, but quickly after the sport became very popular in Brazil, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Eastern European countries and Asia (especially in China) . In 1947, professional volleyball bouts and tournaments became regulated by Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB).

A popular variation of volleyball also started being played at beaches. This type of outdoor play on very soft surface promoted the use of fewer players, enabling them to engage in more energetic play that promoted jumping to reach difficult hits and falling on the sand. Beach volleyball was played by amateurs until 1987 when it became officially endorsed by FIVB. In just a few years, beach volleyball entered 1996 Summer Olympics.

Volleyball as Summer Olympics Sport

Volleyball 1st entry into Olympic games can be traced all the way back to 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. There, demonstration match was showcased, and organizers debated whether or not they should include this sport in future games. Another more strongly presented promotion for this game was organized in 1957, which took a form of a special volleyball tournament held at the 53rd OIOC session in Sofia, Bulgaria. This event paid off, and volleyball was quickly after that accepted into a program of the upcoming 1964 Summer Olympic in Tokyo, Japan.

After several Olympic tournaments in which public was disinterested in watching placement matches for non-medal positions, the form of volleyball tournament at Olympic Games was changed in 1972 with the addition of “final round” elimination tournament with more traditional quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals match. Over the first several Olympic competitions, the most successful nations were U.S.S.R., Japan, and Poland who managed to surprise Soviets o 1976 by utilizing newly developed back row attack move. In modern years, other countries have managed to reach Olympic medal positions, including Brazil, China, Serbia and Montenegro, Cuba and others.

History of Beach Volleyball

The origin of beach volleyball can be traced all the way back to Waikiki Beach in Hawaii in 1915. In the continental US, beach volleyball became popular in California and Miami during the early 1920s, most prominently in Santa Monica where over 10 clubs form in late 1922, with first inter-club competitions (with six players per team) staring in 1924.

More organized tournament play in the United States gained traction during 1940, while professional teams and players started competing during the 1960s. The first officially sanctioned professional beach volleyball match was staged in 1976, at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, California. After that moment, Pro Beach Volleyball Tour was formed with teams playing in California m Florida, Chicago and Colorado.

Beach volleyball gained much in popularity during the 1980s , which lead to the eventual introduction of this sport on 1996 Olympic Games.

Today, beach volleyball is a global sport played all around the world, with FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) overseeing all of its professional tournaments.