Brief History of Volleyball

The history of volleyball combines sports finesse and ingenuity to create a fast-paced athletic competition.

Too Slow For Basketball
William G. Morgan, education director at the Holyoke, Massachusetts, YMCA watched the game of basketball grow in popularity. His coworker, Dr. James Naismith, invented basketball, but Morgan saw a potential weakness in the game. Older players who weren't in shape had a tough time keeping up with the action up and down the court.

In 1895, just four years after Naismith's game was introduced, Morgan invented "mintonette", a court game similar to badminton. Morgan's creation called for a court to be divided into two sections, using a six foot net. Early games consisted of teams volleying the ball across the net until one team missed. The first mintonette game took place July 7, 1896.

Changes in Play
Players decided a new name was in order, and Alfred Halstead dubbed the game "volley ball" since it described the action of the game. Other changes included limiting the number of players on the court to nine instead of an unlimited number. Eventually, having only six players became the norm.

Originally, teams could volley the ball until it went over the net. The first games used the inside of a basketball for a ball. By 1900, Spalding developed a volleyball similar to today's ball. The height of volleyball nets has also changed somewhat during the years and varies depending on whether a men's or women's match is being played.

Overseas Success
Volleyball's status grew in overseas countries once YMCA employees introduced the game to missionary schools. Soldiers from the United States started playing the game during WWI, and Europeans picked it up quickly.

A Sport for Women
Volleyball proved to be popular among women and men, young and middle-aged. High schools introduced the game, as did colleges. In 1949, the first U.S. national volleyball championship for women was held. And in 1952, Moscow hosted the first international championships for women. Today, volleyball is the premier competitive fall sport for females.

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