What Started It All – The History of Volleyball
Surprisingly, one of the most well loved sports in the world is also relatively young. Despite the game’s youth, it has gone through a wide variety of changes and evolution as a part of its rich history.
Believe it or not, but at one time there wasn’t Asics or Nike women’s volleyball shoes or even volleyball uniforms for sale anywhere, let alone online!
To fully understand and appreciate how much the game has changed and how much work was put into to make it successful, you need to search back to the very origin of Volleyball, and study when and why changes were made.
Just over 100 years ago, in 1895, William G. Morgan developed the first game of Volleyball. At the time, Morgan dubbed the game “Mintonette”. “Mintonette” was created for business men as a game that involved less physical contact at the chapter of the YMCA where he worked at in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Morgan borrowed aspects from several games to create his own game. The first aspect was from tennis, borrowing the net. Instead of the standard net, however, he raised it to be 6 foot 6 inches high, so it was just over the heads of average men. Other sports he borrowed from include basketball, baseball and handball. During one of the demonstration games of the sport, one of the spectators commented the game was more about volleying, and the games name was changed to Volleyball.
That was only the beginning.
In 1896, the first official game of Volleyball was played at Springfield College. This game signified the first real take-off of the sport, and led into further games being played at a variety of different Colleges. In the year 1900, Volleyball had taken off enough where a special ball was designed just for the game. Another feat also accomplished in 1900 was that the YMCA took the sport from America to Canada, the Orient and the southern hemisphere. Five years later, Volleyball also spread to Cuba. This spreading was what signified the start of the Volleyball era. Unlike most sports, Volleyball moved International in its early days, allowing for the game to evolve to meet the players needs world wide.
In 1907, Volleyball received its first recognition of being one of the most popular sports at the Playground of America convention. This was the first recognition the sport received, and helped to further its popularity. In the following ten years, the YMCA continued to spread the sport to Brazil, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. In 1913, the first official Volleyball competition was held in the Far Eastern Games.
1916 saw Volleyball have its first true evolution. In the Philippines, the set and spike offensive pass was introduced, and game play was altered to involve this new form. The Filipinos developed the “bomba”, which is the kill, and the named the hitter the “bomberino”. In this same year, the NCAA was invited by the YMCA to alter the rules of the game, and it was initiated into Colleges and other schools as a part of the standard physical education courses and intramural programs. A year later, the scoring system was also adjusted so that a game ended after 15 points instead of 21. This allowed more games to be played within the same span of time, in an attempt to make the sessions a little shorter for the players.
Three short years later, in 1919, the American Expeditionary Forces donated 16,000 Volleyballs to the troops, which provided a stimulus for growth in foreign countries. With this rise in growth of the sport, new rules began being developed. A year later, the three hits per side rule and the back row attack rules were put into place.
By 1928, players and fans of the sport realized that “official” tournament rules and regulations were required. The United States Volleyball Association was formed, and the first U.S. Open Volleyball tournament was held. The U.S. Open allowed for squads that were not YMCA sanctioned to participate, which was a breakthrough at the time. This evolution permitted lovers of the sport to fully enjoy the game without having to be tied to the organization that created it.
After 1928, the game of Volleyball was forever changed. With the “official” rules set down, and a tournament that wasn’t private to the YMCA, the popularity of the sport was allowed to sky rocket. The Men’s U.S. Open was held every year thereafter, with the exception of three years. 1943, 1944 and 1989 did not have the yearly tournaments, due to wars and other obstacles.
In 1934, Volleyball saw another extensive change through the recognition of official referees to oversee the games. This change in particular drastically altered the calls and the fairness of the game.
The 1940’s held several special events for Volleyball. Not only was the forearm pass introduced into the game, the first world championship Volleyball game was held. It was during this time that the volleyball movement saw fruition, and squads from all over the world could find out who was the best. This became a yearly event, allowing for more publicity of the sport, which aided in its growth. Around this time, over 50 million people were playing world wide, in over 60 different countries.
By 1964, Volleyball had spread enough to warrant introduction into the Olympic games. The first games took place in Tokyo, where a rubber carcass with leather panels was used for the ball. This ball became the one that would be used in most modern competitions. As a part of the Olympic games, Volleyball was allowed to grow even further, until it secured a place for itself as the second most played game in the world.
Despite this high level of popularity, it wasn’t until 1986 that the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association, or the WPVA, was formed. With the growing rate of professional interest by both sexes, Volleyball was finally allowed to reach its full potential for popularity. Elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges all invested into the game by providing courses in Volleyball in their physical education, so that the sport was known in most households around the world.
While still trailing behind Soccer for popularity, Volleyball has done extremely well for a game with roots so young.