The History & Evolution of Volleyball

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  • 0:01 A Brand New Game
  • 0:38 Early Volleyball
  • 1:49 Modern Volleyball
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

If someone asked you what the most popular sports in the world are, would you name volleyball? It is actually just behind soccer as the largest participant sport worldwide. In this lesson, you'll discover more interesting facts about the history and development of this global phenomenon.

A Brand New Game

You have probably made up a game with your friends at some point in your life. You were all hanging out, you had a ball, and you decided to create a game tailored specifically to your group of pals. You took some inspiration from this sport, a little bit from that sport, and threw in some of your own creativity to boot.

Now, imagine if you did that, and your game turned into one of the most popular sports on the planet. That's pretty much what happened with volleyball. Originally a mish-mash of four sports created for a group of guys at the YMCA, it is currently played by more people around the globe than any other sport except soccer.

Early Volleyball

Volleyball was invented by William G. Morgan in 1895. Morgan was the director of physical education at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Holyoake, Massachusetts. Basketball, invented in 1891, was very popular with the youth, but was too intense for many of the YMCA's older members. So, Morgan decided to create a game inspired by basketball but that did not require as much running or physical contact. Though the rules and structure of volleyball have since changed, it was originally a blend of basketball, baseball, handball, and tennis. Morgan used the ball from basketball, the net from tennis, raised 6.5 feet off the floor, and the organization of baseball with 9 innings and 3 servers per inning.

Early forms of the game resembled badminton, so Morgan originally called it mintonette, meaning 'little minton.' At a conference for all the YMCA directors in 1896, Morgan and two of his teams demonstrated the new sport. A spectator noted that teams appeared to volley the ball back and forth over the net. He proposed that the gamed be called 'volley ball' instead. In 1952, the United States Volleyball Association (USVBA) officially declared the name one word, volleyball.

Modern Volleyball

Early mintonette has since evolved into the sport that is played by 800 million people around the world today. Since a basketball was too heavy and slow, the volleyball was designed especially for the sport in 1900. The set and spike, the fundamental offensive technique where one player hits the ball into a position that allows another player to attack, was developed in the Philippines in 1916. Four years later, the 'three hits per side' rule was established.

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