Professor Jiri Stelzer, Ph.D.
Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, USA



    Designed as an indoor sport for businessmen who found the new game of basketball too vigorous, volleyball was invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan, physical director of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Holyoke, Mass. He called it "mintonette," until a professor from Springfield College (Springfield, Mass.), noting the volleying nature of play, proposed the name of "volleyball." The first rules were written by Morgan and printed in the first edition of the Official Handbook of the Athletic League of the Young Men's Christian Associations of North America (1897). The game soon proved to have wide appeal for both sexes in schools, playgrounds, the armed forces, and other organizations in the United States, and it was subsequently introduced to other countries.

    In 1916 rules were issued jointly by the YMCA and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The first national U.S. tournament was conducted by the National YMCA Physical Education Committee in New York City in 1922. The United States Volleyball Association (USVBA) was formed in 1928 and recognized as the rules-making, governing body in the United States. From 1928 the USVBA--now known as USA Volleyball (USAV)--conducted annual national men's and senior men's (age 35 and older) volleyball championships except during 1944 and 1945 at the end of World War II. Its women's division was started in 1949, and senior women's (age 30 and older) was added in 1977. Other U.S. national events are conducted by member groups of the USAV such as the YMCA and the NCAA.

    Volleyball was introduced to Europe by U.S. troops in World War I, and national organizations were formed. The Fédération Internationale de Volley Ball (FIVB; International Volleyball Federation) was organized in 1947 in Paris with the USVBA as one of the 13 charter members. FIVB membership grew to 210 member countries by the late 20th century.

    International volleyball competition had been initiated in 1913 in the first Far East Games, in Manila. During the early 1900s and continuing until after World War II, volleyball in Asia was played on a larger court, with a lower net, and nine players on a team. Participants played fixed positions instead of rotating clockwise after gaining service; they returned to their positions after their time to serve.

    The FIVB-sponsored world volleyball championships (for men only in 1949; for both men and women in 1952 and succeeding years) led to acceptance of standardized playing rules and officiating. Volleyball became an Olympic sport for both men and women at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

    By the mid-1990s Soviet teams had won more world and Olympic titles, both men's and women's, than any other nation. Their success was attributed to widespread grass-roots interest and well-organized play and instruction at all levels of skill. The popularity of the game in the Soviet Union was proved by 40,000 spectators attending single matches at the 1952 World Championships in Moscow.

    A highly publicized Japanese women's team, Olympic champions in 1964, reflected the interest of private industry in sport. Young women working in the same company gave their entire free time and energy to conditioning, team practice, and competition under expert and demanding coaching. They were encouraged by the Japanese Volleyball Association. This women's team made its mark in international competition, winning the world championship in 1962, 1966, and 1967, in addition to the 1964 Olympics. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the United States won its first Olympic volleyball medals when its women's team captured the silver medal and its men's team won the gold medal.

    European championships were long dominated by Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Interest is growing in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout the South Pacific. The Pan American Games (involving South, Central, and North America) added volleyball in 1955, and Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and the United States are frequent contenders for top honours. In Asia, China, Japan, and Korea dominate competition.

    A four-year cycle of international volleyball events, recommended by the FIVB, began in 1969 with World Cup championships, to be held in the year following the Olympic Games; the second year is the World Championships; in the third come the regional events (e.g., European championships, Asian Games, African Games, Pan-American Games, etc.); and in the fourth year come the Olympic Games.

    Beach volleyball--usually played, as its name implies, on a sand court with two players per team--was introduced in California in 1930. The first official beach volleyball tournament was held in 1948 at Will Rogers State Beach, Santa Monica, Calif., and the first FIVB-sanctioned world championship was held in 1986 at Rio de Janeiro. Beach volleyball was added to the roster of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga.


    In 1995, the sport of Volleyball was 100 years old!

    The sport originated in the United States, and is now just achieving the type of popularity in the U.S. that it has received on a global basis, where it ranks behind only soccer among participation sports.

    Today there are more than 46 million Americans who play volleyball. There are 800 million players worldwide who play Volleyball at least once a week.

    In 1900, a special ball was designed for the sport.

    1900 - YMCA spread volleyball to Canada, the Orient, and the Southern Hemisphere.

    1905 - YMCA spread volleyball to Cuba

    1907 Volleyball was presented at the Playground of America convention as one of the most popular sports

    1909 - YMCA spread volleyball to Puerto Rico

    1912 - YMCA spread volleyball to Uruguay

    1913 - Volleyball competition held in Far Eastern Games

    1917 - YMCA spread volleyball to Brazil

    In 1916, in the Philippines, an offensive style of passing the ball in a high trajectory to be struck by another player (the set and spike) were introduced. The Filipinos developed the "bomba" or kill, and called the hitter a "bomberino".

    1916 - The NCAA was invited by the YMCA to aid in editing the rules and in promoting the sport. Volleyball was added to school and college physical education and intramural programs.

    In 1917, the game was changed from 21 to 15 points.

    1919 American Expeditionary Forces distributed 16,000 volleyballs to it's troops and allies. This provided a stimulus for the growth of volleyball in foreign lands.

    In 1920, three hits per side and back row attack rules were instituted.

    In 1922, the first YMCA national championships were held in Brooklyn, NY. 27 teams from 11 states were represented.

    In 1928, it became clear that tournaments and rules were needed, the United States Volleyball Association (USVBA, now USA Volleyball) was formed. The first U.S. Open was staged, as the field was open to non-YMCA squads.

    1930's Recreational sports programs became an important part of American life

    In 1930, the first two-man beach game was played.

    In 1934, the approval and recognition of national volleyball referees.

    In 1937, at the AAU convention in Boston, action was taken to recognize the U.S. Volleyball Association as the official national governing body in the U.S.

    Late 1940s Forearm pass introduced to the game (as a desperation play) Most balls played with overhand pass

    1946 A study of recreation in the United States showed that volleyball ranked fifth among team sports being promoted and organized

    In 1947, the Federation Internationale De Volley-Ball (FIVB) was founded in Paris.

    In 1948, the first two-man beach tournament was held.

    In 1949, the first World Championships were held in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

    1949 USVBA added a collegiate division, for competitive college teams. For the first ten years collegiate competition was sparse. Teams formed only through the efforts of interested students and instructors. Many teams dissolved when the interested individuals left the college. Competitive teams were scattered, with no collegiate governing bodies providing leadership in the sport.

    1951 - Volleyball was played by over 50 million people each year in over 60 countries

    1955 - Pan American Games included volleyball

    1957 - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) designated volleyball as an Olympic team sport, to be included in the 1964 Olympic Games.

    1959 - International University Sports Federation (FISU) held the first University Games in Turin, Italy. Volleyball was one of the eight competitions held.

    1960 Seven midwestern institutions formed the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA)

    1964Southern California Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (SCVIA) was formed in California

    1960's new techniques added to the game included - the soft spike (dink), forearm pass (bump), blocking across the net, and defensive diving and rolling.

    In 1964, Volleyball was introduced to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

    The Japanese volleyball used in the 1964 Olympics, consisted of a rubber carcass with leather panelling. A similarly constructed ball is used in most modern competition.

    In 1965, the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) was formed.

    1968 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) made volleyball their fifteenth competitive sport.

    1969 The Executive Committee of the NCAA proposed addition of volleyball to its program.

    In 1974, the World Championships in Mexico were telecast in Japan.

    In 1975, the US National Women's team began a year-round training regime in Pasadena, Texas (moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, Coto de Caza and Fountain Valley, CA in 1980, and San Diego, CA in 1985).

    In 1977, the US National Men's team began a year-round training regime in Dayton, Ohio (moved to San Diego, CA in 1981).

    In 1983, the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was formed.

    In 1984, the US won their first medals at the Olympics in Los Angeles. The Men won the Gold, and the Women the Silver.

    In 1986, the Women's Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA) was formed.

    In 1987, the FIVB added a Beach Volleyball World Championship Series.

    In 1988, the US Men repeated the Gold in the Olympics in Korea.

    In 1989, the FIVB Sports Aid Program was created.

    In 1990, the World League was created.

    In 1992, the Four Person Pro Beach League was started in the United States.

    In 1994, Volleyball World Wide, created.

    In 1995, the sport of Volleyball was 100 years old!

    In 1996, 2-person beach volleyball was added to the Olympics