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What Started It All – The History of Volleyball
Surprisingly, one of the most beloved sports in the world is also relatively young. Despite the game’s youth, it has undergone many changes and developments as part of its rich history.
Believe it or not, at one point there weren’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 went into making it successful, you must search back to the very origins of volleyball and study when and why changes made.
Just over 100 years ago, in 1895, William G. Morgan developed the first volleyball game. At the time, Morgan dubbed the game “Mintonette”. “Mintonette” was created for businessmen as a game that involved less physical contact in the branch of the YMCA where he worked 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 feet 6 inches high, so it was just above the heads of average men. Other sports he borrowed from include basketball, baseball and handball. During one of the sport’s demonstration games, one of the spectators commented that the game was more about volleyball, and the name of the game was changed to Volleyball.
That was only the beginning.
In 1896, the first official game of Volleyball was played at Springfield College. This game marked the first real start of the sport and led to additional games being played at a number of different colleges. In the year 1900, Volleyball had gained enough momentum that a special ball was designed for the game. Another feat also achieved 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 spread was what marked the start of the volleyball era. Unlike most sports, Volleyball moved internationally in its early days, allowing the game to evolve to meet the needs of players worldwide.
In 1907, volleyball received its first recognition for being one of the most popular sports at the Playground of America convention. This was the first recognition the sport received and helped boost 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.
In 1916, Volleyball experienced its first true development. In the Philippines, the offensive set and spike pass were introduced and the game was changed to involve this new form. The Philippines developed the “bomba”, which is the killer, and named the hitter the “bomberino”. In the same year, the NCAA was invited by the YMCA to change the rules of the game, and it was initiated in colleges and other schools as part of the regular physical education courses and intramural programs. A year later, the scoring system was also adjusted so that a match ended at 15 points instead of 21. This allowed for more matches to be played within the same amount 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, providing a stimulus for growth in foreign countries. With this increase in the growth of the sport, new rules began to be developed. A year later the three hits per side rule and the back row attack rules were put in 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 US Open Volleyball tournament was held. The US Open allowed non-YMCA-sanctioned teams to participate, which was a breakthrough at the time. This development allowed 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, and a tournament not private to the YMCA, the popularity of the sport was allowed to skyrocket. The Men’s US Open was held every year thereafter, with the exception of three years. 1943, 1944 and 1989 did not have the annual tournaments due to wars and other obstacles.
In 1934, volleyball saw another major change through the recognition of official referees to oversee the matches. This change in particular drastically changed the calls and fairness of the game.
The 1940s held several special events for volleyball. Not only was the forearm pass introduced to the game, the first volleyball world championship was held. It was during this time that the volleyball movement saw fruit and teams from all over the world could find out who was the best. This became an annual event that allowed for more publicity for the sport, helping its growth. Around this time, over 50 million people worldwide played in over 60 different countries.
By 1964, volleyball had spread enough to warrant introduction to the Olympic Games. The first games took place in Tokyo, where a rubber hull with leather panels was used for the ball. This ball became the one that would be used in most modern competitions. As part of the Olympic Games, volleyball was allowed to grow even more until it secured a place as the second most played game in the world.
Despite this high level of popularity, it was not until 1986 that the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association, or WPVA, was formed. With the growing professional interest of both sexes, volleyball was finally allowed to reach its full potential for popularity. Elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as high schools, all invested in the game by offering courses in volleyball in their physical education, so the sport was known in most households around the world.
While it still lags behind soccer in popularity, volleyball has done extremely well for a game with roots so young.
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