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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 seen a wide variety of changes and developments as part of its rich history.
Believe it or not, but there was a time when there were no 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 has gone into making it a success, you need to go back to the very origins 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 businessmen as a game that involved less physical contact at the YMCA chapter 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 netting, however, he raised it to 6ft 6in tall, so it was just above the heads of average men. Other sports he drew inspiration 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 volleying, and the name of the game was changed to Volleyball.
It was only the beginning.
In 1896, the first official volleyball game was played at Springfield College. This game marked the sport’s first real take-off and led to other games being played at a variety of different colleges. By 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 brought the sport from America to Canada, the Orient and in the southern hemisphere. Five years later, volleyball has also spread to Cuba. This spread marked the beginning of the volleyball era. Unlike most sports, volleyball became international in its early days, allowing the game to evolve to meet the needs of players around the world.
In 1907, volleyball received its first recognition as one of the most popular sports at the Playground of America convention. This was the first recognition the sport received and helped to increase its popularity. Over the next ten years, the YMCA continued to broadcast the sport in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay. In 1913, the first official volleyball competition was held at the Far Eastern Games.
1916 saw Volleyball experience its first real evolution. In the Philippines, the offensive set and spike pass was introduced, and the game was modified to involve this new form. The Filipinos developed the “bomba”, which is the kill, and named the hitter the “bomberino”. That same year, the NCAA was asked by the YMCA to change the rules of the game, and it was initiated in colleges and other schools as part of standard physical education classes 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 in the same amount of time, with the aim of shortening the sessions for players.
Three short years later, in 1919, the American Expeditionary Forces donated 16,000 volleyballs to the troops, which spurred growth in foreign countries. With this increase in the growth of the sport, new rules began to be developed. A year later, the three-hit-per-side rule and backline offensive rules were put in place.
In 1928, players and fans of the sport realized that “official” tournament rules and regulations were needed. The United States Volleyball Association was formed and the first US Open volleyball tournament was held. The US Open allowed teams that were not sanctioned by the YMCA to participate, which was a breakthrough at the time. This evolution has allowed sports lovers to fully enjoy the game without having to be tied to the organization that created it.
After 1928, the game of volleyball changed forever. With the “official” rules established and a tournament that was not private to the YMCA, the popularity of the sport was able to skyrocket. The men’s US Open has been 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 experienced another significant change with the recognition of official referees to oversee games. This change in particular drastically altered the calls and the fairness of the game.
The 1940s brought several special events for volleyball. Not only was the forearm pass introduced into the game, but the first volleyball world championship match took place. It was during this time that the volleyball movement came to fruition and teams around the world were able to find out who was the best. This became an annual event, allowing greater publicity for the sport, which contributed to its growth. At that time, over 50 million people were playing around the world, in over 60 different countries.
By 1964, volleyball had grown enough to warrant its introduction to the Olympics. The first games were held 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 part of the Olympics, volleyball was allowed to develop even further, until it secured a place 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 WPVA, was formed. With the increasing rate of professional interest from both genders, volleyball was finally able to reach its full potential for popularity. Elementary, middle and high schools, and colleges all invested in the game by including Volleyball lessons in their physical education, so the sport was known in most homes around the world.
Although still trailing football in popularity, volleyball has done extremely well for a game with such young roots.
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