History of volleyball

Like basketball, volleyball was invented in Massachusetts in the late-19th century. The two sports have other close ties. Volleyball’s inventor, William G. Morgan was a former-student of James Naismith, the creator of basketball. And like Naismith, Morgan was affiliated with the YMCA. In 1895, in his role as physical education director of the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Morgan invented volleyball, with the intent to provide his clients with an indoor game to play in the winter.

The original game, which used a badminton net, was played by two teams, which pushed a slow, large ball back-and-forth over the net. It originally was called “mintonette,” and borrowing from baseball, the game consisted of nine “innings,” with each team getting three “outs” before it lost it serve.

In 1896, at the suggestion of Dr. Alfred Halstead of Springfield College, the name of the game was changed to “volleyball.” The sport quickly developed from there. Promoted by the YMCA, and aided by the introduction of American soldiers in Cuba and Asia in the early 1900s, and in Europe and Africa during World War I, volleyball quickly became popular across the globe as well.

The game was included in the first Far Eastern Games in Manila, Philippines in 1913. At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, the program included a demonstration of “American” sports, and volleyball was among them. In 1961, the IOC voted to added volleyball to the Olympic program in 1964. The Soviet Union won the first men’s competition and Czechoslovakia finished second. Japan, on home soil, won the women’s gold medal and helped revolutionize the game, using the precision passing and intensity that are trademarks of the game today.

Leading nations

The Soviet Union/Unified Team remains the all-time medal leader in Olympic volleyball. In the six Olympics in which they competed between 1964 and 1988, the Soviets won a medal in both the men’s and women’s tournament at every Games. Brazil, Japan and the United States are not far from overtaking Soviet Union/Unified Team’s mark of 13 medals, as Brazil and Japan both have nine volleyball medals and the U.S. has eight. The Brazilians have become quite the power in recent years, claiming three straight medals on the men’s side and back-to-back golds on the women’s side. With the Games in Rio in 2016, volleyball will likely be a coveted ticket, as volleyball is considered the second- most popular sport in Brazil after soccer.