Volleyball has gone a long way from its inception in 1895 in the dusty-old YMCA gymnasium in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, by visionary William G. Morgan. It has witnessed the beginning of two centuries as well as the commencement of a new millennium. Volleyball is currently one of the major five international sports, and the FIVB is the world’s largest international sporting federation, with 220 associated national federations.
Volleyball has grown at an unparalleled rate in the previous two decades. With the enormous success of world events like as the FIVB World Championships, FIVB World League, FIVB World Grand Prix, FIVB World Cup, and FIVB Grand Champions Cup, as well as the Olympic Games, international participation at all levels continues to rise rapidly.
The phenomena of beach volleyball continues to astound. Beach volleyball’s huge spectator and broadcast popularity since its debut to the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, as well as the astounding success of the FIVB World Tour, World Championships, and Continental Cup, has introduced volleyball to an entirely new market.
William G. Morgan (1870-1942), born in the state of New York, is credited with inventing the game of volleyball, which he first called “Mintonette.” Morgan completed his undergraduate education at the Springfield College of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), where he met James Naismith, the inventor of basketball in 1891.
Morgan spent his first year following graduation with the YMCA in Auburn, Maine, before moving to the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where he became director of physical education in the summer of 1895. He had the chance to build, organize, and direct a large program of exercises and athletic programs for male adults in this job.
His leadership was warmly received, and his courses swelled in size. He realized he needed a certain form of competitive recreational game to alter his schedule. Basketball, a new activity, looked to fit young people, but it was required to find a less aggressive and intense alternative for the senior members. Morgan had no comparable game to volleyball to help him at the time; he built it from his own sports training techniques and practical experience in the YMCA gymnasium.
He described his early tests as follows: “Tennis sprang to mind as a suitable game, but it required rackets, balls, a net, and other equipment, so it was ruled out, but the notion of a net sounded appealing. We lifted it to roughly 6 feet, 6 inches (1.98 meters) above the ground, just above the typical man’s head. We needed a ball, and one of the options we considered was a basketball bladder, but it was too light and too sluggish. As a result, we tested the basketball itself, which was far too large and heavy.”
Finally, Morgan commissioned A.G. Spalding & Bros. to create a ball, which they accomplished at their facility near Chicopee, Massachusetts. The end product was satisfactory: the ball was leather-covered with a rubber inner tube, its circumference was between 25 and 27 inches (63.5 cm and 68.6 cm, respectively), and its weight was between 9 and 12 ounces (252 gr and 336 gr, respectively).
Morgan invited two Holyoke friends, Dr. Frank Wood and John Lynch, to sketch up the core principles of the game as well as the first ten rules based on his recommendations.
Early in 1896, the YMCA College in Springfield hosted a conference that brought together all of the YMCA Directors of Physical Education. Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, head of the professional physical education training school (and also executive director of the International Committee of YMCA’s department of physical education), invited Morgan to demonstrate his game at the new college stadium.
Morgan led two teams of five men (and several dedicated supporters) to Springfield, where the demonstration was held in front of the conference attendees in the east gymnasium. J.J. Curran, the mayor of Holyoke, and John Lynch, the chief of the Holyoke fire department, were the captains of one of the teams.
The YMCA’s physical education directors, encouraged in particular by two professional schools of physical education, Springfield College in Massachusetts and George Williams College in Chicago (now at Downers Grove, Illinois), adopted volleyball in all of its societies throughout the United States, Canada (in 1900, Canada became the first foreign country to adopt the game), and in many other countries: Elwood S. Brown in the Philippines (1910), J. Howard Crocker in the United States (1910), and others.
Volleyball’s rise on the Asian continent was ensured by 1913, when the game was included in the program of the first Far-Eastern Games, held in Manila. It should be remembered that for a long time, volleyball was played in Asia according to the “Brown” regulations, which included the usage of 16 players, among other things (to enable a greater participation in matches).
An essay authored by Robert C. Cubbon and published in the Spalding Volleyball Guide in 1916 provides an indicator of the emergence of volleyball in the United States. Cubbon estimated in that piece that the number of players had reached 200,000, classified as follows: 70,000 in the YMCA (boys, young men, and older men), 50,000 in the YWCA (girls and women), 25,000 in schools (boys and girls), and 10,000 in universities (young men).
The YMCA successfully persuaded the strong National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to publish its rules and a series of articles in 1916, leading to the fast expansion of volleyball among young college students. The number of players per team was limited to six in 1918, and the maximum number of permissible touches with the ball was set at three in 1922.
Volleyball was mostly a recreational sport until the early 1930s, with just a few international events and contests. The game had varied regulations in different regions of the world; nonetheless, national championships were held in several nations (for instance, in Eastern Europe where the level of play had reached a remarkable standard).