Volleyball is a unique team sport with a short and impressive history. It is one of the few team sports invented in the United States, along with basketball and baseball, that is now played widely all over the globe. Volleyball is popular in grade school gyms as well as on professional courts because it is easy to pick up, yet challenging to master.
Volleyball turned 115 in 2010. The sport was invented in the U.S. by William G. Morgan in 1895. Morgan, a YMCA instructor in Massachusetts, used elements of basketball, baseball, tennis and handball to create a fast paced team sport with little physical contact. The sport was initially called mintonette, but Morgan changed the name to volleyball after hearing an observer point out that the players were "volleying" the ball back and forth over the net. The first official game of volleyball was played at Springfield College in Massachusetts on July 7, 1896.
Volleyball has a long list of specific rules, but in short, it is a game of two teams of six players separated by a net. A player on one team serves the ball by throwing or releasing the an inflated ball and hitting it with his hand or arm from behind the back boundary line of the court. The ball must travel over the net and into the opposing team's court. That team can touch the ball up to three times in an attempt to hit the ball over the net and onto their opponent's side. Points are awarded to a team when the opposing team is unable to return the ball onto the opposing court. First team to 25 points with a 2-point advantage wins.
Men's and women's volleyball was introduced as an official sport at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, although it was demonstrated as an unofficial event at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Initially, teams played each other in a round-robin style where the team with the best record after all games are played wins. A more traditional tournament style of play was introduced in 1972. The Soviet Union and the U.S. have dominated men's competition, while the Soviet Union and Cuba have fared the best in the women's division.
Beach volleyball's history stems back to the earliest beach volleyball courts built in Santa Monica, California, in the 1920s. By 1927, beach volleyball was popular in Europe. In the 1930s, the game was adapted from the standard six-player teams to variations of two, three and four players. Beach volleyball was a key part of popular beach culture in the 1950s and 1960s, and the sport entered the Olympics in 1996 for men and women.
Players of Note
Karch Kiraly is among the most highly regarded men's volleyball players in history. He has the most professional career beach volleyball tournament wins at 148, and is the only player to win three gold medals in 1984, 1988 and 1996. Misty May-Treanor is considered one of the best all-around women's beach volleyball players. She is the career leader consecutive wins at 90, consecutive tournament victories with 15 and the owner of three Association of Volleyball Players MVP award. Other great volleyball players include men's players Steve Timmons and Ron Von Hagen, and women's players Logan Tom and Kerri Walsh.