The History & Development of Volleyball

a young caucasian female volleyball player in a green and white jersey dives to the ground to hit a ball

William G. Morgan invented volleyball in 1895, initially calling the sport "Mintonette." Within a few years it have become a popular activity at YMCAs. Within a few decades volleyball had spread internationally and become a college sport in the United States. Over time, the rules were refined to limit teams to six aside on the court and hits to three per possession. Volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964 and beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996.

Invention of the Sport

Morgan developed volleyball in 1895, four years after a mentor, James Naismith, invented basketball. As director of physical education at the Holyoke (Massachusetts) YMCA, Morgan sought a sport less vigorous than basketball. "In search of an appropriate game, tennis occurred to me, but this required rackets, balls, a net and other equipment, so it was eliminated, but the idea of a net seemed a good one," Morgan explained. He raised the net higher than the height of the average person and experimented with various balls. Morgan asked A.G. Spalding & Bros. to develop a ball that could be batted back and forth. Morgan then began promoting his game.

Competition Begins

Morgan showcased his new sport to YMCA directors in 1896. At the suggestion of Professor Alfred T. Halstead, its name was changed to "volley ball" to match the action of the sport. It was played on a smaller court (25 feet by 50 feet) with an unlimited number of players hitting the ball an unlimited number of times. The sport's rules were published in the July 1896 edition of "Physical Education" and were included the first official handbook of the North American YMCA Athletic League in 1897.

Evolution of the Sport

Volleyball spread to Canada and then around the world. A version of the sport featuring 16 players aside was played at the first Far-Eastern Games in 1913. In 1918 the number of players on the court was limited to six per team. Another major rule change came in 1922 when the maximum number of hits per side was set at three.

Volleyball Gets Big

The sport became a serious international competition in 1947 with the formation in Paris of the Federation Internationale De Volley-Ball. The first World Championship was held two years later. With more than 50 million people now playing the sport in more than 60 countries by 1951, volleyball became part of the Pan-American Games in 1955 and the Olympics in 1964. By the late 1960s, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and National Collegiate Athletic Association had embraced the sport.

Beach Volleyball

The outdoor version of volleyball -- a two-on-two competition played on sand -- was born as a tournament sport in 1948. It grew in popularity after its introduction at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. It has been a vibrant professional sports for decades and has become one of the fastest-growing sports at the collegiate level.