The Volleyball Story
THE BIRTH OF THE GAME
William G. Morgan (1870-1942), who was born in the
State of New York, has gone down in history as the
inventor of the game of Volleyball, to which he
originally gave the name "Mintonette".
The young Morgan carried out his undergraduate
studies at the Springfield College of the YMCA
(Young Men's Christian Association) where he met
James Naismith who, in 1891, had invented
basketball. After graduating, Morgan spent his first
year at the Auburn (Maine) YMCA after which, during
the summer of 1895, he moved to the YMCA at Holyoke
(Massachusetts) where he became Director of Physical
Education. In this role he had the opportunity to
establish, develop and direct a vast programme of
exercises and sport classes for male adults.
His leadership was enthusiastically accepted, and
his classes grew in numbers. He came to realise that
he needed a certain type of competitive recreational
game in order to vary his programme. Basketball, a
sport that was beginning to develop, seemed to suit
young people, but it was necessary to find a less
violent and less intense alternative for the older
At that time Morgan knew of no similar game to
Volleyball which could guide him; he developed it
from his own sports training methods and his
practical experience in the YMCA gymnasium.
Describing his first experiments he said, "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. We raised it to a height of
about 6 feet, 6 inches (1.98 metres) from the ground,
just above the head of an average man. We needed a
ball and among those we tried was a basketball
bladder, but this was too light and too slow. We
therefore tried the basketball itself, which was too
big and too heavy."
In the end, Morgan asked the firm of A.G. Spalding &
Bros. to make a ball, which they did at their
factory near Chicopee, in Massachusetts. The result
was satisfactory: the ball was leather-covered, with
a rubber inner tube, its circumference was not less
than 25 and not more than 27 inches (63.5 cm and
68.6 cm, respectively), and its weight not less than
9 and not more than 12 ounces (252 gr and 336 gr,
Morgan asked two of his friends from Holyoke, Dr.
Frank Wood and John Lynch, to draw up (based on his
suggestions) the basic concepts of the game together
with the first 10 rules.
Early in 1896 a conference was organized at the YMCA
College in Springfield, bringing together all the
YMCA Directors of Physical Education. Dr. Luther
Halsey Gulick, director of the professional physical
education training school (and also executive
director of the department of physical education of
the International Committee of YMCA's) invited
Morgan to make a demonstration of his game in the
new college stadium. Morgan took two teams, each
made up of five men (and some loyal fans) to
Springfield, where the demonstration was made before
the conference delegates in the east gymnasium. The
captain of one of the teams was J.J. Curran and of
the other John Lynch who were respectively, mayor
and chief of the fire brigade of Holyoke.
Morgan explained that the new game was designed for
gymnasia or exercise halls, but could also be played
in open air. An unlimited number of players could
participate, the object of the game being to keep
the ball in movement over a high net, from one side
to the other.
After seeing the demonstration, and hearing the
explanation of Morgan, Professor Alfred T. Halstead
called attention to the action, or the act phase, of
the ball's flight, and proposed that the name "Mintonette"
be replaced by "Volley Ball." This name was accepted
by Morgan and the conference. (It is interesting to
note that the same name has survived over the years,
with one slight alteration: in 1952, the
Administrative Committee of the USVBA voted to spell
the name with one word, "Volleyball", but continued
to use USVBA to signify United States Volleyball
Mr Morgan explained the rules and worked on them,
then gave a hand-written copy to the conference of
YMCA directors of physical education, as a guide for
the use and development of the game. A committee was
appointed to study the rules and produce suggestions
for the game's promotion and teaching.
A brief report on the new game and its rules was
published in the July 1896 edition of "Physical
Education" and the rules were included in the 1897
edition of the first official handbook of the North
American YMCA Athletic League.
The physical education directors of the YMCA,
encouraged particularly 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 its societies throughout the United States,
Canada (in 1900 Canada became the first foreign
country to adopt the game), and also in many other
countries: Elwood S. Brown in the Philippines
(1910), J. Howard Crocker in China, Franklin H.
Brown in Japan (1908), Dr. J.H. Gray in Burma, in
China and in India, and others in Mexico and South
American, European and African countries.
By 1913 the development of Volleyball on the Asian
continent was assured as, in that year, the game was
included in the programme of the first Far-Eastern
Games, organized in Manila. It should be noted that,
for a long time, Volleyball was played in Asia
according to the "Brown" rules which, among other
things, used 16 players (to enable a greater
participation in matches).
An indication of the growth of Volleyball in the
United States is given in an article published in
1916 in the Spalding Volleyball Guide and written by
Robert C. Cubbon. In that article Cubbon estimated
that the number of players had reached a total of
200,000 people subdivided in the following way: in
the YMCA (boys, young men, and older men) 70,000, in
the YWCA (girls and women) 50,000, in schools (boys
and girls) 25,000 and in colleges (young men)
In 1916, the YMCA managed to induce the powerful
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to
publish its rules and a series of articles,
contributing to the rapid growth of Volleyball among
young college students. In 1918 the number of
players per team was limited to six, and in 1922 the
maximum number of authorized contacts with the ball
was fixed at three.
Until the early 1930s Volleyball was for the most
part a game of leisure and recreation, and there
were only a few international activities and
competitions. There were different rules of the game
in the various parts of the world; however, national
championships were played in many countries (for
instance, in Eastern Europe where the level of play
had reached a remarkable standard). Volleyball thus
became more and more a competitive sport with high
physical and technical performance.
William G. Morgan, the
creator of Volleyball
The 1916 YMCA and NCAA
unified rules of the game.
Maryland 1911: YMCA
employees get to grips with the new game.