Volleyball has come a long way from the
dusty-old YMCA gymnasium of Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, where the
visionary William G. Morgan invented the sport back in 1895. It has
seen the start of two centuries and the dawn of a new millennium.
Volleyball is now one of the big five international sports, and the
FIVB, with its 220 affiliated national federations, is the largest
international sporting federation in the world.
Volleyball has witnessed unprecedented growth over the last two decades. With the
great success of world competitions such as the FIVB World
Championships, the FIVB World League,
the FIVB World Grand Prix, the FIVB World Cup and the FIVB Grand Champions Cup
as well as the Olympic Games, the level of participation at all levels internationally continues
to grow exponentially.
The beach volleyball phenomenon also continues to amaze. The
overwhelming spectator and television success of beach volleyball
since its introduction to the Olympic Games at Atlanta 1996 and the
stunning success of the FIVB World Tour, the World
Championships and the Continental Cup has opened up volleyball to a completely new market.
|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
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.
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
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) 10,000.
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).
thus became more and more a competitive sport with high physical and
William G. Morgan invented Volleyball in 1895
1895, Holyoke YMCA team
(William Morgan is first left, second row)
YMCA employees get to grips with the new game
The 1916 YMCA and NCAA
unified rules of the game
Volleyball lesson at YMCA at Holyoke gym
1930: YMCA spreads the new game