VWhen I was in high school, volleyball was my favorite activity for physical education and at the end of my senior year, the National Honor Society against the teachers volleyball tournament was a memorable event.

The sport originated in the United States, and is now just achieving the type of popularity in the U.S. that it has received on a global basis, where it ranks behind only soccer among participation sports.

Today there are more than 46 million Americans who play volleyball and there are 800 million players worldwide who play volleyball at least once a week.


I began to wonder how long this sport has been around.  Thanks to volleyball.org, I find that it dates back to 1895.  William G. Morgan, an instructor at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Holyoke, Mass., decided to blend elements of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball to create a game for his classes of businessmen which would demand less physical contact than basketball. He created the game of volleyball (at that time called mintonette). Morgan borrowed the net from tennis, and raised it 6 feet 6 inches above the floor making is just above the average man’s head.

William G. Morgan

William G. Morgan

During a demonstration game, someone remarked to Morgan that the players seemed to be volleying the ball back and forth over the net, and perhaps “volleyball” would be a more descriptive name for the sport.

On July 7, 1896, the first game of “volleyball” was played at Springfield College.  The following is a history of the sport by decade.


A special ball was designed for the sport.

Early ball used in volleyball

Early ball used in volleyball

The YMCA brought the game to Canada, the Orient and the Southern Hemisphere, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, the Philippines and Brazil.

The Playground of America convention deemed it one of the most popular sports.


The YMCA brought the game to Uruguay, the Philippines and Brazil.

In the Philippines, an offensive style of passing the ball in a high trajectory to be struck by another player (the set and spike) were introduced. The Filipinos developed the “bomba” or kill, and called the hitter a “bomberino”.

The NCAA was invited by the YMCA to aid in editing the rules and in promoting the sport.

Volleyball was added to school and college physical education and intramural programs.

The game was changed from 21 to 15 points.

American Expeditionary Forces distributed 16,000 volleyballs to troops and allies. This provided a stimulus for the growth of volleyball in foreign lands.



Three hits per side and back row attack rules were instituted.

The first YMCA national championships were held in Brooklyn, NY. There were 27 teams from 11 states.

It became clear that tournaments and rules were needed, so the United States Volleyball Association (USVBA, now USA Volleyball) was formed. The first U.S. Open was staged, as the field was open to non-YMCA squads.



Recreational sports programs became an important part of American life

The first two-man beach game was played.

National volleyball referees were approved and recognized


At the 1937 AAU convention in Boston, action was taken to recognize the U.S. Volleyball Association as the official national governing body in the U.S.


Forearm passing was introduced to the game (as a desperation play) in the late 1940’s.  Most balls were played with an overhand pass.

A study of recreation in the United States conducted in 1946 showed that volleyball ranked fifth among team sports being promoted and organized.

The Federation Internationale De Volley-Ball (FIVB) was founded in Paris.

The first two-man beach tournament was held.


The first World Championships were held in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

USVBA added a collegiate division, for competitive college teams. For the first ten years collegiate competition was sparse. Teams formed only through the efforts of interested students and instructors. Many teams dissolved when the interested individuals left the college. Competitive teams were scattered, with no collegiate governing bodies providing leadership in the sport.


By 1951, volleyball was played by over 50 million people each year in over 60 countries

The Pan American Games included volleyball in 1955


In 1957, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) designated volleyball as an Olympic team sport, to be included in the 1964 Olympic Games.

International University Sports Federation (FISU) held the first University Games in Turin, Italy in 1959. Volleyball was one of the eight competitions held.


Seven midwestern institutions formed the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) in 1960

Southern California Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (SCVIA) was formed in California in 1964

New techniques added to the game in the 1960’s included – the soft spike (dink), forearm pass (bump), blocking across the net, and defensive diving and rolling.

Volleyball was introduced to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964.

A volleyball match during the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

A volleyball match during the
1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The Japanese volleyball used in the 1964 Olympics, consisted of a rubber carcass with leather paneling. A similarly constructed ball is used in most modern competition.

The California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) was formed in 1965.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) made volleyball their fifteenth competitive sport in 1968.

The Executive Committee of the NCAA proposed addition of volleyball to its program in 1969.


The World Championships in Mexico were telecast in Japan in 1974.

The US National Women’s team began a year-round training regime in Pasadena, Texas in 1975 (moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, Coto de Caza and Fountain Valley, CA in 1980, and San Diego, CA in 1985).


The US National Men’s team began a year-round training regime in Dayton, Ohio in 1977 (moved to San Diego, CA in 1981).


The Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was formed in 1983.

The US won their first medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The Men won the Gold, and the Women the Silver.

The Women’s Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA) was formed in 1986.

The FIVB added a Beach Volleyball World Championship Series in 1987.

The US Men repeated the Gold in the 1988 Olympics in Korea.

1988 USA Olympic Mens Volleyball Team

1988 USA Olympic Mens Volleyball Team

The FIVB Sports Aid Program was created in 1989.


The World League was created in 1990.

The Four Person Pro Beach League was started in the United States in 1992.


Volleyball World Wide, the first internet site on the sport of volleyball, was created in 1994.

The sport of Volleyball was 100 years old in 1995

2-person beach volleyball was added to the 1996 Olympics

USA's Karch Kiraly (facing camera) and Kent Steffes celebrate as they seal the first ever men's beach volleyball Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 ...

USA’s Karch Kiraly (facing camera) and Kent Steffes celebrate as they seal the first ever men’s beach volleyball Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta 1996


2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    I suck at the sport but I suck at most sports:) Very cool to read and I have to ask a question? Why do women’s beach volleyball wear such skimpy “uniforms”(uniforms??) but the men where big baggy shorts and a t-shirt??