26 Interesting Facts About Volleyball And Its History

It’s one of the most popular sports in the world, played in just about any country in the world.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about volleyball.

1. Who invented volleyball?

The name of the inventor of volleyball is William George Morgan (January 23, 1870 – December 27, 1942) and he was born in Lockport, New York, in the United States.

He pursued a career in physical education and attended the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) International Training School in Massachusetts which was later renamed “Springfield College.”

After graduation, he worked one year in Auburn, Maine, and after this period got stationed at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where he eventually became the director of physical education.

William George Morgan, the inventor of volleyball
William George Morgan, the inventor of volleyball / Wiki Commons

2. He met another famous inventor

While attending the YMCA International Training School he met the inventor of another game that become world-famous, basketball.

During his period there he came to know the Canadian James Naismith, who created basketball for his students to have a game to play during the long and cold winter months that they had to stay indoors.

Morgan obviously got inspired by Naismith and his newly created game that apparently instantly seemed to get traction.

Naismith basketball

3. Why was volleyball invented?

With this in mind, he had a few objections to basketball which he wanted to solve. He thought basketball was too rough for young athletes, and too physically demanding for the older generation.

So in short, he wanted to create a game that could be played indoors just like basketball, but which was suited for everybody.

4. When was volleyball invented?

The game of volleyball was invented by William George Morgan in the winter of 1895, for pretty much the same reason as basketball was invented.

Basketball was already popular by this time and played all over the country, as it was invented by James Naismith 4 years earlier in the winter of 1891.

5. This is one of the main reasons it spread so fast

One of the first things Morgan had to come up with was also one of the most important in terms of the game being adopted by the general public.

He figured that one of the most crucial elements of the game was that it should to possible it was played in gyms of schools all across the country, as well as in open air.

So he couldn’t make the playing field too big and decided that a court measuring 60 by 30 feet (18.28 m by 9.14 m) with a net at a height of 6 feet and 6 inches (198.12 cm) as a divider was the most suitable.

The first volleyball gym
The gym volleyball was first played in, the YMCA Gymnasium / Wiki Commons

6. He didn’t get inspiration from basketball alone

With his training in physical education, he was knowledgeable about a lot of different sports. While he got inspired by the story of basketball, his main inspiration for the basic rules of his own game came from other sports.

These include:

  • Handball
  • Tennis
  • Badminton

With this in mind, he incorporated elements from all of these 3 games into a game that would eventually become one of the most popular games in the world.

7. The initial rules were fairly simple

With all the elements in mind of the different games that he was knowledgeable about, he made some basic rules for his newly invented game.

The fact that the game was based on 3 other popular sports made it very easy to understand and start playing straight away.

One of the most important aspects of the game is that the ball needs to stay in motion while it passes from one side of the net to the other.

8. The final draft rules were created

After the initial experiment phase, William G. Morgan wrote down all the elements of the game he wanted to incorporate, so it was time to create the first set of draft rules.

To do so, he asked the help of two of his friends from Holyoke, Dr. Frank Wood, and John Lynch, to draw up the main concepts.

And more importantly, they also created the first set of 10 draft rules of the game of volleyball based on all the suggestions provided by Morgan.

These are the rules of the game that were established by Morgan in early 1896:

1. The game. The game shall consist of nine innings.

2. Inning. An inning shall consist of: when one person is playing on each side, one service each side; when two are playing on each side, two services each side; when three are playing each side, three services each side. The man serving continues to do so until out by failure of his side to return the ball. Each man shall serve in turn.

3. Court. The court or floor space shall be 25 feet wide and 50 feet long, divided into two square courts, 25 feet by 25 feet, by the net. Four feet from the net on either side and parallel with it shall be a line across the court, the dribbling line. The boundary lines must be plainly marked so as to be visible from all parts of the court. Note: The exact size of the court may be changed to suit the convenience of the place.

4. Net. The net shall be at least two feet wide and 27 feet long and shall be suspended from uprights placed at least one foot outside the side lines. The top of the net must be six feet six inches from the floor.

5. Ball. The ball shall be a rubber bladder covered with leather or canvas. It shall measure not less than 25 inches, nor more than 27 inches in circumference, and shall weigh not less than nine ounces nor more than twelve ounces.

6. Server and Service. The server shall stand with one foot on the back line. The ball must be batted with the hand. Two services or trials are allowed him to place the ball in the opponent’s court. The server may serve into the opponent’s court at nay place. In a service, the ball must be batted at least 10 feet, no dribbling allowed. A service which would strike the net, but which is struck by another of the same side before striking the net, if it goes over into the opponent’s court, is good, but if it should go outside, the server has no second trial.

7. Scoring. Each good service unreturned or ball in play unreturned by the side receiving counts one score for the side serving. A side only scores when serving, as a failure to return, counting for the opposite side. The ball hitting the net on the first service shall be called dead, and counts as a trial.

8. Net Ball. A play, which hits the net, aside from the first service, is called a net ball, and is equivalent to a failure to return, counting for the opposite side. The ball hitting the net on first service shall be called dead, and counts as a trial.

9. Line Ball. A line ball is a ball that strikes the boundary line. It is equivalent to one out of court, and counts as such.

10. Play and Players. Any number of players may participate that is convenient to the place. A player should be able to cover about 10 by 10 feet. Should any player during play touch the net, it puts the ball out of play and counts against his side. Should any player catch or hold for an instant the ball, it is out of play and counts for the opposite side. Should the ball strike any object other than the floor and bound back into play, it is still in play.

The original rules of volleyball created by Willim G. Morgan / Source

9. The final decision before volleyball could be introduced to the world

The final question was: Which ball will be used to play this game?

A basketball was way too heavy, and the bladder used inside the basketball was way too light.

To get the perfect ball, he asked an expert working at Spalding & Bros. (an established sporting goods manufacturer) named Dale Callaghan to create a ball, especially for his new game.

So he did and the prototype of modern-day volleyball was created.

volleyball old

10. The first prototype of the volleyball was perfect

The first-ever volleyball was created in the Spalding & Bros. factory in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The ball was leather-covered with a rubber inner-tube, perfectly for volleying with hands and arms.

Morgan instantly thought the ball was perfectly suited for his game with a circumference of 25-27 inches (63.5-68.58 cm) and a weight of 9-12 ounces (255-340 grams).

Old volleyball

11. His colleagues instantly loved the game

Now the draft rules were created and the first-ever volleyball was ready, the game was ready to be introduced. Morgan rounded up 10 men to play in 2 teams of 5 against each other.

The first-ever exhibition match of volleyball was played on February 9, 1896, in front of the conference delegates in the East Gymnasium at Springfield College.

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive!

12. Volleyball had a completely different name

The original game of volleyball had a completely different name than the one we know today. The creator of the game called it “Mintonette” and it was with this name that the game was first introduced during the exhibition game.

While the game was received positively, the name wasn’t. It was one of the professors, named Alfred T. Halsted, who witnessed the first exhibition game that pointed out that the name should be changed.

He introduced the name “Volley Ball” since the game involved volleying the ball to other players or over the net.

13. Volley Ball isn’t a typo

One of the most interesting facts about volleyball is that the way we wrote it above isn’t a typo, the game was actually called “Volley Ball” initially.

It wasn’t until 1952 that the Administrative Committee of the USVBA (United States Volleyball Association) change the spelling to just one word.

14. The game spread like wildfire

After the original rules of the game were slightly modified by the YMCA International Training School, the game was introduced in schools all around the country.

The result was strikingly similar to what happened to basketball. The game instantly became popular and spread very fast.

Old volleyball game

15. An improved ball was created

While the original prototype of the volleyball was deemed perfect to play the game, the version closer to the ball we know today was manufactured by Spalding in the year 1900.

With an improved ball and a manufacturing company ready to spread them, volleyball was set to go international.

16. The first other countries to adopt volleyball

Not too long after Spalding opened up the manufacturing line for the production of improved volleyballs, the game was introduced in Canada by YMCA. it became an instant hit there as well, especially during the long and cold winter months.

The next countries to pick up the game were in Asia, namely the Philippines, China, and Japan, all in the early 1900s.

Volleyball in asia

17. The game was included in the Far-Eastern Games

To emphasize the fact that volleyball has spread all across Asia is that it was included in the Far-Eastern Games for the first time in 1913.

Volleyball had been played for a long time by then in multiple countries all across the Asian continent.

facts about volleyball
Buddhist monks playing volleyball in Asia / Source

18. The first set and spike was introduced

It wasn’t until the year 1916 that a new form of attacking play that now dominates volleyball was introduced.

The first time the set and spike were used to try and score points was introduced by players in the Philippines. It has since then remained the most-used type of offensive play to try and win games.

Filipinos initially called this type of play the “Bomba” and the hitter was called a “Bomberino.”

19. This made the popularity of volleyball explode in 1916

In 1916, the YMCA managed to get the powerful National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to publish the rules of volleyball and a series of articles to promote the game.

It’s estimated that by that year, the total number of players in the United States alone had exceeded 200,000, spread across schools and colleges all over the country.

20. Some important rule changes were made

In the year 1917, an important rule change was made. To win a game, only 15 points were needed since then instead of 21 points. This substantially made the games shorter from then on.

In 1920, the three hits rule per side was introduced as well as the back row attack rule.

Volleyball score
Volleyball score / Carlos Delgado / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

21. This event made volleyball popular in Europe

Shortly after the end of World War I in 1919, the American Expeditionary Forces were given 16,000 volleyballs which they could distribute amongst their troops and allies.

Needless to say that after a period of utter misery in Europe, this was an enormously welcoming gift that instantly made the game of volleyball popular.

AEF in France
The AEF in France, ready to distribute volleyballs to the people / Wiki Commons

22. The founding of the USVBA made tournaments possible

Apart from organizing tournaments, the founding of the USVBA in 1928 (now USA Volleyball) was important for introducing official rules to enhance the game.

This was also the year that the first US Open Tournament was organized which was open to non-YMCA teams as well.

23. The founding of the FIVB made international tournaments possible

The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, the first-ever international volleyball organization was founded in the year 1947 in Paris, France.

It’s still the international body of governance for all forms of volleyball today.

24. The first World Championships

Just two years after the FIVB was formed, the first World Championship of Volleyball was held in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

A total of 10 nations participated in the event, which was won by the Soviet Union.

The first-ever Women’s World Championship of Volleyball was held 3 years later in 1952.

World Championship Volleyball / Source

25. Volleyball was added to the Olympics

The first time that volleyball was added to the Summer Olympics was in the year 1964. The event was for both men and women and was held in Tokyo, Japan.

The first gold medalists were the Soviet Union for the men’s team and Japan for the women’s team.

Volleyball on the 1964 olympics
Stamp of volleyball on the 1964 Olympics / Wiki Commons

26. Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in the world

Not in his wildest dream would William G. Morgan have thought that his invention would become one of the most played games in the world.

One of the most fascinating facts about volleyball is that it’s currently estimated to be the second-most popular sport by participation.

The fact that you only require a small court and a net (or something that resembles it) makes it very easy to start playing, so it’s literally played in every corner of the planet by men and women of all ages!

volleyball played in India

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