Volleyball History 101

How Did Volleyball Come About?

circa 1938: The volleyball match between Waseda and Keio Universities to decide the winner of the Kanto School Volley League Championship, Japan.
Fox Photos / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Volleyball history began in a town called Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1895. The sport was developed at the YMCA by William G. Morgan as an alternative for the older men that was less taxing than basketball. Originally called Mintonette, it took the net from tennis and took cues from basketball, baseball, and handball. The net was only 6'6" high, just above the average man's head.

Originally, there was no limit to the number of players on a team or the number of contacts per side and the game was primarily played from the ground.


The set and hit (or spike) was first developed in the Philippines in 1916 and changed the way the game was played. Later called volleyball due to the fact that players "volleyed" the ball back and forth, the sport was embraced by the US military and was played often in their free time. Soldiers stationed all over the world played volleyball and taught the locals to play as well, inadvertently spreading the sport to many nations.

Beach Game Emerges

Volleyball was first played indoors, but it was brought out to the beach sometime in the 1920's. There is some debate about where the first beach volleyball game was played, but the two most likely theories are Santa Monica, CA and The Outrigger Canoe Club in Hawaii. Organized beach tournaments were played as early as 1948, but the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) did not emerge until 1983.

Olympic Inclusion

Indoor volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1964. Beach volleyball was added as an exhibition sport in 1996 and immediately became the hottest ticket at the games.


Volleyball is second only to soccer in worldwide popularity. Approximately 46 million Americans play the game and an estimated 800 million play all over the world.