Who created or invented volleyball (a SURPRISING story!)

Volleyball is already more than 100 years old. During this period it has evolved a lot. Let’s go over the history of this sport and see how it could become so popular today. New forms of volleyball are still being invented, from sitting volleyball to beach volleyball so the sport has a bright future ahead.

Which country invented or originated volleyball: from Mintonette in the USA to volleyball worldwide

The seeds of the volleyball sport were created by William G. Morgan in Massachusetts (USA) at the end of the 19th century. He was thinking about a new sport and wanted to create something unique. This is the period that a lot of sports were being invented, from basketball to tennis. At first, it was called Mintonette and was a combination of basketball, tennis, handball, and baseball. The goal was to create a sport that didn’t require a lot of equipment and would allow a lot of people to participate in it as it required less contact with other players. Morgan asked his friends, Dr. Frank Wood and John Lynch, to come up with the basic concepts of the game together with the first rules.

Together they came up with the first incarnation of the game. The net was increased in height to make it harder to get the ball over it. The goal has been from the beginning to make it a sport that can be played indoors (in a sports arena) but also outside. The name changed after Professor Alfred T. Halstead mentioned at a conference that volleyball would be a better name than Mintonette as it is easier to remember that word. William G. Morgan agreed and the sport has been known as volleyball ever since. 

It was only later on that the ball as we now know it was perfected by the company A.G. Spalding & Bros. as they used to play it with bigger and heavier balls than we do nowadays. Also setting and spiking were introduced later on and were invented in the Philippines. The three touches per team rule was only introduced in the early 1920s, more than a decade after the sport was invented. The sport was being practiced all around the world, from Asia, the USA to Europe. There were a lot of rules going around and there was no standardization. It was only with the advent of national leagues that the rules started to become more uniform.

Especially after the Second World War (1945), this sport gained a lot of traction. People were getting more leisure time than before and this allowed them to spend more time working out. In 1964 volleyball become an Olympic sport. This was an important step as it was given a lot of attention on television and introduced this spectacular sport to a lot of people. A lot of new clubs were started after this and it attracted a lot of people to this sport.

We can state that volleyball was invented in the USA but a lot of rules were created in countries such as The Philippines, China, and Japan. The sport has evolved quite a lot over time (from the introduction of the libero to a different point-scoring system). There is not a single country that invented volleyball as a lot of people have influenced how it is being played. The seeds were planted in the USA but it developed further abroad and the sport wouldn’t be what it is today if there were not a lot of playing styles.

Photo by Josh Duke on Unsplash

Beach volleyball was invented in Hawaii 1915 in Hawaii and quickly played in California (USA) as well. With its many beaches and great weather, it is the perfect place to get started with this sport. At that point in time, indoor volleyball already existed and it was adapted so that people could play it on the beach as well. It is only quite recently that this has become an Olympic sport.

A lot of sports were invented during the last part of the 19th century as people got more free time because labor was getting more efficient due to the invention of machinery. People wanted to have fun and sports are a great way to spend time with other people.

Gaining popularity and modern rules

There is more to a sport than just creating it. You also have to make it popular. This was done by several people that introduced it in schools in the USA and Asia. In some instances, the game was played with sixteen players to involve more people. Soon South America, Europe, and Africa would follow. Success is often ascribed to one person but in reality, it is often a group of people that worked together. We can also see this with volleyball. At first, volleyball was mainly played for fun. It was only in the 1930s that people started to organize competitions and tournaments. This has led to the introduction of more tactics and strategies. It is remarkable that the sport was able to spread so fast around the globe. At the same time, it is quite special that volleyball is very popular abroad but less so in the USA given that volleyball originated there. 

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

 A lot of rules (such as the libero and scoring a point every time the ball touches the ground) have only been added later on. Volleyball as we know it today has been influenced by a lot of people so there is no person that created the game as we know it today. A lot of things get better over time and after people have given it some more thought. The same is true about volleyball and we can point the origins towards William G. Morgan but a lot of other people, such as the IOC which organizes the Olympics and the NCAA which organizes high school volleyball also had a big impact on the sport. 

Nowadays we have other variations such as beach volleyball and pool volleyball. Beach volleyball has recently become an Olympic sport as well. This has been invented in California in the 1930s. If we look at the USA, volleyball is the most popular in California. This can be partly explained by the fact that beach volleyball originated there. 

A big step was the creation of the FIVB as this international organization made sure that everyone used the same rules and regulations. This made it easier to organize international tournaments and competitions. These international games (such as the Champions League and the Olympics) attract a lot of attention and introduce new players to the game. 

Current state of the game

We are more than 120 years after volleyball has been invented. After a lot of updates and changes, we can say that it is a very successful sport that attracts more than 800 million players worldwide. It is in the top five most practiced sports in the world (next to basketball, soccer, tennis, and badminton).  There are a lot of professional players and their matches are broadly televised. There are more than 220 national federations that organize competitions. Especially in the last two decades, we have seen a tremendous pickup in popularity for this sport. The beauty of this sport is that players have to work together if they want to achieve something. You really have to work as a team to win. This brings the best out of people. 

We also see that the sport is still evolving. For example, the libero was a recent addition to the sport. This allowed shorter players to have more impact on the game. Let’s take a look at how the libero moves in the video below. We also see new variations of this sport pop up such as sitting volleyball in the Paralympics and snow volleyball. This keeps the sport fun and exciting.

To conclude, we can state that volleyball is more than a century old. Over time the sport has evolved a lot, from the ball that it is being played with to the scoring system. It is being played around the world, from the USA, Asia to Europe, and attracts a lot of players. Nowadays it is an Olympic sport and new variations such as beach volleyball are being added. The sport is mainly popular amongst girls in the USA but we see steps towards broader popularity as the USA Olympic team is winning more and more tournaments. The sport is very popular in Japan, China, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, and some Eastern European countries. It is hard to say that one person invented volleyball as a lot of people had to work together to create the rules and also spread the game.