The history of volleyball

How volleyball has developed as a sport

Want to know where volleyball came from? Here are some quick facts about its history, how it was developed, and how it is played.

The game of volleyball takes two forms: the six-a-side indoor version, and beach volleyball, which is played in pairs. The beach variety emerged on the Olympic scene at Atlanta in 1996 and is considered to be the more glamorous of the two versions – perhaps due in part to suntanned bodies and the skimpy clothing worn by competitors! However, in both disciplines the object of the game is the same: to get the ball to land in the opposition’s half of the court.

Volleyball player

The emergence of beach volleyball – with the sand, sun, and cool-looking competitors making it far more popular than the indoor version – actually led the authorities to revamp the traditional game in recent times. The basics remained the same, but a new position – the ‘libero’ – was created in an effort to introduce longer rallies and more spectacular defensive play. Organisers also made the game even faster by declaring that either side could score a point on any rally, irrespective of who had served.

The game of volleyball goes back as far as 1895, when it was invented in America as a hybrid of tennis and basketball. It spread to Europe and around the world during World War I, and became an officially recognised sport after World War II, when the International Federation was founded. Having been played as a demonstration sport at the 1924 Olympics, it was finally granted full status at the 1964 Tokyo Games – when both men and women started competing at the same time.

The good thing about volleyball is that it can be played both indoors and out. Rather confusingly, however, the distinction between the six-a-side and the beach versions – one as an indoor sport and the other as an outdoor sport – is becoming blurred, with some people even playing indoor sand volleyball – which takes the beach version indoors, so it can be played whatever the weather.

Fitness benefits of playing volleyball include...

  • Develops key upper body muscles, notably in the arms.
  • Builds up sprint speed and agility, due to its quick changes of pace and direction.
  • Improves flexibility of the hands and feet.
  • Boosts mental concentration skills and offers a refreshing workout for the mind.
  • Good cardiovascular exercise, strengthening the heart and lungs to pass more oxygen round the body to feed muscles.

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