With most sports it’s difficult to determine exactly when it was invented and often the “inventor” is lost in the mists of time. That’s not the case with volleyball, which was created in February 1895, in Massachusetts by William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director. Initially called Mintonette, the game was designed to be played indoors and took elements from tennis and handball. Because the game was less rough than basketball, also new on the scene at the time, yet still requiring a bit of athletic effort, volleyball was considered perfect for older members of the YMCA.

After an observer, Alfred Halstead, noticed the volleying nature of the game at its first exhibition match in 1896, the game quickly became known as volleyball. The game spread around the country to various YMCAs. Forty-six million Americans now participate in volleyball on a regular basis. Volleyball has been a part of the official program of the Summer Olympic Games since 1964.

Volleyball is a team sport played by two opposing teams separated by a net. Volleyball is both a competitive and leisure activity that can be played by any gender, school teams, professional athletes or families and friends enjoying a day at the beach.

Physical activity  - beach volleyballHow the game is played

Normally, each team in an indoor volleyball match consists of six players. However, the health benefits of playing with fewer people on each team increases the area for which each player is responsible creating a better work out; as in beach volleyball.

Each team tries to score points by grounding a ball on the other team’s court. Although the complete rules are extensive, the general play is fairly simple. A player on one of the teams begins a ‘rally’ by serving the ball, from behind the back boundary line of the court, over the net, and into the receiving team’s court. The receiving team must not let the ball be grounded within their court. The team may touch the ball up to 3 times but individual players may not touch the ball twice consecutively. Typically, the first two touches are used to set up for a shot that directs the ball back over the net so the other team is unable to prevent it from being grounded in their court.

The rally continues, with each team allowed as many as three consecutive touches, until either (1): a team scores a point by grounding the ball on the opponent’s court and winning the rally; or (2): a team commits a fault or hits the ball out of bounds and loses the rally. The team that wins the rally is awarded a point, and serves the ball to start the next rally. A few of the most common faults include:

  • causing the ball to touch the ground outside the opponents’ court or without first passing over the net;
  • catching or throwing the ball;
  • double hit: two consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same player;
  • four consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same team.
  • net foul: touching the net during play.
  • foot fault: the foot crosses over the boundary line when serving

The ball is usually played with the hands or arms, but players can legally strike or push (short contact) the ball with any part of the body.

A number of playing techniques have evolved in volleyball, including spiking and blocking. Spiking is a hard downward jab of the ball into the opposing team’s court. Because spiking and blocking are plays made above the top of the net, the vertical jump is an athletic skill emphasized in the sport. Other skills include passing and setting all of which can become specialized player positions and offensive and defensive structures.

Health Benefits of Volleyball

Volleyball is a great overall sport providing aerobic and strength building elements.

Burns Calories. This fat-burning activity improves the body’s fat-percentage and the muscle ratio of the entire body. Studies have shown that about 45 minutes of volleyball burns as much as 585 calories.

Cardiovascular Health. Volleyball is an active sport that requires running and jumping. The aerobic activity benefits your heart and vascular system by making it stronger and more efficient. Better circulation moves more blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, improving the body’s functions and your overall health and well-being.

Muscular Development. Playing volleyball strengthens the upper body, arms and shoulders as well as the muscles of the thighs and lower legs.

Agility, Flexibility and hand-eye coordination.Playing volleyball will also improve your reflexes and hand-eye coordination. By serving, you will develop the ability to follow the ball with your eyes and strike it at the ideal point of contact. You must continuously coordinate your actions with the speed of the ball and its movement. This enhances your ability to recognize visual cues and respond. You will also increase your sense of awareness, by monitoring your position on the court, as well as other members of your team.

Volleyball also improves sprint speed and agility due to the quick changes of pace and direction, and improves overall flexibility.

Balance. Competing on the volleyball court requires balance and agility. Lateral-movements during play strengthen your abdominal core which can improve your posture, mobility and balance.

Additional Benefits

As with any type of physical activity, volleyball improves mental health and because it’s a team sport you develop relationships with members of your time and even other teams you compete against.


Assuming the net is in place, all you need is a volleyball and comfortable clothes. In the gym, most players wear knee and elbow pads to reduce the risk of injury.

Courts open to the public can be readily found at local gymnasiums and schools. As with other team sports, making regular appointments to play volleyball with friends is a great step toward lifelong physical fitness.