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Volleyball is a sport played between two teams with a ball over a high net. The objective is to stop the ball from touching the ground on your side of the net or to get the ball to touch the ground on your opponent's, depending on whether you believe the glass is half-empty or half-full. In this way it is similar to the sport of badminton although it does not require a racket as volleyballers usually use their hands or forearms.
It is an incredibly enjoyable sport that is played by all sorts of people in many different places. Normally this will be in the park, at the beach or in a sport hall, but people are also known to play in the swimming pool, on snow or with a balloon in their living room.
This entry will provide you with information on the following areas and you'll find a glossary of volleyball terms here that can be read alongside the article.
- a brief history
- features of volleyball
- who plays volleyball
- How to start playing
- a basic rules guide
- player positions
- the skills used in volleyball
- basic tactics and strategies
- major international competitions
A Brief History
Volleyball was invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan at a YMCA in Hollyoke, Massachussets. In these respects it is similar to basketball which was also invented at a YMCA in the 1890s. Originally volleyball was called Mintonette and in the earliest years it was played over 9 innings, with the team scoring the most points the winner. Although the rules of the game are updated almost yearly, its basic aim remains the same.
The game's popularity spread worldwide through the efforts of the YMCA and to Europe by American G.I,s in the 1st World War. In the 1920s Californians took their balls to the beach and created "Beach Volleyball" and in the 1940s a world governing body - the FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volley Ball) was setup. The indoor version of volleyball was introduced to the Olympic games at Tokyo in 1964 and the beach version in Atlanta 1996.
A Friendly Game
The main characteristic of volleyball is that it is intended to be non-confrontational and therefore all smiles and friendship.
Teams are separated by a nice high net, so contact isn't really an issue and many women feel safe to participate in mixed games. At the end of a set of organised matches, teams change ends by walking around the opposites sides of the court. Even the possibility of being verbally or gesticularly rude to an opponent is outlawed, with players being liable to yellow and red cards.
Arguing with the referee about decisions is also very much against the rules. If there is a query only the captain may talk to the referee and this will purely be to understand how the referee has interpreted the rules. If the captain still disputes the ruling they may make a formal protest on the scoresheet at the end of the game. All very nice and pleasant.
The reality is somewhat different. Although there is little to no physical contact, there can be but verbal intimidation, players talking through the net and staring each other out. Also the ball itself is quite a good object for hitting very hard, although this has little effect against good defenders! Ultimately it falls upon the referee to control the match and if they show weakness, they may open themselves up for argument and abuse from the players. Although this shouldn't be tolerated, disagreements about whether a ball landed in or out definitely occurs.
In friendlier, informal games, there can still be good-natured banter and cheering of opponent's mistakes; but teams will often duck under the net at the end of a set and exchange 'low-fives' with the opponents.
Who Plays Volleyball?
Usually very tall, skinny people who failed at basketball - or so the stereotype would have you believe. Actually volleyball is played by people of almost any age, height, weight, sex, race or (dis)ability. It is a truly universal sport that allows many people to make many new friends.
Being tall is an obvious advantage but not a necessity. Even at the heightest levels, there are many good male beach players who are under 6' and at the 1992 Olympics one of the indoor players was 5'7". These however are the exceptions. In Sydney 2000, the average height of the Russian women's team was 6'3" with their setter standing 6'7". Often these people have enormous "coat hanger" shoulders from which there shirts and are just seem to hang.
In an attempt to get away from the "tall-person" image, the FIVB introduced new competitions for people of restricted height in 2003. To participate the men have to be under 1-85m, and the women under 1-75m. Apparently 97% of the world's population are under these heights.
But for the average player playing in their local league, about the only thing stops them is their level of motivation. If you want to play, you can.
How Volleyball is Played
Take a look on the internet for volleyball websites, or wander down to your local sports hall and ask if anyone plays. If you live near the beach or park perhaps you'll see people playing.
If you can't find a local team or league, just start playing with your friends. To begin:
- Invest in a decent ball. You may think that the cost is extortionate when you look at the price of volleyballs, but it is well worth paying £30 - £35. Too many people get an old football or cheap £5 volleyball, pump it up to the max, and then wonder why their forearms are so red and sore. It's difficult to convince people to play again under these circumstances. If you're in doubt, look for an official FIVB ball.
- Agree a court size and rules with your friends. Officially an indoors court measures 9m x 9m on each side of the net, and 8m x 8m on the beach when playing pairs.
- Rig up a net or some rope between two poles or trees. Officially a men's height net is set at 2-44m, ladies is 2-21m. Whatever you choose trying and make it so that people of normal height have to jump a bit to hit the ball downwards.
- Split into two teams.
- Bat the ball back and forth over the net. Perhaps even keep score.
- Enjoy yourselves.
When you've been playing for a while and want to get more serious, invest in a portable net, or hire a court at the local sport centre. Try incorporating some of the following basic rules and maybe even progress into using some of the more recognised tactics and strategies in volleyball.
Basic Rules Guide
The rules of volleyball between the beach and indoors have minor differences, and those played in the park between friends can have major ones. The following list convey the main rules to consider using. Ultimately though it just helps if everybody playing agrees on the rules they are using, and they replay a point if dispute occurs.
- Team usually consist of between 2 and 6 players. At the top level of beach is played in pairs, indoors with six.
- The ball may be played with any part of the body.
- A set is played up to 15, 21 or 25 points. Preferably the latter.
- A point is scored by the team winning the rally.
- A ball landing inside or on the court lines is IN, otherwise it is OUT.
- Teams lose a rally when they commit a fault.
- On winning serve back from the opposition, a different player must serve. This is achieved by the team rotating clockwise.
- Using more than 3 touches in attempting to return the ball to the opposition.
- A player touching the ball twice in a row. The exception to this is when the ball is blocked. A block does not count as one of the team's hits and so the blocker can subsequently play the next contact and the team get up to a total of 4 touches.
- The ball landing on the ground inside a team's courtspace.
- A player touching a ball before it lands out.
- Throwing, catching or lifting the ball (although this rule is not common to the backyard volleyball played by beginners).
- Touching the net (this rule isn't either, but it should be for safety reasons).
- The ball passes outside of the posts (or aerials if present) on the way back to the opposition court.
Until 1998 volleyball only had two positions - on court and on the bench. The nature of the rules meant that all players needed to be able to play at the net and in the back-court. Teams developed tactics and strategies that minimised this by specialising the role of each player, but technically there were no actual positions. The introduction of the libero changed this.
The libero player wears a different colour shirt from the rest of the team and may substitute on and off court as many times between rallies as required. Originally intended to be a defensive specialist (taken from football) the way the rules have been written allows them to be part of the service receive unit that develop the attack.
The primary rules about the libero are that:
- they may not serve, block or attack the ball above the height of the net.
- if they volley a ball when standing in the 3m zone, the attacker may not hit the ball above the height of the net. This is to stop teams using them as a setter.
The Skills used in Volleyball
There are 5 main skills used in volleyball. Additionally some coaches would include mobility and mental skills.
The serveThe serve is the moment when the ball is put into play. This can be by a variety of methods, underahand, overhand float, topspin, jump, windmill.
The forearm pass
Basic Tactics and Strategies
These have been confined to their own entry.
Major International Competitions
Althought there are major profesional indoor leagues in Italy, Japan, Greece, USA, and Brazil; the profile of volleyball is maintained by international competition. To this end the FIVB has created a schedule that brings the top international teams into the spotlight every year.
A major international competition occurs every year due to four tournaments repeating on a quadrennial cycle. There are both a men's and women's tournament in each.
- The Olympics. Since 1964 volleyball has been part of this great sporting event.
- World Grand Champions Cup - follows Olympic year. First held in 1993. It brings together the champions of the four highest ranked "continents" plus the host country and a wildcard.
- World Championships Held two years before/after the Olympics.
- World Cup Originally contested in 1963, it moved from being held the year after the Olympics to the year preceding them in 1991. It therefore acts as a qualifying tournament for the Olypics themselves. It brings together 12 teams including the host country, the five Continental champions, four best Vice-champions and two FIVB-nominated wild cards.
Also there are also a major men's and women's competition held on an annual basis.
- World League - annual men's competition involving 16 teams played weekly over 2 months, boasting $15 million in prize money.
- World Grand Prix - launched in 1993, the annual women's competition involving 12 teams playing over a 2 week period. Boasts $1 million in prize money.
- Age-related competitions for junior players.
- Recently introduced height-restricted competitions for men under 1-84m and women under
- Continental Championships - e.g. African Nations Cup.
- World Club competition
- Various leagues around the world.