Volleyball is a team sport that’s popular all around the world. However, it’s mostly played on a highly professional level in Europe and the America’s. It’s one of the most popular sports in countries like Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, etc. Attendance wise, volleyball games are definitely below sports like football and basketball; however, in many countries in Europe, this sport probably brings more people to the sidelines than handball. It’s also important to note that the sport is part of the Summer Olympic Games.
As a team sport, volleyball is played by six players on each side. They are separated by a net as each side tries to get the ball over the net to the other side. The idea of the sport is to have a player on one of the teams begin a ‘rally’ by serving the ball (tossing or releasing it and then hitting it with a hand or arm), from behind the back boundary line of the court, over the net, and into the receiving team’s court. The other team has to stop the ball from it being grounded in their part of the field. We will explain more about volleyball and it’s origins below.
The origin of volleyball can be traced back to the end of the 19th century. In 1895, William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette. However, this sport was derived from the already well known game Badminton. The game took some of its characteristics from other sports such as tennis and handball. All of this was happening during the expansion of basketball. Mintonette was invented to be a indoor sport that’s less rough than basketball.
William G Morgan wrote the first set of rules; however, in them there was no rule for how many players can be on the court at the same time. After several years, an observer of the sport, Alfred Halstead, noticed the volleyball nature of the sport. With time Mintonette was renamed to volleyball and the rules were also changed slightly. The rules were slightly modified by the International YMCA Training School and the game spread around the country to various YMCAs.
The first country outside the United States to adopt volleyball was Canada in 1900. However, the first World Championship in the sport didn’t happen until 1949. Since then, the sport became extremely popular in most of Eastern Europe, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, USA, as well as a lot of the Asian countries, especially China. Towards the end of the 20th century, another variation of the sport appeared and it’s known as Beach Volleyball.
There are a lot of volleyball rules; however, understanding the game is very simple. The reason for this is because most of the players on the court play the same position. All of them rotate when it comes to serving the ball. One player keeps serving as long as the team is winning the points. When they lose a point, the other team takes the serve and once they win it back a different player will be doing the serving. Nevertheless, the most important part of the rules is the court.
A volleyball court is 9 m × 18 m, divided into equal square halves by a net with a width of one meter. The top of the net is 2.43 m above the center of the court for men’s competition, and 2.24 m for women’s competition, varied for veterans and junior competitions. The minimum height clearance for indoor volleyball courts is 7 m, although a clearance of 8 m is recommended. A line, 3 m from and parallel to the net is considered the “attack line”. This “3 meter” line divides the court into “back row” and “front row” areas. These are in turn divided into 3 areas each: these are numbered as follows, starting from area “1”, which is the position of the serving player.
After a team gains the serve (also known as siding out), its members must rotate in a clockwise direction, with the player previously in area “2” moving to area “1” and so on, with the player from area “1” moving to area “6”. Each player rotates only one time after the team gains possession of the service; the next time each player rotates will be after the other team wins possession of the ball and loses the point.
As we mentioned above, each team in the volleyball consists of six court players. The play starts with a coin toss which decides the team that’s going to serve first. A player from the serving team throws the ball into the air and attempts to hit the ball so it passes over the net on a course such that it will land in the opposing team’s court (the serve). The opposing team must use a combination of no more than three contacts with the volleyball to return the ball to the opponent’s side of the net. The ball is usually bumped or passed by one of the players to the hands of the “setter”.
This player is supposed to set the ball with the 2nd contact to one of the attackers. Usually he hits the ball above his head in a straight direction, parallel with the net. The attacker then jumps to hit the set ball over the net and into the opponents field. The other team, on the other hand, will have 2 or 3 players jumping up next to the net to try and block his hit. The volleyball game goes on until one of the teams doesn’t save the ball in their court, they hit the net, or the other team spikes the ball out of the lines of the court. Players may travel well outside the court to play a ball that has gone over a sideline or end-line in the air.
Common errors that happen in voleyball are as follows:
- One player touches the ball twice in a row;
- One team fails to get the ball over the net with just 3 contacts;
- A player interferes with the net while trying to play the ball.
We can’t be talking about volleyball without taking the time to explain the role of the libero. This player wears a different jersey and is considered the main defensive player. The libero is supposed to get the 1st hit on the ball after the opponents serve the ball. It’s a complicated role because if the libero fails his job, the team can’t really organize an attack. In modern volleyball, the libero sometimes works as the 2nd “setter”. Additionally, the libero is the only player that doesn’t serve the ball. Liberos are usually shorter than the other players because they need to be faster and quicker to react to a coming ball.
How to Play
The game of volleyball is very simple even though it requires a lot of athleticism. One team serves the ball and the other one plays the “dig”. That’s the process of receiving the ball in your field, without letting it touch the floor. After the ball is received, one of the players makes a pass or a “set” and one of the attacking players hits the ball over the net. Volleyball is played in sets, and one team needs to win 3 sets to win the game. Each set is played until one team gets 25 points. There are two exceptions to that rule. First, if both teams get close to 25 and the score is tied, they continue to play until one team has a 2 point advantage. For instance, if the score is 24-24, one team would have to get to at least 26-24 to win that set.
Additionally, in case the game goes to 5 sets, the rules change. If both teams win 2 sets each, a 5th set is played but instead of 25 points, it’s played to just 15 points. The first team that gets there wins the set and thus wins the volleyball match. During the game, both teams will prepare different strategies and formations in order to outplay the other team.
Organizations & Tournaments
Each country where volleyball is a popular sport has their own national federations. These federations organize the domestic volleyball leagues and prepare a national squad for international competitions. However, the most important organization is the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB). It was founded in 1947 and since then it has been organizing all international tournaments in the sport. That includes World Championships, European Championships, and, of course, the volleyball events in the Summer Olympics. You can learn more about FIVB on their official website.