Invented in 1895, volleyball has grown from its roots as a non-contact recreational exercise to its current status as one of the world's most popular sports. It is a remarkable irony of sports history that volleyball's inventor, a Massachusetts Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) instructor, William G. Morgan (1870–1942), developed this sport in same American town where James Naismith had created basketball four years earlier.

Originally known as "mintonette," Marshall intended his game to be played by an older age group, persons who sought the benefits of an exercise that did not present significant physical risks. Marshall envisioned the new game to be one that would strictly avoid any potential for body contact between opponents and thus be less demanding than the recently developed, but locally popular, basketball. The popularity of the newly named volleyball spread throughout the United States and overseas in the early 1900s due to the worldwide influence of the YMCA, which introduced the sport at its local gyms. In 1916, the style of the sport changed forever when the offensive tactic of the set and spike was first developed in the Philippines, where it was known by the colorful description, la bomba.

Other than subsequent technical refinements to the manner of play, the rules of volleyball have been unchanged since their codification in 1920. The United States Volley Ball Association (later known as USA Volleyball) was formed in 1928, the world's first national governing body in the sport. The first variant of volleyball, beach volleyball, was first played and developed in California after 1930. The international growth of volleyball was impeded only by World War II, and in 1946 the international federation governing the sport, Federation Internationale de Volley-Ball (FIVB), was chartered. FIVB sanctioned the inaugural world volleyball championships in 1949, and the sport was included for the first time as both a men's and women's sport in the 1964 Olympics.

The first professional volleyball league was formed in 1983, and other professional leagues were established in a number of other nations in the succeeding years. Beach volleyball developed its own following, which resulted in both a first FIVB world beach championship in 1987, followed by the inclusion of beach volleyball as an Olympic sport in 1996. Volleyball in both forms is played in every country of the world.

The rules of volleyball are relatively simple; it is the precision with which a team can execute within this uncomplicated rules framework that defines success in the sport. The object of both indoor volleyball and outdoor volleyball is to direct the ball over the net without the ball being safely returned by the opposing team. A team is permitted a maximum of three contacts with the ball after receiving the ball from the opposing team, in addition to any contact with the ball at the net if one of the team attempted to block the ball. Outdoor volleyball is played with two players per side, the indoor game with six per side. If the team can combine to deliver the ball over the net so as to prevent its return by the opposing teams, either by directing into the floor within the playing surface, or when the opponent cannot return the ball after three contacts, a point is scored. Games are scored by the first team to reach 25 points, and a match usually will consist of a best-of-five-games format. When a fifth game is necessary to decide the match that game will be played to 15 points.

Height is an important, but not determinative, physical attribute in volleyball. While tall players typically will dominate in the play at the net, smaller and more agile players are essential in covering open areas of the court, to both keep the ball in play after an opponent's attack, and to coordinate the offensive attack by putting the ball into play as a part of a set offensive sequence. The setter is such a player, the team member responsible for putting the ball into a position where it can be delivered with an authoritative spike into the opponent's court. In elite international volleyball, it is not uncommon to have male players at 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) or taller playing in the frontcourt, and on women's teams, 6 ft 2 in or taller (1.87 m). However, unlike basketball, where the game has evolved so as to require a significant degree of muscular strength at the forward positions, volleyball players are often very lean of build, with tremendous leaping ability.

The net is positioned midway on a court that is 59.6 ft long, and 29.6 ft wide (18 m by 9 m). The net is 7.95 ft high for men's play, and 7.4 ft high for women (2.43 m and 2.24 m, respectively). The ball used for all players is constructed from synthetic materials, with a circumference of between 25.5 in and 27 in (65 and 67 cm), and a weight of between 9 oz and 10 oz (260 g and 280 g).

The court is marked by lines to define the side defended by each team. As a general rule, the ball may be hit by a player from anywhere on the team's side of the net, including what would otherwise be an out-of-bounds position. Each court has an attack line placed 9.9 ft (3 m) behind the net; this is the boundary that determines the frontcourt from the back-court. Players in the backcourt are not permitted to attack, or spike, the ball unless they are positioned behind that line. The attack line also assists in

Volleyball is played at many levels worldwide.
defining the role of a specialist known as the "libero." The libero is a player who can be substituted for any player in a team's backcourt. The libero is not permitted to serve the ball nor may the libero spike the ball or rotate into the frontcourt. The libero was a position invented in the mid 1990s to create an additional role for the shorter volleyball player.

A volleyball game commences with a serve of the ball, a shot delivered from behind the end line of the court. A serve may be made with any arm action, provided that the fundamental rule of ball contact and handling is observed—a volleyball may not be thrown, lifted (typically with a cupped hand), or struck twice in one motion (double hit). A hard serve will often be delivered as a jump serve, where the power of the jump is converted into arm speed and consequently a greater force is imparted to the ball. The manner in which the player's hand is applied to the serve will determine how the ball will travel through the air. Like a soccer ball or a baseball, the spin imparted to a volleyball creates the Magnus effect, where the ball moves in the direction of the lower air pressure created by the spin. A hard-spinning serve is a difficult ball to handle for an opposing team. A float serve is designed to achieve the opposite effect from a spike serve. The float serve is delivered with little or no spin, making its path through the air unpredictable.

There are many specific methods for handling the ball once it has been served. The basic movements are the bump, set, and spike. The bump is usually performed with both arms held together and the hands as fists held together, and the ball then directed upward; the bump is usually made to keep the ball live and to establish an offensive maneuver. The set is a pass directed by a player with the intention that it will be delivered for a score by a teammate. The setter is the person who is designated to perform the bulk of the setting duties for a team. The spike is the ultimate effort by a team to score a point, representing an attack on the ball above the height of the net. A successful spike will result in a "kill," a point for the team where the ball could not be returned. As a general rule, no player is permitted to touch the net while the ball is in play.

The rules regarding the manner in which the ball may be handled are essentially the same for the outdoor beach volleyball game. The presence of two players versus six makes the tactics of beach volleyball relatively simple; the sand playing surface makes jumping much more difficult. The outdoor court is slightly smaller than that used indoors: 52.5 ft by 26.2 ft (16 m by 8 m). In a curious way, the most significant difference between the indoor and outdoor games is the flash and the glamour that quickly became associated with the beach version. The sunny venues and the form-fitting uniforms worn by players gave the newcomer sport tremendous international television appeal at every Olympics since its introduction in 1996.

Volleyball training must be oriented to the objects of the game. It is a game that is primarily anaerobic in the manner in which athletic movement is required and energy produced in support. On any given point contested during a game, the athletic movement demanded of a player may be of between five seconds and 30 seconds duration. The typical rest interval between each point is approximately 10-20 seconds. Exercises that assist in the development of explosive leaping ability, quick lateral movement, and hand-eye coordination are of primary importance to the volleyball player.

Aerobic training is also important to overall volleyball performance. Aerobic strength will permit the players to sustain their energy levels through games that may last as long as two hours, as well as to facilitate physical recovery. Physical strength in the sense of developing maximum muscular power is not as important as the achievement of balance and flexibility. Volleyball success requires that the player possess an optimum range of motion, to permit the greatest degree of lift in the leaping required, as well as to enhance the cushioning of the forces repeatedly directed into the body through jumps and landing.

One appeal of volleyball, beyond the nature of the game itself, is that it is a sport that can be played by any body type at any age. It can also be played safely and without significant rule changes by men and women, mixed, or co-ed settings.

SEE ALSO Plyometrics; Stretching and flexibility; Volleyball strength training and exercises; Volleyball: Set and spike mechanisms.