Volleyball was created in 1895 in the state of Massachusetts, in the United States, by William Morgan, as an alternative sport for older people who couldn’t cope with the constant physical contact of Basketball (which had been invented some years previously in the same place). Its first name was Mintonette, but it was renamed due to the volleying movement made by the ball when flying over the net.
Just five years after it was created, the sport had already reached Canada, and little by little it spread to many parts of the world. However, the rules varied in each place – in a competition in the Philippines, for example, each team had 16 players.
To resolve this issue, some universal rules were determined in 1918. For example, the number of athletes on each team was decided, and a rule was established that each team could only touch the ball three times before sending it back across the net. In the 1930s, the sport reached Eastern Europe. In 1933, the Soviet Union held its first national championship, and the block move was invented in Czechoslovakia.
The International Volleyball Federation (known by French acronym FIVB) was founded in 1947. It standardised the rules concerning the size of the court (9 metres by 18 metres) and height of the net (2.43 metres for men and 2.24 metres for women). Two years later, the first world championship was held in Rome.
The large number of players across the world was a major reason for Volleyball’s entry into the Olympic programme. This occurred at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, with competitions for both men and women.
The objective is to make the ball hit the floor on the opponents’ side. Matches are played as the best of five sets. The first four sets go until 25 points, or more if necessary to ensure a difference of at least two points. There is no maximum score, so the set continues until the two-point difference is attained. In the fifth set, the rule is the same, but the number of points to be reached is only 15.
Each player has the function of attacking or defending, depending on his or her position on the court. The only exception is the libero, who can replace any member of the team at any moment and has an exclusively defensive role. The libero’s uniform is different from that of the other team members.
Volleyball competitions at the Olympic Games start with 12 teams divided into two groups, with all teams playing against each other. The best four teams in each group go through to the elimination stage, in which the teams that survive face each other to compete for gold. The losers in the semi-finals play for the bronze medal.