Dig! Set! Spike! If these words don't sound familiar, you've
probably never played volleyball.
Volleyball is a sport played by two teams on a court divided by a net.
It can be played indoors or outdoors. It gives players a great chance to develop
both team playing skills and individual fitness. If you're looking for
a way to have fun and be part of a team athletic experience without a lot
of physical contact, grab a ball and some friends and hit the court.
Volleyball was invented in 1895 by William Morgan. He was an instructor
at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Morgan decided to blend parts of basketball,
baseball, tennis and handball to create a new game for businessmen that wouldn't
involve as much physical contact as basketball.
Volleyball can be played with teams of six or eight. The object is for
each team to send the ball regularly over the net and ground it on the opponent's
court. They also want to prevent the ball from touching down on their own
The ball is put into play by the right back-row player. He or she serves
the ball from waist height and sends it over the net into the opponent's
court. The receiving team is allowed to hit the ball three times in order
to return it to the server's court.
A single player can't hit the ball twice in a row, except when he
or she is attempting a block. This "back-and-forth" goes on between the teams
until the ball touches the ground, goes "out" of the court, a team fails to
return it to the opponent's court, or a team commits a fault.
A typical volleyball game lasts about 25 minutes. During that time, each
team will contact the ball about 150 times for an average of about 0.10 seconds
each time. This means that each team only has about 15 seconds of "contact
time." To win, teams have to use that time well.
They can only do this by communicating effectively with other team members
about everything that is happening on the court. They must get into position
to always make the most of each ball contact.
It's important to learn a few basic skills that are used in rallying,
or the back-and-forth play of the ball. After the ball is served, it can be
kept from touching down in the court by using skills known as a dig, a set,
a spike and a block.
To dig, a player's hands are held together with the palms facing each
other. In a stride position, feet are kept shoulder-width apart with the knees
bent, back straight, and the forearms parallel to the thighs. To contact the
ball, the player slightly extends the legs and moves the arm "platform" slightly
up and forward. As the ball contacts the arms, body weight transfers forward
and the eyes follow the ball toward its target.
When a player is receiving a ball that is higher than shoulder level and
coming forward with little force, he or she can use a skill called the set.
With feet apart and hands forming a window in front of the forehead, the player
contacts the lower back of the ball, rolls his or her hands out, and extends
the arms to move the ball back over the net or to another player.
The spike is an aggressive hit made into the opponents' court from
the front court position. In one movement, a player must jump into the air
and hit a moving ball over the net so that it lands in the opponents'
Blocking is used to keep the opponents' attacking balls from entering
one's court. It is a team's first line of defense against the opposition,
but should be used with the skills of digging, setting and spiking.
Volleyball requires players to move all the time, but rarely more than
15 feet. In this game, skills are performed best when a player is stationary
and balanced, so being able to move quickly and then obtain good, solid form
To win a game, a team must score 15 points with a two-point advantage.
To win a match, a team must win the best of three or five games.
In some areas, teams may play by slightly different rules. For instance,
some teams play by the rally point system, in which games go to 25 points.
Physical skills are important, but players stress that having mental focus
also makes a big difference in whether you win or lose. "The most challenging
facet of the game, as in all sports, is to maintain constant, intense mental
focus," says Tom Wilson. He's the men's volleyball coach at Harvard
University and assistant women's coach at Wellesley College.
"It's so easy to 'wander away' mentally, to kick yourself
for mistakes that happened two or three rallies ago, to worry about things
that might happen two or three rallies in the future. The challenge is to
stay focused in the here and now, on the things that are happening this instant,
which is where games are won and lost."
While a lot of media focus is put on professional volleyball these days,
it is a game that anyone can play. Whether you want to get together for a
family game at a picnic or start an intense match with other skilled players,
there is a level of volleyball for everyone.
"We won't all be on TV, but this is a sport everyone can play," says
game enthusiast Scott Hammon. "Most non-volleyball players believe they are
too short to play and this is a tall person's game. While height will
definitely give an advantage, with proper instruction, anyone can be a competitive
volleyball player. Remember: volleyball was a game that was invented for businessmen
to get a little exercise during their lunch break."
The sport now has 800 million fans worldwide who play at least once a week.
"Volleyball is great because it teaches the value of teamwork," says Hammon.
"Also, it's unique in that you never celebrate the loss of your opponent,
only your team's victory, because points are scored only when the serving
team wins the rally. This and the fact that volleyball is a non-violent sport
makes it very appealing to kids and their parents."
Ingrid Emanuels is a coach and youth chair on the board of directors of
a volleyball association. She agrees that volleyball can be a positive contribution
to personal development. "Volleyball can help young people learn to build
a successful team," she says.
"Winning results come from everyone's effort. Players learn to cover
for others' weaknesses, build their own strengths and arrange formations
to give the best results for the whole team. These same teamwork skills apply
to the real world whenever a group of participants need to achieve a goal
together. These teamwork skills are transferable to future life and career
Everyone can play volleyball, but not every player can get rich as a professional.
If all a player wants to do is coach or play, it can be tough to make a living
on the court. "There are only a few hundred full-time volleyball coaching
positions in the U.S., mostly in the Division I women's game," says Wilson.
"In virtually all other divisions, coaches augment their salaries with
teaching positions or by working outside the institution at which he or she
coaches. If you're a men's coach, full-time positions are very few
and far between."
For those who love volleyball and want to make it part of their lives,
however, it is possible to find careers that relate to the sport but don't
involve playing or coaching.
"Once a person takes a look at volleyball, from pros to college to the
local club level, he or she will find that there are many opportunities to
make a living in the volleyball community," says Hammon. "While becoming a
professional player may not be possible for everyone, opportunities in coaching,
officiating, promotion and marketing are plentiful."
Association of Volleyball Professionals
Learn about playing and coaching from the high school level through
to the Olympics
All volleyball all the time
Covers adult and youth volleyball, national teams, officiating