Volleyball has come a long way from the dusty-old YMCA gymnasium of Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, where visionary, William G. Morgan, invented the sport back in 1895. It has seen the start of two centuries and the dawn of a new millennium. Volleyball is now one of the big five international sports, and the FIVB, with its 218 affiliated national federations, is the largest international sporting federation in the world.
Over the last decade particularly, volleyball has witnessed unprecedented growth. With the success of its world competition such as the World Championships, Olympic Games, the US15$ million World League, Grand Prix, World Cup, and World Grand Champions Cup, the level of participation at all levels internationally continues to grow exponentially.
The beach volleyball phenomenon, although hugely visible, is still just in its infancy. From the first FIVB World Tour event just over ten years ago, to the overwhelming spectator and television success of ‘Beach’ at the Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, beach volleyball has opened up Volleyball to a completely new market.
The Game – Volleyball
Volleyball is a complex game of simple skills. The ball is hit from up to 60cm above the height of a basketball hoop – that’s about 3.65m – and takes 0.3sec to get from the spiker to the baseline receiver. That means the receiver must assess incoming angle, decide where to pass the ball and then control the pass in the blink of an eye. A purely rebound sport (you can’t hold the ball), volleyball is a game of constant motion.
A team can touch the ball three times on its side of the net. The usual pattern is a dig (an underarm pass made with the forearms), a set (an overhead pass made with the hands) and a spike (the overhead attacking shot). The ball is served into play. Teams can also try to block the opponent’s spike as it crosses the net. A block into your own court counts as one of your three touches in beach volleyball, but not in volleyball.
Power and height have become vital components of international teams, but the ability of teams and coaches to devise new strategies, tactics and skills has been crucial for success at the Games.
• There are six players on court in a volleyball team, who each must rotate position (clockwise) every time their team wins back service from the opposition. Only the three players at the net positions can jump and spike or block near the net. The backcourt players can only hit the ball over the net if they jump from behind the attack line, also known as the three-metre line, which separates the front and back part of the court.
• Volleyball has developed into a very specialised sport. Most teams will include in their starting line-up a setter, two centre blockers, two receiver-hitters and a universal spiker. Only certain players will be involved with service reception. Players will also have specialist positions for attack and defence. Substitutions are allowed during the game.
• In 2000, volleyball used a new scoring system. Teams scored a point on every rally, regardless of which team served. Formerly, a team could only win a point if it served the ball. Winning the serve back from the opposition was known as a side-out.
• Matches are played best of five sets. The first four sets are played to 25 points, with the final set being played to 15 points. A team must win a set by two points. There is no ceiling, so a set continues until one of the teams gains a two-point advantage. Previously, all sets were to 15 points, with the first four sets having a ceiling of 17 and the final set requiring at least a two-point winning advantage.
• Prior to Sydney 2000, the FIVB introduced a new specialist role: the libero. This player wears a different coloured uniform from the rest of the team and can be substituted in backcourt for any player on the team. The libero cannot serve, spike the ball over the net or rotate into the front-line positions, but plays a vital role for the team in serve reception and backcourt defence. There must be at least one point played between a libero substituting off for a player and going back on the court for another player – hence he/she cannot be on the court for the whole game. The libero added an extra dimension to backcourt defence in 2000, improving the reception of teams, lengthening the rallies and giving a vital role to shorter players.