Volleyball “was born” on the Island of Puerto Rico near to the 1915. The little Island with a population of about 3.5 million at that time got help of North American teachers and priests who introduced the sport of volleyball to schools in towns like Naranjito, Yauco, Aguada, Corozal, Comerio, Barranquitas and the metropolitan zone of the Island. Then, in the 20’s, native people organized insular competitions that included a USA Army local base volleyball team.
The YMCA also had an important role in Puerto Rico’s Volleyball development, when a team from Pittsburgh played some friendly games in the island against the top teams of the national league. By that time each team play’s with 3 setters and 3 hitters at the same time, and the rules are so different that the rules we have now.
By 1938 Puerto Rico won his first Gold Medal on international competitions in The Fourth Central American and Caribbean Games after beating Mexico 2-0 ( 15-8; 15-12).
In 1958 wasfounded the Puerto Rico Volleyball Federation guided by ex-players and sports leaders like
Dr. German Vázquez, Santos Valles, Alejandrino Román y Pepe Arrache and Lic. Luis Purcell as President.
The season in 1958 started with 10 teams divided in two regions – North and South. This tournament was called “The Pre-Olympic” and started in August
In the 1959 Finals, the Naranjito Team presented on court two reinforcement Yugoslavian players (Gabriel Budishing and Julio Yost) against Yauco, on a creole league and that caused protests, so Yauco retired the team and lost the championship.
Among years go by volleyball popularity grew all over the island. Until 1981 to 1983, USA University UCLA visited the Island to play a friendly series against a local and powerful team called Patriotas de Lares. This series gave a boost to fans follow up to local volleyball. Players like Karch Kiraly, Dough Parttie among others participated in this series.
In 1986 sixteen clubs participated in two divisions on the league. A large number of fans followed their favorite teams town to town. It was a golden era in volleyball in Puerto Rico – games on TV, great balanced matches, press coverage and full house almost every night. This volleyball fever continued for 25 years and some great foreigner players like Rafael Pascual (Spain), Jose Matthews (Venezuela), Ivan Milcovic (Argentina), Kid Teixeira (Brazil), Ivan Contreras (Mexico) joined the League. Moreover, among others, supporters in Puerto Rico witnessed the incursion of USA University players, a statistical system and big courts. This put the league on the top, but National representations didn’t shine on internationals competitions.
In the past decade, local volleyball is stuck in jeopardy because of an economic crisis. Fans are missing so the sports halls are empty. People prefer to stay at home or do some other things, meanwhile the National teams are doing well on international competitions and represent the Island on World league, World Championship and the ladies on Grand Prix. So we hope that the local league can revive again and show us that in the little Island volleyball can go Big again!!!
Teacher, Volleyball Historian
Retired coach and Patriotas volleyball club owner since 1992 to 1998.