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outdoor or indoor ball and net game played on a level court. An upright net, 3 ft (or 1 m) high, the top of which stands 8 ft (2.43 m) from the ground for men, 7 ft 4 1/8 in (2.24 m) for women, divides the court—60 ft (or 18 m) long and 30 ft (or 9 m) wide—in half. Three forwards and three backs compose a team. The inflated rubber or leather volleyball, about 27 in. (69 cm) in circumference, is served from behind the back lines of the court. Players bat the ball across the top of the net into any part of the opponents' court. Any part of the body (especially the open hand or fist) may be used to bat the ball, but players may not catch or carry it. A maximum of three hits per team is permitted in returning the ball to the opponents' court. Teams must return the ball without allowing it to touch the ground. Spiking is the game's most dramatic offensive maneuver, occurring when a player drives the ball forcefully downward into the opponents' court with an open hand at speeds of about 100 mph. Defenses attempt to block spikes at the net. Only the serving team scores points; if the receiving team wins the volley, it gains the next serve after the players rotate their positions clockwise. The team scoring 15 points first wins the game, though the margin of victory must be at least two.

William G. Morgan originated volleyball in 1895 at Holyoke, Mass; since 1928 the game's governing body in the United States has been the U.S. Volleyball Association. Changes introduced in 2000 allow a team to score whether it is serving or not and added the libero—a freely roaming, back-row defensive player—to the game. Although the game at high levels is technical and strategic, millions of recreational players enjoy it in indoor winter leagues and in the summer outdoors.

Beach volleyball is played outdoors on a sand court with two players instead of six. The court dimensions, the net and its position, and the scoring are similar to that of the traditional six-player game. Beach volleyball began in the 1920s in California and held its first men's tournament in 1947. The professional game developed in the 1970s, world championships were first held in 1987 (men) and 1993 (women), and the sport achieved Olympic status in 1996.


See G. Bulman, Volleyball (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a team sport played with a ball by two teams, each consisting of six people. The players of one team, hitting the ball not more than three times with any part of the body above the waist, try to direct it to the other side over a net stretched across the court. The object is to make the ball touch the ground within the boundaries of the court, or to force the opponents to break the rules of the game in their return. The court is a rectangle 9 m by 18 m, divided into two equal halves by the net. The height of the net varies for women (2.24 m), men (2.43 m), and different age groups. A match consists of three or five games, each one proceeding until one team scores 15 points. If the score of a game reaches 14-14, play continues until one team has a two-point margin.

Volleyball began in 1895 in the USA; W. M. Morgan (Massachusetts) is considered the inventor of the game. It spread to Japan, China, and the Philippines. In Europe, volleyball was first played in Czechoslovakia (1907). The International Volleyball Association was formed in 1947, uniting 110 countries (on Jan. 1, 1971). The association sponsors official competitions for men and women: world championships (since 1949); continental championships, including Europe (since 1948); national team competitions for the World Cup (since 1965); and club team competitions for the European Cup (since 1961). Since 1964, men’s and women’s volleyball competition has been included in the program of the Olympic games. Volleyball is played most extensively in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil.

The first rules of the game in the USSR were enacted in 1926. In 1932, the All-Union Section of Volleyball was created (now the Volleyball Federation of the USSR). The first official championships of the USSR were held in 1933 among select city teams. Since 1938, national championships have been played every year among club teams. The most successful teams in these competitions have been the Moscow women’s teams Spartak, Lokomotiv, Dinamo, and the Central Sports Club of the Army, and the men’s teams Spartak (Moscow and Leningrad), Dinamo (Moscow), the Central Sports Club of the Army, Kalev (Tallinn), and Burevestnik (Alma-Ata).

In 1948 the Volleyball Federation of the USSR joined the International Volleyball Association. Soviet volleyball players have won many international competitions. The USSR women’s team won the European championship in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1958, 1963, and 1967, and the world championship in 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1970; they were the winners of the Olympic games in 1968. The USSR men’s team was the European champion in 1950, 1951, and 1967, and world champion in 1949, 1952, 1960, and 1962; they won the Olympics in 1964 and 1968. Soviet volleyball teams have repeatedly won the European Cup for national champion club teams. Among the best Soviet volleyball players are the Honored Masters of Sport V. A. Oskolkova, L. S. Buldakova, I. V. Ryskal’, A. I. Chinilin, K. K. Reva, andG. G. Mondzolevskii.

In 1970 in the Soviet Union, 6 million people regularly played volleyball; there were approximately 1,000 Masters of Sport, 64 Honored Masters of Sport, and 26 Honored Volleyball Trainers of the USSR.


[Eingorn, A. N.] Voleibol v SSSR: Spravochnik. Moscow, 1956.
Oskolkova, V. A., and M. S. Sungurov. Voleibol. Moscow, 1961.
Potashnik, A. A. Sudeistvo sorevnovanii po voleibolu. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a game in which two teams hit a large ball back and forth over a high net with their hands
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005