“How Volleyball Was Intended”

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As one wanders through life as, one often comes across those among us who find that what one does now is not authentic.  Things used to be better.  They are no longer done as they were ‘intended’.

I am reasonably comfortable in the belief that upon reading those last two sentences you will immediately be able to come up with some volleyball specific examples.  But if not, I am talking about those who complain about the net touch rules, or the ball handling rules, or the scoring system, or the size of the court (in beach volleyball).

The argument goes something like, ‘in the old days, we could only underarm pass like volleyball was supposed to be’ or ‘the 9m x 9m court is the way beach volleyball was intended to be played’.  I don’t really like those arguments for two reasons.  Firstly, they are completely wrong.  Okay, only one reason.

On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (USA), William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played (preferably) indoors and by any number of players. … Mintonette was designed to be an indoor sport, less rough than basketball, for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort. from Wikipedia

Basketball, a sport that was beginning to develop, seemed to suit young people, but it was necessary to find a less violent and less intense alternative for the older members. from fivb.org

So there you have it.  Volleyball was ‘intended’ to be a low level physical activity for middle aged businessmen.  I will make the assumption that volleyball actually ceased to be ‘as it was intended’ about a month after it was invented or, at the latest, the first time two teams decided to keep the score.  Anyone who makes a statement about how volleyball in ‘intended’ to be is just taking an arbitrary moment in history and choosing to apply a value judgement to that moment.  Any historical moment chosen (including 2014 but not including 1895) is equally (in)valid.

My message for everyone who wants to see volleyball as it was intended … wait until you are about 45 and can’t get up and down a basketball court anymore.  Then call any number of your friends (see above) and head on down to the Y.  You’ll have fun the net is only 1.98m.

If you want to see all of the original volleyball rules, and how they changed over time (at least the USA versions of them) click here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2


  1. I think the “intention” of volleyball really is for people to have fun enjoying a physical activity. When people say it is not being played now as “intended”, I think they are implying their dissatisfaction with some of the rule changes that have occurred over the last few decades. One of the parts of the game that I always enjoyed (and still enjoy watching) is the implementation of the various systems that have been employed over time, all within the existing rules at the time. When the Americans introduced the 2 setter system was this how the game was “intended” back in 1895. The many combinations for starting line ups aimed at confusing the opposition as to who is back and front court. Specialist setters, middle blockers and more recently opposites and liberos. All of this indicates to me that the game was intended to include some thinking and strategy. I have done some minor coaching under the current rules and played under the old rules. The game is just as exciting now as it was when I played. Although I guess the introduction of the libero may have made it a little bit more difficult for non players to understand. Still it is a new aspect of the game which has introduced the possibility of new strategies. With regard to the net touch rules I do find it confusing at times. I guess if I was playing today I would just try to avoid touching it altogether to be on the safe side. I do think that if the old rule still applied (ie no touch allowed) it would be easier to referee. I’m not really sure why this rule was changed, but it hasn’t lessened the excitement of the game.


    1. I know exactly why people are making the comments they are making. They are nostalgic for a moment in time, most likely the first moment they fell in love with volleyball. The point is that no moment in time is intrinsically better or worse than any other moment in time. The nostalgia simply restricts the enjoyment of volleyball. That is a personal matter and of no interest to me. What does interest me is volleyball as a whole and I think that mentality, particularly among volleyballers, is an overall detriment to the sport and one reason volleyball continues to exist on the fringes and doesn’t hold the place it deserves.


  2. I think off the libero rule as being intended to make rallies longer by giving teams a better defensive player. To execute the rule “as intended” you could make the libero stay out of the pass and only play defence. Volleyball wouldn’t be better. There’s a great documentary on Grid Iron’s forward pass and its evolution. American football was intended to be like rugby, but it;s a lot better with the forward pass. Volleyball is better to watch now than it was 10, 15, 20 etc years ago.


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