The Birth Place of Volleyball

The Birth Place of Volleyball

Journeys into Holyoke

Springfield gets most of the local attention conecrmning sports as home of the Basketball Hall of Fame (Future posting on that). UMass-Amherst basjed in its NCAA Hockey Championship. Then of course this is the state of the New England Patriots, the Celtics whose heritage beckons back to the days of Red, Cousy and Russell. And of course, little need be added about how much the Red Sox matter in these parts.

But Holyoke has a great sports story to tell. Actually, mutliple ones. But here we explore the community's connection to Volleyball - especially its deisgnation of "Birthplace of Volleyball"

Most prople think of vollaybell as a beach game.

But the game actially got its start fo from the ocean - here in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

As mentioned above, this area is famous as the home of the discovery of Basketball. Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor who attended Springfield College, invented the game of basketball in 1891 while working at the YMCA Training School in Springfield.

It was also at a YMCA – this one in Holyoke – that the game of Volleyball was invented. And it was also by a Springfield College student.

Originally known as “mintonette,” volleyball was the brainchild of American William G. Morgan, who came up with the idea for the new sport in 1895, just four years after basketball was invented. As a student at the Springfield College, Morgan had befriended Naismith.

According to a history of the sport, Morgan designed the game to be a combination of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball. It was his intention to create a sport which would demand less physical contact than basketball. He borrowed the net from tennis, and raised it 6 feet 6 inches above the floor, just above the average man’s head. For the ball, Morgan asked the firm of A. G. Spalding & Bros. of Chicopee, Massachusetts to make a ball. He found the result was satisfactory.

During a demonstration game, someone remarked to Morgan that the players seemed to be volleying the ball back and forth over the net, and perhaps “volleyball” would be a more descriptive name for the sport. On July 7, 1896 at Springfield College the first game of “volleyball” was played.

Though Morgan would soon move on from the Y (Westinghouse and General Electric) the YMCA continued to involved with the sport. For example, in 1916, the YMCA and the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the Spalding blue cover series issued the rules jointly.

The Greater Holyoke Y, where they game was invented, was first located at the corner of Appleton and High Streets in downtown Holyoke. The site included a gym and rooms for rent. The building was lost to fire in 1943.

These days the origins of the sport are chronicled at the Volleyball Hall of Fame at Skinner Mill Warehouse at the Heritage State Park.

The idea for a Volleyball Hall of Fame first gained some traction in the 1970’s. But it was not until 1998, that a small exhibit was expanded and moved to the permanent 5,000 square feet (460 m2) location in that shares the building with the Holyoke Children's Museum.

The IVHF museum now features exhibits honoring each year's inductees, a replica of a full-size volleyball court, sport timelines, photos, and unique and meaningful memorabilia of the sport along with an interactive video kiosk, a special inductee display area, and a gift shop.

In 1985, William Morgan was posthumously inducted into the hall as its first member. A total of 140 men and women from 25 countries around the world have since been inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame. Those not familiar with the sport will nonetheless recognize the name of Wilt Chamberlain, who is also enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame down the road in Springfield.

To this day, the area continues to produce top volleyball teams and players

Finally, for the record, it was not until the late 1920’s that first two-man beach volleyball game was played, though the professional side of the sport did not emerge until much later.

So next time you are on the beach and see a volleyball game, pause for a second think Holyoke, the YMCA, and William Morgan. Perhaps over time his name will become as well-known as Abner Doubleday, James Naismith and William Camp (inventor of football).

The Birth Place of Volleyball

For more: