The Original Rules of Volleyball

The game now known as volleyball is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The first set of rules appeared in a YMCA magazine in July 1896. They show how the original game incorporated aspects of several other popular sports, including baseball, tennis and basketball:

  1. Game. The game shall consist of nine innings.
  2. Innings. An inning consists of:
    1. When one person is playing on each side, one service on each side.
    2. When three or more are playing on each side, three serves on each side. The man serving continues to do so until out by failure of his side to return the ball. Each man shall serve in turn.
  3. Court. Twenty-five feet wide by fifty feet long.
  4. Net. Two feet wide and twenty-seven feet long. Top of net six feet six inches from the floor.
  5. Ball. The ball shall be a rubber bladder covered with leather or canvas. It shall measure not less than twenty-five inches nor more than twenty-seven inches in circumference, and shall weigh not less than nine ounces nor more than twelve ounces.
  6. Server and Service. The server shall stand with one foot on the back line. The ball must be batted with the hand. Two services or trials are allowed him to place the ball in the opponents' court, as in tennis. In a service, the ball must be batted at least ten feet, no dribbling allowed. A service which would strike the net, but is struck by another of the same side before striking the net, if it goes over into the opponents' court, is good. If it goes outside, the server has no second trial.
  7. Scoring. Each good serve unreturned or ball in play unreturned by the side receiving, counts one score for the side serving. A side only scores when serving, as a failure to return the ball on their part results in the server being put out.
  8. Net Ball. Ball hitting net, aside from the first serve, is counted as a dead ball.
  9. Line Ball. Counted out.
  10. Play and Players. Any number of players. Touching the net by players puts the ball out of play. Holding the ball is banned. Ball hitting any object out of the court and bounding back into the court is counted as a good ball. Dribbling is allowed within four feet of the net.
In 1900 the nine-inning game was eliminated, and play continued until one side reached 21 points. Dribbling was also prohibited at that time. The court was lengthened, and the net raised, in 1912.

The game reached its current form under the guidance of a Rules Committee of the National Athletic Federation, which made significant changes from 1922 to 1926.

For more on the history of volleyball, check out Volleyball World Wide
Source: Volleyball, by Robert Laveaca (New York: Ronald Press Co., 1960).
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Last Updated: 7/16/1996 10:37:44 PM