Happy 100th Birthday Volleyball 1895-1995

Posted on December 2, 1995

The 100th Birthday of Volleyball

The rules of volleyball have changed many times since William Morgan first developed the game in 1895 with an original purpose of providing some form of recreation and relaxation for businessmen at
the Holyoke, MA Y.M.C.A. The first rules, written by Mr. Morgan in long hand, contained the following basic features:
1. The net was 6 feet, 6 inches high.
2. The court was 25 X 50 feet
3. Any number of participants was allowed.
4. The length of the game was nine innings, with three outs allowed per team per inning.
5. Continuous air dribbling of the ball was permissible up to a restraining line 4 feet from the net.
6. No limit on the number of hits on each side of the court.
7. A served ball could be assisted across the net.
8. A second serve (as in tennis) was permitted if the first resulted in a fault.
9. Any ball hitting the net, except on the first service, was a fault and resulted in side out.

Following are dominant rule changes as they occur by year:


1. Net height was raised to 7 feet, 6 inches.
2. Dribbling line was eliminated.
3. Length of game was changed to 21 points.


1. Court size became 35 X 60 feet.
2. Official ball was designated as 26 inches in circumference and was to weigh between 7 and 9 ounces.
3. Number of players on a side was established at six.
4. Teams required to rotate prior to serving.


1. Number of players on a side could range from one to six.
2. Losing team served in each subsequent game.
3. Official timer was included.

Between 1897 and 1915, the rules were published in the HANDBOOK OF THE ATHLETIC LEAGUE OF THE Y.M.C.A. In 1916 the American Sports published the rules

Publishing Company in a separate book called OFFICIAL VOLLEYBALL RULES.


1. Game points were reduced from 21 to 15 points.
2. Two out of three games determined the winner of a match.
3. The ball could be struck with the feet.
4. The net height was raised to eight feet.
5. The weight of the ball was changed to range from 8 to 10 ounces.
6. Each man rotated in order and served in turn.
7. A serve that hit the net or any outside object was out of bounds.
8. The ball could not come to rest in the hands.
9. The ball could not be touched a second time unless another player had played it.


1. The ball could be played by any part of the body above the waist.
2. The court size was changed to 30 feet by 60 feet.
3. The ball could only be played three times by each team on its side of the court.


1. Reaching over the net in any manner was prohibited.
2. A back position player was prohibited from spiking when playing a back position.
3. The double foul was written in the rules.
4. The centerline was added as well as a scorer.
5. It was necessary for one team to score two consecutive points to win if the score was tied at 14-14.


1. Ceiling height minimum was to be 15 feet.
2. Six players constituted a team and 12, a squad.
3. Players were numbered.
4. The team receiving the serve rotated clockwise.
5. The right back player served.
6. If a player touched the opponents' court in completing a play it constituted a foul.


In 1924 the net specifications were written in detail: 3 feet wide, 4-inch square mesh of number 30 brown thread, canvas cover, top and bottom with 1/4 inch cable at tope and 1/4 inch rope at the bottom.


1. The ball weight was changed to range from 9 to 10 ounces.
2. An umpire was added.
3. A player could not leave the court without the referee's permission.
4. The ball had to cross the net over the sidelines.
5. A team was permitted two times out per game.
6. A 14-14-tie game was won by a team having a two-point advantage instead of 2 consecutive points.


1. The court was measured to the outside edges of the lines.
2. The net length was placed at 32 feet.
3. A team that was reduced to less than six players would forfeit the game.

In 1928 four different sets of rules were published: the official rules, simplified rules, modified rules for the
playground, and rules for girls and women. Although the last three sets of rules were changed many times and had interest and support from various groups, the official rules are the only ones covered.

No changes occurred from 1927 to 1931.


1. The centerline was extended indefinitely.
2. A tape was put on the net over the sidelines.
3. Times out were limited to one minute.
4. A player could not interchange positions or move outside his understood playing area.
5. A player could go outside his court to make a play.


1. A 3/8-inch cable replaced the 1/4-inch cable in the top of the net.


1. Crosses were placed on the floor defining player positions.
2. All players were required to wear numbers on their suits.
3. It became a foul to deliberately screen an opponent from the server.
4. Players could not leave their court unless the ball was on their side of the net. (At this time spikers would stand outside their court and wait till the ball was set to the outside of the court and come running in with a one-leg take-off spike).
5. Any touching of the net was a foul.
6. A play was not complete unless a player resumed normal control on the floor.
7. Deliberate shouting and stomping the feet at an opponent was deemed unsportsmanlike.


1. A third contact ball driven into the net causing the net to contact the opponent was not a foul.
2. A player could re-enter a game once.
3. A substitute was no longer restricted from talking to his teammate until the ball was put into play.
4. Multiple contacts were allowed in receiving a hard drive spike.

Blocking was first included in the rules in 1938.  Blocking was defined as impeding the ball at the net. A one or two-man block was permitted, providing the blockers played in adjacent positions.

In 1939, no changes occurred and the only change during 1940 was that the official ball must be a twelve-piece lace less leather-covered ball. During 1941 a rewording and clarifying of the rules took place.


1. Ball could be played with any part of the body from the knees upward.
2. The score of a forfeited game would be 15-0.


1. Only the front line players could interchange positions to make a two-man block.
2. The numbers on players' shirts had to be 4 inches high.


The rules were clarified and rewritten to aid in interpretation. Blocking was defined and the service area
stipulated as being the right third of the back line.  Other items clarified were:

1. Each player should be in his own area before the ball leaves the server's hands.
2. Points made from wrong server were cancelled.
3. Simultaneous hits by two players constituted one hit.
4. Time out for rest was one minute.
5. Time out for injury was five minutes.
6. Time out between games was three minutes.


1. The game was allowed to be played under a time limit of 8 minutes of ball in playtime.
2. The winner was to have a 20-point advantage after expiration of time or 15 points, whichever came first.
3. A timekeeper was included as one of the officials.
4. Time-out period for injury was reduced to three minutes.
5. A three-man block was made legal, provided they were front line players.


1. There should be no warm-up time allowed substitutes.
2.  A clarification of what constituted a held ball included "the ball must be clearly batted."


1. The service area and the court with crosses were clearly defined.
2. A backcourt spiker was allowed to spike the ball provided he remained in the backcourt.


1. Any player was allowed to block at the net.
2.  A 7-foot line drawn back and parallel to the net as a restraining line for back court players blocking at the net.
3. The restriction was lifted on players leaving their position to perform any play except the back line spiker.
4. A defensive player, when blocking, must indicate whether or not he touched the ball.
5. The server was allowed to serve the ball from anywhere back of the service line.
6. Teams were allowed to warm up during time out for rest or for injury.
7. The players were allowed to leave the court without the referee's permission.
8. The coach, captain, or manager was allowed to call time out.


1. The rubber ball was ruled legal.
2.  A substitute was allowed to re-enter the game twice instead of once.
3. Players were allowed to use any part of the body to play the ball.
4. The whole format of the rules was changed and each rule items was numbered from 1 to 75 under 8 major headings.
5. Errors and fouls were defined.


1. Clarified the rule concerning players being in position until the ball was struck on the serve.
2. A set of co-ed rules was adopted.
3. An attempt to draft a standard set of rules failed due to the different styles of play used by various groups.
4. Screening the serve was allowed.


1. The official rules came out in a new format with 5 main headings and 24 sub-titles for cross reference and coverage.
2. A back line player was allowed to take-off from in front of the 7-foot line but had to alight behind the line.
3. Movement during a screen was allowed.


1. The players were allowed to stand anywhere in the court during the serve as long as they were in rotation order.
2. Teams automatically changed courts during the third game of a match when one team reached 8 points or 4 minutes of playtime expired.


There were no changes but various innovations were tried.

1. Using a higher net.
2. Twenty-one and fifty point games.
3. Playing the ball off obstacles.
4. Playing all underhand balls with the fist.


There were no major changes made.


1. Players screening the serve were allowed to wave their hands and move during the serve.
2. The umpire was given the authority to call ball-handling errors and to keep time between games.


1. Women's net height was lowered to 7 feet 4 inches.
2. Teams were to alternate the initial serve of each succeeding game in a match.


1. Gloves were allowed to be worn during play.


1. Clarification of timing rule and player position.
2. A player was not allowed to grab the officials' platform to keep from going over the centerline.


1. Clarification of the overlapping rule of player positions on the serve.


1. Defined the method of service whereby a server could hit the serve from a toss by a teammate or from a bounce.


1. Center line was limited only to the side of the court.
2. A player could cross the assumed extension if he did not attempt to play the ball.
3. Screening was made illegal.


1. The blocker's fingers were permitted to stray across the net inadvertently as long as they did not contact the ball or affect the play.


No changes made due to the widespread use of International Rules.


An attempt was made to draw USVBA rules and International Rules together, causing several major changes to be made:
1. Definition of fouls changed to include ball-handling errors.
2. Ceiling minimum height was raised to 26 feet.
3. Lines depicting the 10-foot serving area were added to the court.
4. The server was required to toss the ball into the air when initiating the serve.
5. The spiking line was moved from 7 feet to 10 feet back from the net.
6. Blockers were allowed to reach across the net as long as they did not contact the ball until after the attacker had contacted it.
7. One player from the rear could block but at no time could there be more than three players deployed in position to block.
8. Back line spikers were allowed to land in front of the spiking line as long as they left the ground behind it.
9. The ball could not be played with any part of the body below the waist.


1. Only front line players were permitted to block.
2. A team was limited to 12 substitutions per game.


1. Numbers on uniforms must be 6 inches on the front, 3 inches on the back, and at least 4 inches above the waist.
2. The centerline was widened from 2 inches to 4 inches.
3. Upon request by the referee, the umpire can call all violations not viable to the referee.
4. The ball on the serve does not have to be tossed in the air before it is struck.
5. When a player is injured, a substitute shall be put in without undue delay.
6. Once a team has received the signal to take the court, the lineup cannot be changed.

From 1970 to the present Volleyball became big business.
Many of the rules from 1970 to the present differed between Federation (High School), National Association of Girls and Women in Sports which has now been replaced by the NCAA, USA Volleyball and other amateur and professional associations. Each Association rulebook needs to be studied. Even the timing of time outs varies between Associations.  For the latest rule changes see articles elsewhere on this page.