Come enjoy ‘mintonette’ at your local YMCA

Published 5:20 am Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Editor’s Note: This column is written by Emory Smith, a YMCA staff member.

Most of us have heard that soccer (known as “fútbol” around the world) is the most popular and most played sport in the world. However, most of us do not know what the second-most popular sport is.

This game is played at least once a week by more than 800 million people worldwide. In Russia, there are professional leagues and its best players are as popular as movie stars. In the United States, 46 million people play this game. It is can be played in gyms or outdoors and involves nets. If you guessed basketball, you are wrong. The game is volleyball.

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In 1895, William G. Morgan, an instructor at the YMCA in Holyoke, Mass., decided to blend elements of basketball, baseball, tennis and handball to create a game for his classes of businessmen which would demand less physical contact than basketball. He created the game of “mintonette.” Morgan borrowed the net from tennis, and raised it to 6-feet-6-inches above the floor, just above the average man’s head. 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 better name. Morgan continued the work on the concept. And, on July 7, 1896, volleyball was introduced at Springfield College (same place where basketball was invented) and the first official game was played.

The game was an immediate hit at YMCAs and community centers. But, strangely, it “took off” in popularity because of World War I. Looking for a sport for soldiers to play for exercise and enjoyment indoors or outdoors, the American Expeditionary Forces sent 16,000 volleyballs to its troops and allies. At the end of the war, these soldiers came home “hooked” on volleyball. And, the game had been introduced to the world as well. By 1949, the game was so popular world-wide that the first World Championships were held in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In 1964, it became an Olympic sport.

If you like to play volleyball or if you just want to meet people and make new friends, volleyball has returned to the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA. On Thursday nights, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., co-ed volleyball will be played in the gym. The program is for beginner, intermediate and advanced players. The games will be “pick-up” format until enough people join for us to consider teams and leagues.

So, come out and make friends and find out what the rest of the world already knows — that volleyball is a lot of fun and is great exercise.

Emory Smith is a staff member at the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA. He can be reached at (229) 243-0508.