The Olympic sport of Volleyball includes two disciplines: Volleyball and Beach Volleyball.

Did you know?

A five-a-side game similar to volleyball was played in the Middle Ages.
A volleyball ball weighs between 260g and 280g. It is made of synthetic leather.
The famous ‘set and spike’ play was invented in the Philippines, and originally known as ‘the Philippino Bomb’.
A total of 384 athletes will compete for four gold medals in the sport of Volleyball at the 2012 Games.

Key facts


 Venue: Earls Court
Date: Saturday 28 July – Sunday 12 August
Gold medals up for grabs: 2
Athletes: 288

Volleyball: a history of the sport

Volleyball began in the same place as basketball – a YMCA gym in Massachusetts, USA.

In 1895, four years after James Naismith invented basketball, his friend William G. Morgan came up with a game he called ‘mintonette’ – designed as a more gentle alternative to basketball for older members of the gym.

Mintonette grew into modern volleyball, which is anything but gentle, as players leap and smash their way to success in one of the world’s fastest sports.

For more information on the history of the sport visit the IOC website.

Volleyball at the Olympic Games 

Volleyball first appeared in the Games at Tokyo 1964. Historically, the dominant forces in world Volleyball have been Brazil, Italy and Russia.

How to play

Volleyball is played by two teams of six on an 18 x 9 metre (60 x 30 feet) indoor court. The teams are divided by a net that stands 2.43m (96 inches) high for men and 2.24m (88in) for women.

The object of the game is to hit the ball over the net to land in the other team’s half of the court. Players normally use their hands to try to keep the ball in the air and set up point-winning plays, although the ball can be played by any part of the body.

Each team is allowed three touches of the ball before it must cross back over the net. Matches are the best of five sets, with 25 points needed to win a set (15 in the fifth and deciding set).

In 2012, the Olympic Volleyball competition will feature 12 teams in a preliminary round, divided into two pools of six teams.

A total of 76 matches will be played during 16 days of competition – 38 matches each for women and men.

Jargon buster


  • Spike: To smash the ball overarm into the opponent’s court.
  • Dig: The act of passing the ball underarm, normally on service receive and back court defence
  • Setter: a specialist player who acts as the link between the passer and the attacking hitters
  • Libero: a specialist back court player for service reception and retrievals from opposition attacks.
  • Block: preventing the attacking ball to come over the net by forming a ‘wall’ of hands at the net.
  • Wipe: where players intentionally hit the ball into the opposition block so that it goes out of play to win a point for the attackers.
  • Shoot: a very fast attack where the setter plays the ball out to the wing attacker as fast as possible to beat the opposition blockers.


Get involved

If you want to get started in this fast and exciting team sport, contact your home nation’s federation:

National Governing Bodies:

British Volleyball Federation 

English Volleyball Association 

Scottish Volleyball Association 

Northern Ireland Volleyball Association 

Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB)  

Volleyball at Beijing 2008

~ by superbowlnyc on February 20, 2011.

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