The Roots and Beginnings of Beach Volleyball

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Beach volleyball was probably first played in Hawaii in 1915, when the Outrigger Beach and Canoe Club set up a court on Waikiki Beach. Most people though believe that it begun in Santa Monica, California, in the 1920s, about 25 years after the indoor version of the game was invented on the other side of the USA in Massachusetts.

The sport began as a form of family fun at the beach, and its wide appeal and low cost meant it soon spread around the world. By the 1930s it was being played in the most strange places: Riga, Sofia and Prague, the capital cities of Latvia, Bulgaria, and the then Czechoslovakia.

The sport was given a boost during the Great Depression. Cash-strapped Americans in the hundreds flocked to the beaches to play what was virtually a no-cost pastime and a free source of entertainment. By the 1950s, competitions were being held in California. Included on the program were beauty contests and other forms of entertainment. As the sport continued to grow, it wasn’t long before sponsors came forward to take advantage of beach volleyball’s popularity, and by the 1970s a full-fledged pro beach volleyball tour was organized. In 1986, the International Volleyball Federation recognized the sport. Since then, beach volleyball’s world tour has spread from the United States into Asia and Europe.

In 1999 it featured twelve open events for men and six for women with a total prize money of US$3.66 million. The 1999 tour attracted more than 460,000 spectators.

Beach volleyball was a demonstration sport at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and shortly afterward the International Olympic Committee announced that the sport will be included in the 1996 games in Atlanta.

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Rules and Equipment for Beach Volleyball

  • Beach volleyball is played on a court that is a little smaller than an indoor court and measures 16 x 8 meters and is divided into two equal halves by a net.
  • Two sidelines and two end lines define the playing court. There is NO centre line.
  • As in tennis, the boundary lines are counted as part of the court; in other words, on the line is in.
  • The top of the net is set at the heights of 2.43 meters for men and 2.24 meters for women.
  • Antennae attached to the net and set directly above the sideline mark the area in which the ball must pass between when hit over the net.
  • The ball is made of leather with a bladder inside and has a circumference of between 65 cm and 67 cm and weighs 260–280 grams.
  • A beach volleyball team consists of two players. No substitutions can be made. (However, in social competitions two to six players may participate).
  • Players on each team aim to hit the ball over the net with their hands, although it is permissible for any part of the body to be used to hit the ball.
  • Unlike indoor volleyball, the players do not have fixed positions and can play from any position on the court.
  • Rally point scoring is used. The winner of each rally, irrespective of which team served, scores a point.
  • Serves can be made from anywhere behind the end line and may be struck under or over arm with any part of the hand, fist, or arm.
  • Service order must be maintained throughout the set.
  • A serve cannot touch a player from the same team and players cannot obscure the opposition’s view of a serve.
  • The server continues to serve until the serving team loses a point.
  • A team may hit the ball three times to return it, but no player can hit the ball twice in a row, including if it hits one part of their body and then rebounds to another part.
  • A team scores a point if it hits the ball and it lands in the opposition’s half of the court.
  • Rallies can be lost by hitting the ball out of play or into the net or if a player touches the net with any part of his or her body while playing the ball.
  • Shots may be blocked before they cross the net as long as the blocker does not touch the net.
  • The ball can be directed anywhere into the opponent’s court.
  • The ball can be played off the net during a rally.
  • Because weather affects play, teams swap ends every seven points during the first two sets and every five points during the third set.
  • Each match is played over the best of three sets. To win a set, a team must have a two-point break over the opposition. The match continues indefinitely until this is the case. The first two sets are played to 21 points while the third, if required, is played to 15 points.
  • Each team is allowed one 30-second time-out per set.
  • There is a technical time-out when the score adds to 21 in the first two sets.
  • No coaching is allowed during the match.

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