Cambridge University Volleyball Club  
About Volleyball


There are 800 million players worldwide who play Volleyball at least once a week, making it the second most popular participation sport in the world (behind soccer). Both indoor (six-a-side) and outdoor or beach volleyball (two-a-side) are now Olympic Sports, as well as having their own World Championship events and Professional Leagues.

History of volleyball

In 1895, William G. Morgan, an instructor at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Holyoke, Massachussetts in the United States, 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 called this game "mintonette". Morgan borrowed the net from tennis, and raised it 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 more descriptive name for the sport. On July 7, 1896 at Springfield College the first game of volleyball was played.

How is volleyball played?

Although much has changed since the early days, volleyball remains an attractive game due to its simplicity. The main aim is simply to ground the ball in your opponents' half of the court, whilst preventing them from grounding it in your half. The basic rules are as follows.

Indoor volleyball is played with six players per team, divided by an 8ft net. The players are arranged in six starting positions as two rows of three, a front row (next to the net) and a back row. Play begins with one team serving the ball over the net. The other team then has three touches to get the ball back without it touching the ground. The usual actions are an underhand dig (with the forearms) by one player, then an overhand set or volley (with open hands) by another player so that a third player can spike (smash) the ball back over the net. The opposing team can jump up to try and block the spike, but then have their own three touches in which to first keep the ball off the floor and then get the ball back over the net again.

A point is won when the ball lands, either in or out of court. The team that won the last point serve, and if they have just regained the serve from their opponents, that team's players rotate one position clockwise (called a side-out).

Volleyball: the ultimate team game

Volleyball is probably the ultimate team game. Players may not make consecutive touches of the ball, hence at least two different players must be involved in every rally. So even the best players need to rely upon excellent teamwork in order to win.

Furthermore, the rotation rule unique to volleyball means that everyone gets a turn in every position. Most of us will remember that in school playground or pick-up games of soccer, for example, the bigger and/or better players would play striker all the time, with smaller/lesser players relegated to the less glamorous positions. In volleyball, this can't happen; everyone has a chance to play every position sooner or later.

Get fit: play volleyball

Most people in the UK know volleyball through the "family reunion" form of the game. In this, twelve players stand stock still on each side of a net and get to bat the ball up in the air every couple of minutes, when it drops near them. Played properly, however, volleyball is an outstanding sport for overall fitness; in terms of the variety of muscle groups utilised, it is on a par with swimming and cycling. As volleyball is such a fast game, players must move from defensive to attacking positions within a play lasting only two or three seconds. All players must run between tactical positions, jump to block or spike, and control the ball with their hands and arms using a variety of skills, including diving and sprawling to the floor in some defensive situations.

Playing volleyball for fun

CUVC caters for all standards of volleyball player, but the emphasis of the club at all levels is enjoyment, both sporting and social.. For recreational players we have regular training sessions where our friendly coaches help anyone learn the basics or improve their game. We also enter several mixed teams from all levels in the Cambridge local leagues. Wherever possible, training sessions and local league matches are coupled with social events (often at a nearby pub), making volleyball a good way to meet people and make new friends. In the summer, volleyball heads outdoors for the College Summer Leagues and Cuppers, where teams from all over the University do battle on the green fields of Cambridge.

Playing volleyball a bit more seriously

The Men's and Women's Blues teams play in the national student tournaments (BUSA and EVA) with the season culminating in the Varsity Match against Oxford. In recent years the Cambridge Men's team has been one of the outstanding sides in the country, placing in the Finals of both BUSA and EVA tournaments, and winning successive Varsity Matches in 1999 and 2000. The Women's team has traditionally been overshadowed by their perennially powerful Oxford counterparts, however they have also enjoyed their share of success nationally, reaching the BUSA last 32 and EVA finals in both 1999 and 2000.

The high standard of coaching offered by CUVC is one of the major advantages of playing volleyball in the University. With most College sports, such as soccer and rugby, only a handful of elite players make the Blues squads. Everyone else is left to join their College teams, with only low levels of coaching and little prospect of improvement. In volleyball, however, our network of experienced coaches means that players of all levels can maximise their own ability . Hence, whilst the Men's Blues team has in recent years contained Junior International standard players from Spain and Denmark, last year's Blues squad also contained two "home-grown" players who had not even taken up the sport until becoming undergraduates at Cambridge, but had worked their way through the coaching system. Want a Cambridge Blue? Take up volleyball.