Imagine a ball hit so hard it is coming toward you at a speed of 110 miles per hour! The ball is moving so fast you can hardly see it. Your job is to get under this flash of white and pass it accurately to the proper teammate. He, in turn, then passes the ball up to a spiker who jumps high in the air and smashes this moving ball with tremendous speed over the net and into your opponents' court.
This is volleyball as played by some of the greatest athletes in the world today. The game is played in more than sixty countries and by more than fifty million people each year. In countries such as France, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Russia, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil, championship matches draw crowds rivaling and many times exceeding those at football and basketball games in the United States.
So popular has volleyball become that it is ranked third in the world as a recreational team sport. In at least twenty-five countries it is rated as a leading competitive sport. Perhaps the greatest advance occurred in 1957 when the International Olympic Committee recognized volleyball as an official Olympic sport.
Volleyball was played in the 1955 Pan-American Games in Mexico City and in the 1959 Pan-American Games in Chicago. The 1958 Asian Games held in Tokyo featured outstanding volleyball, which attracted large crowds. The 1956 World Volleyball Championships in Paris drew teams from twenty-seven countries and filled the Palais des Sportes on several occasions with crowds of twenty-five thousand people. Another world's championship occurred in Rio de Janeiro in 1960.
In the United States volleyball is played relatively little as an interscholastic and intercollegiate sport. However, the sport is growing, and athletic directors in schools and colleges are looking for ways to add volleyball to their competitive programs. Wisconsin, New York, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania hold state high school championships.
Los Angeles high schools held their first city championships for both boys and girls in 1959. Catholic Youth Organizations sponsor large volleyball programs in Pennsylvania and southern California. The 7959 Official Volleyball Guide lists eighty-nine colleges and universities, which have varsity or representative teams.* The game is one of the strongest intramural sports in colleges and universities. Volleyball has always been an important activity among
*J. Edmund Welch, ed., 1959 Official Volleyball Guide (Berne, Ind.: USVBA Printer), p. 141.
YMCAs, where the game was invented and nurtured; Jewish Community Centers; city and industrial recreation departments; and American Turners.
The armed services of the United States are one of the big promoters of this sport. The Army and Air Force have invited outstanding coaches to conduct clinics throughout the world. Their command and All-World championships are tournaments run with the utmost attention to color, ceremony, proper procedure, and spectator appeal.
Indicative of the interest which the armed services have in volleyball is the following statement made by Maj. Gen. Herbert B. Powell at the 1957 All-Army Championships.
Volleyball is an integral part of the Army athletic program, and is highly effective in building the teamwork required in our military endeavors to gain success in combat. This activity develops the "keenness of eye," muscular coordination, and physical ability needed for the alert and aggressive soldier of today. By winning the right to represent your command in this competition, it has been proven that you have attained the above attributes, and I tender you my congratulations.
Volleyball is an extremely desirable sport judged by almost any of the criteria used in evaluating activities in a physical education or recreational program. The game is sufficiently vigorous, if properly played, to develop organic power; it calls for the development of a high degree of neuromuscular co-ordination; as a leisure time activity it must be ranked near the top in the list of games, since it can be played satisfactorily over such a long period of one's life; and, finally, the game stresses the importance of cooperative effort, thus helping to develop a major quality of the good citizen.
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