The NCAA added a women’s volleyball championship in 1981. USC won the first women’s collegiate title.

The first men’s NCAA volleyball championship was played in 1970. UCLA won six of the first seven men’s volleyball titles.


From the Gym to the Sand
In the 1940s, another style of volleyball was developing up and down the California coast. Teams of two or four players would square off on sand volleyball courts. Young and old players would form impromptu competitions on the beach. Spectators would often gather to watch the volleyball matches. Before long, the best teams were traveling up and down the coast to play in beach volleyball tournaments. The first two-man volleyball tournament was held at State Beach, California in 1943.

In 1965, The California Beach Volleyball Association was founded. It was responsible for standardizing the rules of the beach and for organizing official tournaments. By 1976, the very best players on the beach were competing for prize money as professionals. Male players formed the AVP, the Association of Volleyball Professionals, in 1983. Women beach volleyball players formed their own association in 1986.

When former college and Olympic indoor volleyball stars began playing on the beach the sport became even more popular. Beach volleyball spread from California to Florida and then to other states—even to some that don’t have beaches. In some areas, beach volleyball is played indoors in arenas filled with sand. By 1993, beach volleyball had become so popular in the United States, that tournaments were broadcast on national television.

In 1987, two-men beach volleyball teams competed in the first world championships. The first two-women’s world championships were played in 1993. Four-player beach teams became popular in the 1990s.

Volleyball Goes for the Gold
Today, men’s and women’s competition in both indoor and beach volleyball are part of the Olympic games. Indoor volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964. The host team, Japan, won the women’s gold medal. In the first four women’s Olympic volleyball competitions, Japan and the Soviet Union met in the finals. The Soviets prevailed in 1968 and 1972. Japan won again in 1972.

In the men’s medal competition, the Soviet Union has been dominant. After winning gold at the first Olympic volleyball competition, the Soviet men won a medal in each of the next five Olympics they competed in—three golds, one silver and one bronze. The US men’s team won back-to-back gold medals in 1984 and 1988.

Beach Volleyball became on Olympic sport at the 1996 Atlanta games. The US, Brazil and Australia have been the teams to beat on Olympic sand.

A Game for the Best
Hardly anyone watching the fast, powerful sport of modern volleyball would recognize it as a game originally designed as a less-strenuous form of recreation for middle-aged men. Today, some of the world’s very best athletes are digging, setting and spiking the ball in gyms and on beaches throughout the world.


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World War II POWs play a game of volleyball. 
(Click image to enlarge)

Volleyball is played in a women’s gym class 
circa 1950s. 
(Click image to enlarge)