William Morgan's Mintonette: How The Inventor Of Basketball Inspired The Invention Of Volleyball

By | January 31, 2022

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A group of ladies playing a game of volleyball, circa 1900. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

You've probably played volleyball at the beach, a backyard cookout, or gym class, but did you know that the inventor of volleyball and the inventor of basketball were friends? William Morgan, the inventor of volleyball, borrowed many of the game's underlying philosophies from basketball, which he learned from its inventor, James Naismith.

James Naismith And William Morgan

Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith at the Y.M.C.A. International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts as a solution for keeping athletes fit during the cold winter months. After leaving the Y.M.C.A. for Springfield College, Naismith mentored a student named William Morgan, who became the director of physical education at a Y.M.C.A. in Holyoke after graduation. During the winter months, he taught basketball as he had been taught by Naismith, but some of his less athletic, older, and less aggressive players didn't excel at the game.

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The interior of the old gymnasium where William G. Morgan developed volleyball in Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1897. (Transcript Industrial Edition/Wikimedia Commons)

Mintonette And Volleyball

Morgan decided to pull parts from other sports, including tennis, baseball, handball, and badminton, to create a new game that fit the needs of his players. He landed on a combination of tennis and badminton's confinement of players to their own limited space, baseball's designated space for each player to defend, and the team aspect of basketball. He really liked the idea of a net, too.

As Morgan's new game came together, however, he hit a stumbling block. He wanted to use a larger ball, one that was more like the size of a basketball rather than a tennis ball, but the basketball was too hard and heavy. He tried using the inner bladder of a basketball, but it was too light. In desperation, he turned to S.G. Spalding & Bros., a sports equipment designer and manufacturer, who created the prototype of the first volleyball.

Morgan called his new sport "mintonette," and on February 9, 1895, he presented it at a Y.M.C.A. conference held at Springfield College. Everyone in attendance loved the game, but one of the delegates, Professor Alfred T. Halsted, noted that Morgan frequently used the word "volley" in his explanation of the game and suggested changing the name to "volleyball."