Mintonette Anyone...?

William G. Morgan (1870-1942), who was born in New York, has gone down in history as the inventor of the game of Volleyball, to which he originally gave the name "Mintonette".  Morgan carried out his undergraduate studies at the Springfield College of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) where he met James Naismith who, in 1891, invented basketball.  After graduating, Morgan spent his first year at the Auburn (Maine) YMCA after which, during the summer of 1895, he moved to the YMCA at Holyoke (Massachusetts) where he became Director of Physical Education.  In this role he had the opportunity to establish, develop and direct a variety of exercises and sport classes for male adults.  To add some competitiveness to his classes he decided to develop a new game that young and old could play.  Basketball, a sport that was beginning to develop, seemed to suit young people, but it was necessary to find a less intense alternative for the older members.

At that time Morgan knew of no similar game to Volleyball that could guide him; he developed it from his own sports training methods and his practical experience in the YMCA gymnasium.  Describing his first experiments he said, "In search of an appropriate game, tennis occurred to me, but this required rackets, balls, a net and other equipment, so it was eliminated, but the idea of a net seemed a good one.  We raised it to a height of about 6 feet, 6 inches from the ground, just above the head of an average man.  We needed a ball and among those we tried was a basketball bladder, but this was too light and too slow.  We therefore tried the basketball itself, which was too big and too heavy."  In the end, Morgan asked the firm of A.G. Spalding & Bros. to make a ball, the result was satisfactory: the ball was leather-covered, with a rubber inner tube, its circumference was not less than 25 and not more than 27 inches and its weight not less than 9 and not more than 12 ounces.  Morgan asked two of his friends from Holyoke, Dr. Frank Wood and John Lynch, to draw up (based on his suggestions) the basic concepts of the game together with the first 10 rules.

Early in 1896 a conference was organized at the YMCA College in Springfield, bringing together all the YMCA Directors of Physical Education.  Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, director of the professional physical education training school invited Morgan to make a demonstration of his game in the new college stadium.  Morgan took two teams, each made up of five men to Springfield, where the demonstration was made before the conference delegates in the east gymnasium.  Morgan explained that the new game was designed for gymnasia or exercise halls, but could also be played in open air.  An unlimited number of players could participate, the object of the game being to keep the ball in movement over a high net, from one side to the other.

After seeing the demonstration, and hearing the explanation of Morgan, Professor Alfred T. Halstead called attention to the action, or the act phase, of the ball's flight, and proposed the name "Mintonette" be replaced by "Volley Ball."  Morgan explained the rules and worked on them, then gave a hand-written copy to the conference of YMCA directors of physical education, as a guide for the use and development of the game.  A committee was appointed to study the rules and produce suggestions for the game's promotion and teaching.  A brief report on the new game and its rules was published in the July 1896 edition of "Physical Education" and the rules were included in the 1897 edition of the first official handbook of the North American YMCA Athletic League.