History of The Volleyball Ball: From 1895 to today

History of the volleyball ball started in the year 1895 at Massachusetts USA. A young and dynamic physical education director at the YMCA named W.G Morgan had the insightful idea of creating a new game.

His idea incorporated the concepts of basketball, handball, tennis, and incredible baseball. Originally he called it the Mintonette. The basic goal of the game was pure entertainment. The game developed with time to become a professional sporting event.

Evolution of the Indoor Volleyball Ball: Construction of The Volleyball

Spalding Sports Company is stated to be the original designer of the first official volleyball ball. It was made of genuine leather with a circumference of 65 cm. The average weight of the ball is 270 grams. The air pressure within the bladder is 0.325 kg/square-centimeters.

Synthetic material was introduced for the first time in the early 1900s. The aim was to reduce the harness factors which a natural leather surface can develop with time. Synthetic leather also reportedly increased the lifespan of the ball and retained the air pressure for a long time.

  • Layers: The original volleyball ball had three distinct layers.
  • Bladder: Innermost bladder was originally made from the material used in basketball to make the volleyball ball. But it was too heavy and the flight duration was reduced considerably. Spalding was reportedly the first company to redesign the bladder and use latex rubber. The latex material was flexible, light in weight and resistant to air pressure.
  • Second-layer: The second layer was made of cheesecloth material. The standard method used 8X5 threads per centimeter along the vertical and horizontal directions of weaving. Later it improved to higher density along with development in grade.
  • Leather-Layer: The third layer was made of genuine leather which later adopted synthetic leather. The outer design remained limited to 8 panels for a long time until the panels were introduced after the 2008 Olympics. The eight-panel dimple-bodied ball was officially recognized for indoor games.
  • Flight: The original Mintonette had excellent flight capacity. It suited the three-hit volleyball rule that was introduced with the game evolution. The smooth design and the making process ensured the ball could withstand the maximum number of hits throughout the gaming session.
  • Valve: Evolution of ball resulted in the improvements on valve design. The players could adjust the air pressure by letting out extra air. Injection of air into the bladder also evolved with time. Initially, the players used the cycle pump for bloating the volleyball ball. Evolution of the ball also resulted in the design of a dedicated pump.
  • Panels: The original volleyball had 8 panels with dimples. It was ideal for indoor games due to its smoothness and ability to endure indoor humidity and heat. Modern volleyball balls have up to 32 panels. They can be used on every type of hard-ground, beach, and indoor environment with no hassles. The gradual increase in the number of panels was to facilitate the increase in grip and the ability to handle the ball better.

Evolution of The Outdoor Volleyball Ball  

Until the year 1915, there seem to be no major changes to the design and structure of the volleyball ball. Introduction of beach volleyball seems to have changed the structure and construction to a considerable level. The ball circumference was increased to 68.58 centimeters.

The exterior leather layer was roughed up slightly to a higher level. Weight and air pressure factors were also changed to 280 grams and 0.225 Kg/square centimeter. The drastic reduction in the air pressure might have been due to the increase in surface area.

A number of experiments were conducted before reducing the air pressure for the beach volleyball. One of the main reasons was found to be the bounce-off rate. Then the experts found the ideal pressure to keep the ball within the playing court without unusual bounces.

The changes were also made with an intention of increasing the durability and endurance limits of the beach volleyball ball. Even today, we use two different versions of the volleyball ball for indoor and outdoor games.

Construction of the Volleyball Ball: How Are Volleyballs Are Made?

Initially, the bladder was readily available from the ball. Hence, there was no need for additional manufacturing methods.

Spalding reportedly introduced the first molding process of making the latex bladder. The other layers were manually prepared and the volleyball ball got its shape and size.

Today, the manufacturers use power press machine, dyes, and other equipment during the series of production cycles. Synthetic sheets, bladder material, nylon threads, and wax are the main raw materials used in the process.

Advanced professional volleyball balls are still stitched with hand. The procedure is followed for the high-end professional games like the Olympics and the USA volleyball association sponsored tournaments.

Spalding Sports was the first company to manufacture volleyball balls according to Morgan’s requirements. The company continued to dominate the market until 1915 when Tachikara-SW5WSC entered the manufacturing field. The other companies have been MIKASA and Molten.

WELSTAR, AMGROW, VICTEAM, and HV Sport have been some of the famous American Companies to manufacture the volleyball ball today.

  • Evolution of Panels: The evolution of volleyball ball panels from 8 to 32 is with the goal of increasing the grip while receiving serves and passing. The other major advantage was observed in the Olympics when the players could increase the serving speed and the spiking accuracy.
  • Evolution of Design: Introduction of professional volleyball changed the design for the better. The forearm passes forced the designers to make any structural changes to the exterior surface. The surface areas on each panel were considerably increased to allow all types of passing and serving.

Design evolution from plain panels to colorful and team promotional patterns and printing was introduced during the US association of volleyball matches. It was aimed at promoting the interests of the volleyball paying clubs, teams, and the sponsoring companies.

Conclusion: Final Words

The brief overview of the volleyball ball history gives you a glimpse of its evolution.The changes made to the indoor volleyball ball have not been much compared to the beach volleyball version and the outdoor versions.

Today, the ball standards are according to the US volleyball association and the Olympics committee.

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