Volleyball is a popular team sport, originating in the United States and now played around the world. It is particularly popular in East Asia, including China and Japan. The game is popular with both male and female participants.
The game is played on indoor courts 18 metres long and 9 metres wide, divided into two 9x9 metre "team courts" by a one-metre wide net placed such that its highest point is 2.43 metres above the ground in men's competition, and 2.24 metres for women's competition (these heights are varied for veterans and junior competitions). There is a line 3 metres from and parallel to the net in each team court termed the "attack line". Each of the two teams consist of six players, three located in front of the attack line and three behind.
To get play started, a player from a team chosen by a coin toss throws the ball (a leather or synthetic leather ball about the size of a football but softer and lighter in consistency, inflated with compressed air) into the air and attempts to hit the ball so it passes over the net on a course such that it will land in the opposing team's court. The opposing team must use a combination of no more than three digs (placing the hands together with the arms stretched out in front, so that when the ball hits the arms it will fly hopefully in the air either back over the net or to a teammate) sets (tapping the ball in the desired direction simultaneously with both hands above the head) or spikes (jumping, raising one arm above the head and punching the ball so it will move quickly down to the ground on the opponent's court) to return the ball over the net (it may touch the top of the net on the way back) from where it came. The game continues in this manner until an error is made:
When an error is made, the team that did not make the error is awarded a point. The team that won the point is awarded the right to serve for the next point. The game continues, with the first team to score twenty-five points (and be two points ahead) is awarded the set. Matches are played over best of five sets. Previously, points could only be scored when a team had the service; sets only went up to 15 points. This rule was changed in the late 1990s to increase the attractivity of the game.
Generally, tall players with the ability to jump high are selected to play in the attack court, where they attempt to block or spike opponents initial hits and return the ball at high speed on steep trajectories so that the ball lands before the other team has time to react. If the opponent's hit does not allow this, teams will then try to use the "dig" stroke to put the ball sraight up in the air, then have a team member set the ball on a looping trajectory to a player at the front of the team court, who will then spike the ball as described.
Until recently, the only part of the body that was allowed to touch the ball was the arm (and hands). However, modern rules allow any part of the body to hit the ball, including the legs. (Actively kicking the ball is not permitted, but if the ball bounces off a leg, this is no longer a foul in itself). Kick volleyball, where kicking is allowed, is a popular variant, particular in South American countries.
A new variation of the game, beach volleyball, has evolved from the popular social games of volleyball played on many beaches around the world. This version, rather than played on indoor hard courts, is played on sand courts which may either be formed naturally or built specifically for the purpose. Instead of a team of six, each team consists of only two players, but otherwise the rules are identical. Beach volleyball is one of the few sports where female competitors earn more, on average, than males.
The game first became part of the Olympics[?] in the 1996 Summer Olympics, where it was popular with spectators. Cynics suggest that as well as the skill and athleticism of the competitors, spectators are attracted to the sport because of the revealing costumes that competitors were required by the competition organisers to wear.
One of the facets of beach volleyball is the use of hand signals by players to indicate to their partner what sort of play they intend to make. These signals are made behind the back, to avoid the opposition seeing the signals. Combined with the standard attire of female competitors, these pictures proved irresistable to editors of tabloid newspapers.
An international federation, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball[?] (FIVB), was founded in 1947, and World Championships were instuted in 1952. Volleyball was added to the program of the Olympic Games in 1964, and has been part ever since. Beach volleyball was also included in the program in 1996.