Masters Volleyball

There are many games people play with a ball that is thrown or caught or hit.

Think of tennis or baseball or soccer. There are not many games that don’t allow throwing or catching except perhaps volleyball. If you try to throw, catch, or carry a volleyball, you are penalized.

Do you remember volleyball in high school? “Okay kids,” the teacher said, “everyone on the court.” So we all trotted out and threw the ball and banged it and did everything to try to get it over the net. How silly was that? Perhaps not as silly as we first thought.

Did you know that today one in six people in the world play volleyball? This is according to the Federation Internationale de Volleyball, (FIVB) the world body responsible for this great game.

It all started in the USA somewhere around the end of the nineteenth century as a fun game for guys to play at the YMCA. American soldiers who went overseas in WWII played it a lot. It was fun, easy and there was little equipment required. Like soccer, all you really need is a ball.

It’s nice to have a net but in dire circumstances even a string for a net will do. I actually played volleyball on a Royal Canadian Navy ship with a tethered ball, so it didn’t have to be chased overboard.

Europeans seeing all these American soldiers playing this strange, no catch, no throw game that only required a ball and net to play picked it up – in a hurry.

By about 1948 eastern Europeans were developing this American game into the power game we know today. In Canada serious Volleyball got it’s start around 1950 at the YMCA in Ottawa.

Today in Ottawa there are many volleyball players and leagues. The largest league has more than 120 teams, each with a likely minimum of 8 players. That’s a thousand players in one league alone. Every year in Ottawa there is a charity beach tournament that hosts 1000 teams.

While many may think that volleyball is a young persons sport – there are also a lot of older people playing the game? At last years US Open in Phoenix Arizona, in the Masters division for male players between the ages of 60 and 64 there were 21 teams. There was a total of 40 volleyball courts for the Open with numerous five-year age groups starting at 35 for men in the Masters divisions.

Indeed, there were about 100 teams in the Masters section alone. A lot of them were really talented. One team we played against – the Brazilians had a fantastic former national team player, and they didn’t win.

Today, a few older Ottawa volleyball enthusiasts are working on bringing masters volleyball to Ottawa. Some of these people have played in the World Master Games, US Open, Huntington Games in the US. There are plans afoot to get to the European Masters. An acquaintance just got back from a tournament in China. Masters volleyball is growing.