Get Involved: VOLLEYBALL

Volleyball was designed as a gentle alternative to basketball in the 19th century but is now one of the fastest and most energetic sports at the Olympics.

Analysis

Jonathan Legard, BBC Sport

"It's just as well Earls Court is used to staging some of the world's biggest music acts because volleyball is one of the biggest international sports and will raise the roof as much as Led Zeppelin, Oasis or Kylie Minogue ever did. Great Britain, the lowest ranked nation in the competition, will make their debut at this level. Jason Haldane is a vastly experienced player for the men, while women's captain Lynne Beattie is an inspirational figure. China's women's team four years ago attracted TV audiences as high as 370 million. Expect them to feature strongly again as well as Brazil and the USA, the 2008 finalists. Francesca Piccinini is a pin-up in her native Italy and is set to compete in her fourth Games. The Russian men will be top drawer. Star player Maxim Mikhailov is known as 'The Machine Gunner'."

Russia are the most successful nation in the history of Olympic indoor volleyball with a total of seven golds, four by the women and three from the men. In Beijing, however, they were overshadowed by their old foes the United States in the men's event and Brazil were on top of the podium in the women's tournament.

London 2012 marks the first time Great Britain will have volleyball entrants at the Olympics.

Both a women's and men's team will appear after the British Olympic Association confirmed that the two squads had satisfied their requirements that they could deliver a "credible performance and meaningful legacy".

Both squads have struggled to make an impact at world level and in recent times, however. The men's team only just scraped into the top 100 of the official world rankings - finding themselves ranked along with minnows Belize, St Kitts and Anguilla.

Why is it good for you?

The energy expended playing volleyball for an hour burns approximately 780 calories. This helps lower the body fat percentage of those that take up the game.

Striking the ball strengthens the upper body, arms and shoulders, while the movement around the court builds the thigh and lower leg muscles.

As players have to strike the ball while it moves at speed through the air, volleyball improves hand-eye coordination and develops faster reflexes.

As it is a team game, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.

Volleyball clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Get involved

Volleyball is an exciting, competitive team game that forces you to think tactically. It is played regularly by more than 50,000 people in gyms, leisure centres, schools, colleges and universities throughout the United Kingdom.

Can you compete?

Michael Johnson

Get your performance under pressure analysed in just 20 minutes by four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson

You can get a casual game going almost anywhere, be it the park, the beach, your back garden, university or even a swimming pool; all that is needed is a net and a ball.

For more regulated play, clubs throughout the UK run training sessions and leagues for players of all abilities.

There are no specific pieces of kit required to play volleyball, with most people choosing to wear a t-shirt, shorts and trainers.

Some players choose to use knee pads and elbow pads to provide protection from falls when playing on an indoor court.

Volleyball England's  Go Spike campaign is currently putting on taster sessions for the sport which anyone from complete beginners to experienced players can take part in. Visit the Go Spike website  to find out when events are being run close to you.

For people outside of England, visit the Northern Ireland Volleyball,  Scottish Volleyball Association  and Volleyball Wales  websites to find out what schemes are available in your country.

More on the British Volleyball website 

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport'  aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an event  near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Saturday 28 July to Sunday 12 August, 288 athletes (144 men, 144 women: 12 teams in each event) will compete at Earls Court.
  • Twelve teams in both the men's and women's events will be divided into two pools of six.
  • The eight best teams from this phase will qualify for the knockout phase.
  • The winners of the semi-finals will go head to head for the gold, with the losers playing a third-place play-off for the bronze.

More on the London 2012 website 

The rules at London 2012

There are six players in a volleyball team. They are allowed a maximum of three touches of the ball between them before it must cross the net.

Crucial is the set and spike, in which a player feeds the ball (the set) for a team-mate to smash it into the opposition's side of the court (the spike).

Great Olympic moment

Italy v Netherlands, 1996

The Netherlands claimed their first Olympic volleyball gold medal with a thrilling 3-2 victory against Italy at the Atlanta Games in 1996

Matches are played over the best of five sets. Each one of the first four sets is completed when a team wins 25 points, with a lead of at least two points over the opposing team.

The fifth set is completed when one team wins 15 points, having a lead of 2 points over the opposing team.

A point is awarded after every rally, regardless of which team serves. If the serving team wins a rally, it continues to serve. If the receiving team wins a rally, it serves next.

Only the three players at the net can spike or block near the net. The back-court players can only hit the ball over the net from the back half of the court.

In a major change from the Beijing Games in 2008, teams can now earn bonus points whether they win or lose, depending on the scoreline. Previously it was two points for a win, one point for a loss.

Now, a team will earn three points for a win by 3-0 or 3-1 or two points for a win by 3-2. The losing team earns a point if they win two sets (i.e. lose the match 3-2).

More on the Team GB website 

Ones to watch

Team GB's men are rank outsiders. Nonetheless, captain Ben Pipes thinks they can reach the last four.

The women lost all five of their games at the Olympic test event but did enjoy notable wins over Argentina and Peru last year. They are aiming for a top-eight finish.

Brazil's men entered the year as the top-ranked side, although they only won bronze at the 2011 World Cup behind winners Russia. The USA beat Brazil to win Olympic gold in 2008.

The USA's women topped the early rankings this year, but Brazil and Italy are the reigning Olympic and World Cup champions respectively.

History

Volleyball was created in 1895 by William G. Morgan, athletics director of the YMCA training school in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Did you know?

The sport's popularity soared in Europe after the US military sent 16,000 volleyballs to its troops and allies in France to boost morale during the First World War

He invented the sport, which he called 'mintonette', for older members of the YMCA club. It took the name volleyball the following year.

It has been part of the Olympics since 1964 and the International Volleyball Federation is currently the largest international sporting federation in the world, with 220 members.

Cuba won gold in the women's volleyball at three consecutive Olympic Games from 1992 to 2000

More on the IOC website