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Discover The Spirit Of Volleyball

Oct 12, 2007
Volleyball, in reality, has no spirit. It is only a game, and as such has potentialities either for good or evil, depending in large degree upon the quality of the leadership involved. However, there is a distinctive spirit that characterizes the majority of the men who play volleyball.

The spirit of fun and good fellowship

First of all, the men who play this great game have fun playing it. The desire to win is not permitted to assume a position of such vast importance in the minds of the players that fun is replaced by grimness, relaxation by tension, and cordial friendships by bitter enmities. The players on opposing teams fraternize both before and after their matches. This type of cordial relationship is conspicuously absent in much of our intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics, particularly football.

How many players on opposing college football teams ever meet each other except on the "field of battle"? We talk glibly of the social values in college sports, but for two football teams to sit down and eat their postgame meal together would necessitate a major revolution in the cerebral processes of present-day leaders in college football. Yet this spirit of good fellowship is the rule rather than the exception in volleyball.

The spirit of amateurism

Volleyball is one of the few remaining amateur sports in America. There is no dollar sign suspended from the necks of volleyball players. They play for the sheer fun of playing - and this is the spirit of amateurism. Officials donate their services in many tournaments. This, too, is the spirit of amateurism elevated almost to a fantastic height.

The spirit of sportsmanship

The practice of spectators' booing officials or players is the rule in many sports, but it is the exception at a volleyball tournament. Seldom have I seen examples of bad conduct on the part of players in a tournament, and, on those occasions, the players encountered strong disapproval from all the others present. Volleyball is played by gentlemen in a gentlemanly manner. There is no muckerism in volleyball, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of many other sports.

The spirit of moral conduct

This, I believe, is perhaps the outstanding characteristic of volleyball today. When a man's finger barely touches the net, no official can possibly detect the foul. The player is faced with the necessity of making a moral choice between two diametrically opposed courses of action. Shall he conceal the foul or shall he admit it?

This is a stern test of moral fiber, for admission of the foul may lose a national championship. But so high is the level of human conduct in this sport that the hand goes up immediately, even though there is no rule requiring him to do so.

One of the traditions of the game, developing as it did in the Holyoke, Massachusetts, YMCA in 1895, is that of personal responsibility and integrity in calling fouls - even when the referee, umpire, or linesmen fail to see violations. From this standpoint it is truly a players' sport and incidents in the topflight national competitions are on record where players have called their own fouls, missed by the officials, at times when it meant the difference between winning or losing a game and the match.*

This type of conduct is Obedience to the Unenforceable, obedience to a moral code, a code of honor, a code of gentlemen. It is obedience to one's conscience. It is self-discipline of the highest order. It is a kind of behavior so desperately needed in America today, for the true greatness of a nation is measured in large degree by the length and breadth of this area of human conduct in which men obey the unenforceable.

All this is "the spirit of volleyball," a spirit of which we who have had some small part in its development may well be proud.

* Harold T. Friermood, "Volleyball Goes Modern," Journal of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, May, 1953, p. 10.
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