In 1891, Naismith had invented basketball while working for the YMCA in Springfield, Mass. It was created not with dreams of one day becoming a major, international sport. Rather, it was created with the goal of keeping people in shape and occupied during the cold winters so they would be ready in the spring when the weather allowed them to go back to outdoor exercise.
In 1895, Morgan had moved on to work as director of the YMCA at Holyoke. There he found that his old friend’s game of basketball was a bit too strenuous for some members. Older men and others weren’t up for the rigors of running up and down the court and the occasional collisions it entailed. They needed something less strenuous.
Putting his mind to the challenge, Morgan examined the rules of sports such as baseball, basketball, handball and badminton. Taking pieces from each, he created a game he called Mintonette, deriving the name from badminton.
The game involved a six-foot-six-inch-high net. Teams of players on each side hit a ball back and forth across the net. Points were scored when one team could not get the ball back across the net. Teams could contain any number of players, and while the game involved lots of running around there was no physical contact as in football or basketball.
Originally played with the air bladder from a basketball, Morgan game was gradually refined. A smaller ball was created. The net was raised. And teams were restricted to touching the ball just three times before sending it across the net.
Morgan’s game today surpasses even basketball in terms of the numbers of people who play it both for competition and exercise. The only thing Morgan couldn’t claim to have invented was the final name of the sport. It was his old professor, Alfred T. Halsted, who came up with that.
Watching the players demonstrating Mintonette, Halstead pointed out that the game basically involved volleying the ball back and forth. Volleyball, he suggested, was a much more descriptive name than Mintonette, and that’s what it became when added to the YMCA’s official sports handbook in 1896.
As for Morgan, he moved on from the YMCA in 1897, beginning a long career with General Electric and Westinghouse.