Yes, Mintonette. That was almost the name for what we now know as volleyball. And how do I know that? Because I drove past this sign.
And then I took a stroll on the internet. Where I unearthed Hooverball too.
But I will start with Mintonette. It began just before the turn of the century (the one before the most recent one, for you youngsters) in that hotbed of indoor team sports inventionship, central Massachusetts.
In 1895, William Morgan, a physical education director at the Holyoke YMCA was looking for a gentle alternative to basketball for older members of the YMCA. The rougher, more physically demanding basketball had been invented by a YMCA Training School professor, Dr. James Naismith, just four years before in nearby Springfield, and was increasing in popularity. Naismith had been looking for a vigorous indoor game to keep his students fit and busy during the winter.
Morgan borrowed from tennis, handball and badminton and it was in honor of the latter that he named his new sport: Mintonette.
However, that changed early on. At its first exhibition match in 1896, an observer noted the constant volleying nature of the game and it quickly became known as volleyball, through originally spelled as two words. The original name hung on though, and is still in use today with the Volleyball Hall of Fame’s Mintonette Medallion of Merit, awarded in recognition of significant individual achievement in the sport.
It spread, following its cousin basketball, through the YMCA system and became popular across the country.
Has the term ‘nude volleyball’ ever crossed your lips? That took off as early as the late 1920s and by the 1960s a volleyball court was standard at nearly all naturist clubs.
In the 1924 Olympics in Paris volleyball was part of an American sports demonstration event and in 1964 it was officially included in the Summer Olympics.
On the heels of the traditional indoor sport came beach volleyball, played as early as 1915 on the sand in Hawaii and quickly picking up popularity in California. It stayed a six-on-a-side sport until the 1930s, when the two-on-a-side version began developing. In the 1980s that took off as a professional sport. And in this modern era I somehow can’t watch it without thinking of good old nude volleyball.
Not so popular these days is Hooverball, named after President Herbert Hoover, whose personal physician came up with it to help the Commander In Chief stay fit.
Teams of three men on a side take turns heaving a six-pound leather ball over an eight-foot net.
“This cannot be accomplished graciously.” says Sports Illustrated.
The game is a spin-off of an old military pastime where a circle of men tossed a heavy ball to one another and a man in the middle tried to intercept it.
Hooverball activities are sensibly and understandably centered in West Branch, Iowa, where the Hoover Presidential Library Association and the town co-host a national championship each year, usually won by a local team.
And there’s always Ultimate Hooverball, where the rule is that if there are more than four players on each team, there must be two medicine balls in play at all times.