William George Morgan was born January 23, 1870 in Niagara county, New York.
Morgan graduated from high school in 1891 at the Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts.
Morgan signed on at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School, now Springfield College located in Springfield, Massachusetts.
In 1887, the college had added a Physical (i.e. physical education) department.
Springfield College is most famous as the site where the sport of basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891.
Morgan went on to graduate from the physical education program in 1894.
After graduation, Morgan spent a short time as the Physical Director of the Auburn, Maine YMCA. Then during the summer Morgan moved to the YMCA at Holyoke, Massachusetts where he became Director of Physical Education. In this role, Morgan had the opportunity to direct a vast program of sports classes for adults.
While at Holyoke, Morgan was working with a gym class of middle-aged businessmen, and realized that Naismith’s new sport of basketball was too strenuous of a game for some of the men. He tried out a few ideas, which led him toward an idea for another new indoor sport.
On February 9, 1895, Morgan invented the game he called “Mintonette.”
Mintonette was a less vigorous team sport more suitable for older members of the YMCA, yet still required athletic skill.
Morgan’s took some of his new games characteristics from tennis and handball.
Morgan’s first Mintonette rules called for a net 6 ft 6 in high, a 25×50 ft court, and any number of players.
A Mintonette match was composed of nine innings with three serves for each team in each inning, and no limit to the number of ball contacts for each team before sending the ball back over the net to the opponents’ court.
In case of a serving error, a second try was allowed. Hitting the ball into the net was considered a foul (with loss of the point or a side-out) except in the case of the first-try serve.
Soon Luther Gulick, the founder of the Physical Education Department at the YMCA Training School (Springfield College), heard of Morgan’s new sport and invited him to demonstrate his new game.
Morgan agreed and demonstrated Mintonette to students of Springfield College sometime in 1896.
While watching the game, Dr. Alfred Halstead suggested to Morgan that he called it volleyball, since the point of the game is to “volley” the “ball” back and forth over the net.
Ever since, Morgan’s new game quickly spread around the country as “volley ball.” Morgan originally spelled volley ball as two words.
In 1897, Morgan left the Holyoke YMCA to begin a career with General Electric and Westinghouse.
Morgan continued to keep ties with Springfield College and the game he created, stating he was
“content in the knowledge that the game brought a richer life to millions of people throughout the world.”
Morgan married Mary King Caldwell and went on to raise four children together.
William G. Morgan died December 27, 1942.
He was inducted into the Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978 and into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1985.
An elementary school in Holyoke, William Morgan School, bears his name.
Today the Morgan Trophy Award is presented annually to the most outstanding male and female collegiate volleyball player in the United States. Established by the William G. Morgan Foundation in 1995 during the centennial year of volleyball, the trophy is named in honor of William Morgan.
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