A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the US From The 50s to 2000s

A timeline of events marking the short brief history of volleyball played by American male and female elite athletes in international competition. 


Are you a volleyball fan that's curious to explore the rich American history of this popular sport?

Keep reading to discover the evolution of some of the most significant events and accomplishments for the USA men's and women's programs from the 50s until present day with ImproveYourVolley.com.

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A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the US in the 1950s

The Foundation of the USVBA - 1951

The United States Volleyball Association, at first called the USVBA and later the name became USA Volleyball was created to administer the sport in the United States on a national level and to be the governing body that coordinates with other international bodies.

Inception of International Competition - 1955

Buenos Aires is the site of the first Pan American Games where volleyball was included, and which marks the first time that American volleyball teams' participated in international competition.

Technological Advancements for the Sport - 1956

A sports division was established within NBC. As a result, volleyball came under American television networks' radar, paving the way for televised matches in the future.

The First Significant Victory - 1959

The USA Men's Volleyball team clinched their first Pan American Gold in Chicago, raising the profile of the game and inspiring the next generation of players. 

The 50s..volleyball in the 50s seems like tons of years ago...it was before ..even i was born but it was the decade where USA volleyball started their true growth and the popularity of the game started to really grow. 

A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the US in the

The 1960s are a big deal because its the decade when the Americans made their debut appearance in the Olympic games and both the men's and women's teams made several important achievements on the international landscape. 

With the investment in better coaching, hiring better more experienced coaches and the search for more athletic players the 1960s are of referred to as the revolutionary era for USA volleyball. 

Stepping into the Olympic Arena - 1964

1964 was the first year that volleyball was recognized as an official sport at the  Tokyo Olympics.

With the USA Volleyball men's and women's teams participating in this prestigious event it helped elevate the Americans status on an international level. 

Check out the action and the commentary during the first Olympic gold medalists ..the Japanese Olympic team who beat the Russians in an exciting final match. 

Abby Benton talks about volleyball in the 1964 Olympics.  

How Significant Were The Accomplishments of the USA Men's Team?

The Olympic Debut for the USA Volleyball Men

The U.S. Men's Volleyball team participated in their first Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 1964.

Although they didn't win a medal, the men's Olympic experience launched  the stage for future international successes.

An Increasing Amount of International Recognition

The U.S. Men's Team achieved the fifth position in the World Championships held in Prague in 1966, asserting their growing presence in the international arena.

Want to know what high level men's elite volleyball looked like in 1966 at the World Championships in Czechoslavakia?

Click to find out these highlights of the men's finals in Prague. 

How Significant Were The Accomplishments of the USA Women's Team in the 60's?

A Fifth Place Finish in the American's First Olympic Participation

The U.S. Women's Volleyball team made their Olympic debut in Tokyo, Japan in 1964 and they finished with a fifth place position.

This Decade Marked The Beginning Of Remarkable Progress For USA Volleyball

By the end of the decade, the American Women's Volleyball team had improved significantly, finishing eighth at the 1967 Pan American Games held in Winnipeg, Canada, and then they followed up with a highly respectable seventh place finish at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

The 1960s were transformative years for USA Volleyball, with a big push towards international exposure and recognition for both men's and women's teams.

A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the US in the

Let's look into the dynamic 1970s - a crucial period for USA men's and women's volleyball that witnessed major events and significant victories for both programs.

For USA Men's Volleyball:

Growing A Pattern of Olympic Achievement:

The Men's Team continued to make strides in on the worldwide volleyball scene by participating in a semifinal medal match and finishing with a fourth-place finish at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

This accomplishment highlighted the growing competitive capacity of the American men's team on the international stage.

USA Volleyball Men Record An Historic Feat at the Pan American Games

In 1975, the USA Men's team won their first international gold medal at the Pan American Games held in Mexico City. This victory marked significant progress in American men's volleyball.

Moving On Up! US Men Advance in World Rank

The decade ended on a high note, with the USA Men's team securing third place in the FIVB World Ranking in 1979, the first break through in the top three teams in the world and an unprecedented achievement.

For USA Women's Volleyball:

- The First USA Olympic Training Center:

In 1973, a USA Volleyball Training Center for Women's Volleyball was established in Pasadena, Texas. This was the first American national center illustrating a firm commitment and dedication towards elevating the skills and performance of the USA Women's Team in order to meet elite level international competition goals and expectations.

Showing Progress in the Women’s World Championship

By mid-decade, the USA women's volleyball team made visible progress, earning a 7th rank in the 1974 World Championships held in Tijuana, Mexico.

Success in Pan American Games:

The U.S Women's team capped the decade by securing the silver medal at the 1979 Pan American Games held in San Juan.

The Growth of the Beach Volleyball Game

In 1976, the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) introduced the first Beach Volleyball World Championship.

This event served as a launchpad for beach volleyball's eventual Olympic recognition and soared in popularity.

The 1970s were truly transformational years for USA Volleyball.

Both the Men's and Women's teams made their mark in this era, and the birth of beach volleyball added a fun, outdoor dimension to this exciting sport. 

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Thoughts from me about the CBVA:

Once I discovered my love and passion for beach volleyball I began to participate in my first CBVA tournaments.

I had a lot of friends that I'd train and practice with 2-3 times a week at Toes Beach or all the time at State Beach (if you know you know) and we'd compete against each other at various tournament sites all along the coast of California trying to earn points by finishing higher and higher each weekend. 

A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the 1980s

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The 1980s were a powerhouse era for USA volleyball showcasing historical triumphs, especially for the men’s team.

Let's look into the major accomplishments during this decade.

For USA Men's Volleyball:

The Men's Olympic Gold Rush:

The U.S. Men’s Volleyball Team earned its first-ever Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Demonstrating continued dominance, they followed up this victory with another Olympic gold medal win four years later at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

1988 USA Men's Volleyball Olympians and gold medalists Jeff Stork, Doug Partie, and Dave Saunders interviewed by CBS 8 San Diego 

USA Men Become FIVB World Champions

The men’s team achieved the title at the 1986 FIVB World Championships. This was a testament to the powerful presence of U.S. Men's volleyball in the world arena.

The Younger Generation Continues Success in the Pan American Games

The team hit another high note by grabbing gold at the 1987 Pan American Games.

For USA Women's Volleyball

The Best Finish in History An Olympic Silver:

This was so much fun to be in the city and working at the basketball and going to the track and field venues when I was in my teens during the 1984 Olympics. 

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was a historic event for the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team.

Playing in front of record crowds on home soil and super motivated following the 1980s boycott where the Americans after four years of preparation stayed home and did not compete in the Moscow Olympics. 

The American women reached the finals playing in an amazing Olympic gold medal match against the Chinese women led by the future Olympic head coach the first Lady of Chinese volleyball who snatched the gold medal from the Americans who finished with an Olympic silver medal, the highest win for an American women's Olympic team.

A Stellar Performance at the World Championships

Even though the Americans didn't finish high enough to secure a medal, the Women’s team put up a strong fight in the 1982 FIVB World Championship by clinching the 5th place position with some .

Building A Legacy With Continued Outstanding Progress in Pan American Games

The USA Women's team ended the decade on a high note by earning a  silver medal at the 1987 Pan American Games.

Thoughts from Coach April...

Living in Inglewood, California at the time, I was working as a volunteer at the Forum (Prairie Avenue and Manchester) at the women's basketball venue.  

It was amazing to be court side to watch Olympic basketball coach Pat Head Summit coach the women's team, or go to the track at the Coliseum to watch Carl Lewis and the 4 x 100 relay team run.

It was a life changing experience to watch on TV as the American women's Olympic volleyball team led by Flo Hyman got their first medal, silver, in an epic battle against China, led by future Olympic American and Chinese coach Lang Ping. 

The 1980s were a golden era in American Volleyball, particularly showcasing the growing international domination of both the men’s and women’s teams.

With Olympic victories and innovation in tactics, the sport enjoyed a growing popularity and prestige.

Thoughts from Coach April...

I tried out for the US National team in 1985, the February after the Los Angeles Olympics.  I made the team despite having tweaked my ankle during the third day of tryouts.  

I trained with these girls for a short while, was a member of the 1985 World University Games in Kobe, Japan and then played with and against them and other international and Olympic stars as a professional player in Italy for a number of years.  

A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the 1990s, the American's Evolving Era

The 1990s brought a mix of challenges and triumphs for American volleyball. This period saw the evolution of the sport, recognized globally, and
the women's team, in particular, stood out. 

For USA Men's Volleyball
A Short Brief History of Volleyball

The Men Earn Olympic Bronze Medal

Following their golden run in the 80s, the USA Men's Volleyball team proved themselves once again by securing a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

FIVB World League Participation

The Men's team participated consistently in the newly formed FIVB World League throughout the 90s, enhancing their global exposure.

For USA Women's Volleyball
A Short Brief History of Volleyball

An Historic Olympic Bronze in 92

The Barcelona Olympics in 1992 saw the U.S. Women's Volleyball team win their first Olympic medal - a bronze. It marked a milestone moment in American Women's volleyball.

A First World Grand Prix Victory

The Women's team claimed their first major international title by winning the FIVB World Grand Prix in 1995. This boosted the morale and global standing of USA women's volleyball.

A Huge Achievement in FIVB World Cup

The Women's team consistently showed remarkable participation in the FIVB World Cup securing 4th rank in 1995 and 3rd rank in 1999.

The Rise of Beach Volleyball

The Beginning of Olympic Recognition

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics marked the inaugural inclusion of beach volleyball as an official sport. This further elevated the popularity of American volleyball by showcasing an exciting, accessible version of the sport.

The 1990s were a defining era for American Volleyball, highlighting the rise of Women’s Volleyball on the international stage and the growth of Beach Volleyball worldwide. 

A Short Brief History of USA Volleyball in the 2000s, the Stellar Era

The 2000s stood as a vibrant chapter in American volleyball history, with both the men’s and women’s teams continuing their successful runs.

For USA Men's Volleyball
A Short Brief History of Volleyball

A Memorable Olympic Gold

The US Men's team returned to the Olympic spotlight by earning the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a triumphant moment after a 20-year medal hiatus.

Continued Success in FIVB World League

The USA men's team showed consistent good form in the FIVB World League, clinching the championship in 2008, proving America’s consistent prominence on the international stage.

For USA Women's Volleyball
A Short Brief History of Volleyball

A Historic Silver Medal at the Olympics

The USA women's team had a phenomenal run with back-to-back silver medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the London 2012 Olympics.

Triumphant Run in FIVB World Grand Prix

In the peak of the 2000s, the U.S. Women’s team won the FIVB World Grand Prix three times (2001, 2010 and 2011), proving them to be a formidable  force on the international level in the sport.

Consistent International Performances

Along with these victories, the US women's team also secured two podium finishes, taking home the bronze at the 2003 and 2007 FIVB World Cup.

The Beach Volleyball Era:

Olympic Dominance in Beach Volleyball

The 2000s saw American dominance of beach volleyball at the Olympics.

The US teams earned gold medals twice in men’s events, starting in Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, and a historic three Olympic gold finishes in the women's event with Misty May Treanor partnered with Kerri Walsh Jennings at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and London 2012 editions.

The 2000s proved to be another prosperous era for USA Volleyball, featuring lots of triumphant moments and unforgettable performances in both Indoor and Beach Volleyball. 

A Short Brief History of USA Volleyball 2015 to Present Day
The Contemporary Era

Let's take a closer look at the period from 2015 to the present, where USA volleyball continues to demonstrate its prowess both nationally and internationally.

For USA Men's Volleyball

FIVB World League Victories

The men's team showed exceptional form by winning the FIVB World League in 2014 and followed it up with a bronze medal in 2015, reinforcing the team's impressive game.


The team successfully achieved gold at the 2015 NORCECA Championship, a tournament designed for North, Central America and Caribbean volleyball teams.

Olympic Achievement

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Men's team clinched the bronze medal, proving their strength and commitment to the sport on the global stage.

For USA Women's Volleyball

FIVB World Grand Prix Success

The U.S Women’s Volleyball team started off the era with a bang, winning the FIVB World Grand Prix in 2015, their 6th Grand Prix title.

Winning The First FIVB World Championship

In a historic moment, the USA women won their first-ever FIVB World Championship in 2014 and followed that with a bronze medal in 2015.

Olympic Achievements

Carrying forward their Olympic legacy, the Women's team won a bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

VNL Triumphs

In more recent times, the women's team won the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) twice, in 2018 and 2019.

In a nutshell, the period from 2015 to the present has been full of incredibly amazing achievements in USA volleyball.

The USA Women Win Olympic Gold
A Short Brief History of Volleyball in the US From The 50s to 2000s

2020 the year of Covid and the year the American women win gold!

A Short Brief History of Volleyball: Where Do You Go From Here?

Where do you need to go now? 

Here are three options: 

  1. Learn more about the short brief history of volleyball
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap page Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the American Women in the Olympics History section in the drop down menu at the top of the page. 

Learn more about the short brief history of volleyball on these pages!

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