Sport Week: History of sitting volleyball

Learn how the sport originated and how it entered the Paralympic programme. 14 Apr 2016
Canada's women's sitting volleyball team playing Cuba in the bronze medal game at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

Canada's women's sitting volleyball team playing Cuba in the bronze medal game at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

ⒸJon Blacker for the IPC

Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.

Volleyball was invented in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, by William G. Morgan in the late nineteenth century. Morgan, became a director of physical education and was looking for a recreational game to diversify his sport and exercise programme. Drawing inspiration from tennis and basketball, Morgan eventually drew up volleyball.

Sitting volleyball originated in the Netherlands in 1956 as a combination of volleyball and sitzball, a German sport with no net but seated players. At first, “standing volleyball” (for athletes with a mobility impairment and can be played standing up) appeared at the Toronto 1976 Paralympics as a demonstration sport. Standing volleyball, along with sitting volleyball, officially became part of the Paralympic programme at Arnhem 1980. The Netherlands took the first gold medal in sitting volleyball, while Israel captured gold in standup volleyball. Seven countries participated in the sitting volleyball in Arnhem 1980, and five in standing volleyball.

Women’s competition was added for Athens 2004 – with six nations participating in the women’s side – while men’s standing was removed. The Chinese women have won every Paralympic gold since Athens 2004. On the men’s side, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina have gone back-and-forth between gold and silver since Sydney 2000. The Iranian men have been the dominating force, amassing five gold medals and a silver since the Seoul 1988 Games. Having been runner-up to Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina landed their first gold medal in Athens 2004.

After the London 2012 Paralympics, VolleySLIDE was created to drive the development of the sport around the world and provide a platform for the sitting volleyball community to stay connected.

The sport is being practiced in about 60 nations. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, eight men and eight women’s teams will compete over two medal events, with a total of 192 athletes expected to participate.

Helpful links

World ParaVolley.

Rio 2016 sitting volleyball webpage.

IPC sitting volleyball webpage.

For sitting volleyball development resources, visit


Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).

The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.

Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.