There is much to say about the history of Volleyclub. Here you can find a playlist of Volleyclub throughout the years and a brief overview of how Volleyclub came to be where it is today.
The history of Volleyclub is – as befits a juggling sport – a confusing one. Its origins cannot be traced back to just one single moment in time. Instead, Volleyclub has been invented several times completely separately in different parts of the world and in different ways. Obviously inspired by volleyball – and beach volleyball in particular – jugglers tried many props and objects most likely beginning with balls but quickly expanding to diabolos, devil sticks and clubs for “volleyjuggling”.
It is said that joll(e)yball, volleyjuggling with juggling balls, and possibly even Volleyclub were first played in Brussels in 1987. In the same year, however, the American juggling teacher Dave Finnigan published his textbook “The Complete Juggler” in which he described “Jollyball” as a juggling game invented by himself to be played by two players and with an imaginary net at eye-level. His description mentions no game ball, instead allowing for up to two balls to be thrown over the net simultaneously and limits self throws to 7 instead of the 2 self throws allowed today. More detailed rules were written in 1990 and expanded until 2000 in Austria, where jollyball tournaments are being held by universities ever since 1991.
Alternatively, Volleyclub may have been played first in Kalani Honua on Hawaii during the juggling festival called “Club Volcano” or “Vaudeville Festival” which began in 1985. As the story goes, jugglers were on a tennis court and decided to pass juggling clubs over the net which then sparked the idea for Volleyclub. In a photo dated 1986 four players can be seen playing on a grass court and with a volleyball net already. Video clips exist of Volleyclub being played there in 1990 and 1994. At the 6. Annual Hawaiian Vaudeville Festival in 1990, Volleyclub was played with 6 players, 3 per team, and at least 5 selfs allowed, meaning one self of the game club. It was called volleyjuggle and featured in an article, the oldest written source of Volleyclub. From 1996 to 2012 2v2 Volleyclub tournaments were held at the Hawaiian Vaudeville Festival.
At the European Juggling Convention (EJC) in Banyoles, Catalonia, Spain in 1992 Volleyclub was invented again. It was played with four players, 2 per team, over a rope tightening the stage. After using a water canister as a volleyball the players switched to a “Henrys Classic Long”. The “Henrys Pirouette” which would in 2005 become the official “Volley Club” game club was invented in the same year.
In September 1993 a 4v4 Volleyclub tournament was played at the Karlsruhe Convention. Selfs were unlimited but a player in possession of the game club was not allowed to move on the court. Since the finals were part of the juggling games, however, there was no actual court. Thus, jugglers holding clubs above their heads substituted as a net. In the same year, British juggler Haggis McLeod released an hour long video for sale called “Club Juggling and Passing” in which 4v4 Volleyclub was featured, as well. McLeod, then, played 2v2 Volleyclub at the 10. Annual Hawaiian Vaudeville Festival in February 1994 bringing this version to the EJC in Gothenburg, Sweden in August 1995.
During 1994 Volleyclub gained popularity in Germany and the UK with rules being featured in the first edition of “The Catch”, a British juggling magazine. The article mentioned “Fizz Bin”, a game invented by the juggling group “Renegades” to practice club passing, as a precursor for Volleyclub. At the juggling convention in Weilburg, Germany service rules were revised to disallow helicopter. Additionally, passes were limited to two per team and game club touches to three per possession.
At the 1995 EJC the first European Championship was held. Due to differences concerning the rules, however, two separate tournaments were played. Amongst others a 1m line from the net, which could not be stepped over during attacks, was introduced (and discarded quickly thereafter). Services were also allowed to touch the net. During the EJC in Grenoble, France in 1996 Volleyclub was played but a tournament had to be cancelled due to rain.
From 1996 to 2000, Volleyclub became part of many German, French, and British juggling conventions, and was starting to be played at the Austrian jollyball tournaments, as well.
At the Landshut juggling convention in April 2001 Jolleystick, volleyjuggling with Devil Sticks, was invented. It became part of the EJC competitions the same year, a Flower Stick version was added in 2004, and Jollyball was added in 2011.
At the 2001 EJC in Rotterdam, Netherlands the first 3v3 Volleyclub tournament on beach courts was held. What began as a way to combat strong winds became tradition until 2007 – with the exception of the European Volleyclub Championship at the EJC in Ptuj, Slovenia in 2005 which had to be cancelled due to bad weather.
Between the 2001 EJC and the 2002 EJC in Bremen, Germany Volleyclub rules evolved again to include upwards momentum for attacks and blocks as well as counting service net touches as faults. Player faults were also added and have remained the same to this day. In tournaments outside of EJCs 2v2 Volleyclub was played almost exclusively and players were already allowed to move on the field regardless of game club possession.
These rules were officially written down in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2003 and published on the first version of this website, volleyclub.de. From 2003 to 2009 the German Volleyclub Championship was held on beach courts at “Das Fest” in Karlsruhe.
In 2007, Volleyclub switched to rally scoring, mostly called “Berlin Scoring” since it was the Berlin Volleyclub teams who had been pushing for this change since 2004. In most tournaments, best-of-3-sets to 11 points became the norm. Additionally, the “Berlin Out” was designed to easier decide the landing of the game club by counting the first and second landing contact of the game club, instead of just the first. Ultimately, this rule was abandoned, however, to promote precision and reward exact reading of the game club’s flight curve. During this time, several Volleyclub conventions and workshops arose, even a university programme in Karlsruhe in April 2016.
The first 2v2 European Volleyclub Championship was held at the 2007 EJC in Athens, Greece, finally catching up with the German tournament rules from 2003 and the US tournament rules from 1996. Except for the 2013 EJC in Toulouse, France, where Volleyclub was part of the juggling games and, thus, had to be shortened by playing 3v3 with fewer teams, the European Championships have remained 2v2 ever since. At the 2019 EJC in Newark, UK more than 40 teams from around the world entered into the European Championship.
Due to COVID-19 no Volleyclub tournaments were played in 2020 and 2021 with the exception of a single 8-team tournament in Samara, Russia, where Volleyclub had just recently begun to blossom. The Volleyclub scene did, however, not sit idle. We used this time to develop our sport further. Overhead serves, first discussed in 2019, were added, new service rotations and a new scoring system inspired by tennis tie-breaks improved fairness and, finally, the Open Tournament Tour was created.
The ongoing 2021/2022 season is the first of its kind, including tournaments from all over the world to determine the teams that will play for the Volleyclub Cup at the end of the season. Volleyclub can look back on a fascinatingly chaotic past but its future is sure to be even more exciting!
If you know more about the history of volleyclub in your area or at your favourite convention, if you want to share videos or historical tournament results with us – please let us know!