We’re now only a few months out from the Rio Olympic games, and volleyball teams across the world are honing their skills for a chance to spike and ace their way to glory in August. With the indoor volleyball competition set for Ginásio do Maracanãzinho and the beach volleyball tournament slated for Copacabana Beach, it’s time to brush up on both variations of the sport.

Indoor volleyball, or simply “volleyball” as far as the Olympics are concerned, was first played in the games at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. During indoor volleyball two teams of six players battle it out, with the players in positions like hitter, setter, middle blocker, and libero cycling around the court during play. Team based volleyball allows for many digs and coordinated efforts to break through opponents’ defense.

Volleyball was initially invented as an alternative to basketball with less direct physical contact, but has evolved into a strenuous sport all its own. Cuba is one of the most prominent and consistent volleyball forces in the Olympics – the Cuban women’s team is the only team to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in 1992, 1996, and 2000. In 1982, the Brazil men’s team unleashed the “Star Trek” serve for the first time, launching the ball so high it nearly grazed the ceiling before dropping at high velocity into their opponents’ court.

Beach volleyball is a relative newcomer to the Olympic stage. Beach volleyball originated on the beaches of Santa Monica in the 1920s but was first played as an Olympic event at the 1996 games in Atlanta. In beach volleyball, players compete on sand and there are only two players per team. This makes for tense and excruciating matches, as players must traverse the beach quickly to return volleys and execute effective blocks.

In beach volleyball, trust between the two teammates and an inherent understanding of each other’s playing style and strengths is crucial for victory. Much like doubles tennis, the compatibility of players will make or break a match in beach volleyball. Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor are the reigning titans of beach volleyball, winning the last three consecutive gold medals without losing any of their 21 matches.  Walsh Jennings will be returning to the 2016 Olympic games with new partner April Ross, whom she defeated for the gold in 2012.

Be sure to watch the volleyball events unfold in August, and while you’re training for your own Olympic glory turn to Worldwide Sport Supply for all your volleyball apparel and equipment needs.

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