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The origins of Volleycock are often miss-represented. People usually label this as a recent fusion sport. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Rather than combining Badminton and Volleyball it was the progenitor of both.
“I've never heard of it.”
“In Soviet Russia, Game plays YOU!!.”
edit Origins, Evolution and Heritage
Volleycock actually dates it's origins from Cairo where street urchins played a primitive form of the sport over washing lines in the street.
Discovered by travellers who were passing through the area in 1816, it was recorded by Austrian explorer Gustalf Primalk, to have been played by teams of as many as eighteen per side and interest in this street game united whole communities as hundreds of spectators would gamble on the outcome. The game at this stage was played with basic wooden bats and a bird or small rodent.
The next time this burgeoning sport surfaced was in Innsbruck where the game had been adopted by the Austrian aristocracy.
Then called Vaoul Côhèk or later 'Real Volleycock' - the game comprised of hitting a bag of dried peas (or similar) back and forth between two teams of three in a form of ‘keepie uppy’ using wide wooden bats. Real Volleycock was played indoors where it has stayed ever since.
History then dims on the subject until it resurfaces in 1866 in the United Kingdom as played in the newly formed Amateur Athletic Club.
edit Preparing to play
The game started 2 hours before the match was due to begin with the traditional laying of the court.
This was done by a ceremony called ‘The Ascertaining of the Fox’ which formed as much part of the game as the activity itself. A Foxes length was used as they were readily available, pleasant to the eye and between 18 inches and 2 feet 6 inches from nose to anus. This unusual unit of measurement was used as a way of keeping the game fair and not unduly biased toward the home team. The visiting team would bring their chosen fox to the court and based on its length (excluding tail) the court would be measured using the ratio 12 by 22 foxes.
Incidentally this was where the practice of bringing an animal mascot to a sporting event arose.
In the modern game a Fox is a standardised 2 feet 3 inches in length, with the reference Fox (called Mishka) kept in aspic in a vault in Switzerland somewhere.
In Moscow in 1911 a controversial game was played using a fox called ‘Chucha Malyshka’ (Little Baby) - The last photo of 'Little Baby' was thrown out of a window after an argument over a spoon. - this is a representation based on witness testimony It was only 4 inches long and caused a game that was stopped at 27-46 due to multiple injuries after eighteen minutes of play.
The floor of the court was arranged thus:
Outward from the 5 fox high net, and 3 ½ foxes away on both sides is a raised area 2 foxes high on which two of each team stands. The third player stands in the lower portion of the court in the (Côhèk) pit so preventing smashes by greatly increasing the relative height of the net.
Players specialising in the Côhèk-Pit play were highly regarded - with the base line players often thought of as merely ballast.
The game was played using a small wooden ball called a 'Nubbin' and was enjoyed exclusively by men. Headgear was essential as the two inch Nubbin was propelled by short racquets resembling table-tennis bats at great speed.
After many revisions and a period of thirty eight years the Volley Côhèk Discrimination and Safety act (1897) was passed and the sport finally opened to women and an offshoot - ‘Ladies Côhèk’ was born - wherein the Nubbin was replaced by a small sack of feathers called a Pimsle, shortly after which the use of the Nubbin was stopped and the sport changed forever. This was to eventually be replaced in turn by the early ancestor of the modern shuttlecock in 1847. After then it was only a short time until mixed teams were allowed and the modern sport of Volleycock was born.
Actual rules for the sport were subject to regional variation until the 'Conurbation of 1883' - where after the then champion Viktor Gretski of Poland was caught amending the second volume of the by-laws to support his Offside strategy, a unified rulebook was established. A schism divided the sport for three weeks until the dissidents (Viktor and his partner Philip) agreed that they were being unsporting.
Time passed and the game evolved, spawning two popular off-shoots, Badminton and Volleyball. These proceeded to grow and eventually overshadow the original game.
In a move unprecedented in sporting history, the game of Ex-Gentleman's Volley-Côhèk took its next step in 1901 by borrowing from its progeny by adopting the style of court favoured by badminton players and finally forever losing the Côhèk pit in favour of the open plan and lined modern court.
Surprisingly Viktor Gretski's Offside rule was then revisited and reapplied as a ruling wherein if you were to step over a boundary line ('Off the side' of the court) you were deemed to have lost the point. This was greeted with a great surge of support as it established a link to the early roots of the sport and has become part of its terminology to this day as a 'Gretski Error'.
edit How to play
Rules for International Competition.
The Nubbin (Ancient game), Pimsle (Neoclassical Game) or Shuttlecock should be used according to the weather outside, The better the weather the more modern the game.
Firstly all players 'Salute the Fox' by rubbing their thighs and humming loudly.
The game is played on a standard size badminton court, with either two, three or four players per side.
The net is again of standard height, thus allowing the game to be played on standard courts.
The line markings are the outside of the court, a-la doubles in badminton.
The area in front of the service box is a no-smash zone (the Côhèk Pit, as was) where only net crossing lobs, drop shots or back passing to other players is permitted.
Service is from the baseline and is a smash-style serve to anywhere on the diagonally opposite half of the opponent's court.
After the serve, three touches or less are permitted before the shuttle must cross the net, though two successive touches by the same player is disallowed.
edit Scoring and Serve Rotation.
Games run to 51 points, with the best of 3 games to a set.
Each player has one serve.
The shuttle can be passed between players on a team in turn once before it has to cross the net. The number of passes, up to a maximum of three decides the points won once the shuttle is grounded.
This has the following provisions: That the shuttle has not hit a member of the opposition as this limits the score for that point to one.
That no player has crossed a line leaving the court (Committing a Gretsky error) as this will instantly cost 5 points.
A player continues to serve until his team has lost the rally. Then the team rotates and the next player in the same team serves. All players in the same team serve before the serve passes to the other team.
In the event of a draw after 108 minutes the winner shall be decided by a team correctly guessing the number the referee is thinking of.
Attire for Competitors
Competitors are allowed to wear whatever they like, though rubberwear is frowned upon for safety reasons.
Attire for Line Judges
On the other hand, line judges are required to be female and between the ages of 18 and 25, of official International Volleycock levels of beauty and clad in regulation bikini wear.
Although it continued to receive minimal recognition throughout the 20th century, great games have been played and these have been documented for posterity. Of course the foremost amongst these great sporting achievements was the England Germany match in Berlin 1938. The 1-3 score line doesn't show that this was a match of epic status, though the events recorded on that August day would electrify thousands for years to come.
Still, to this day if you go to Harrods food hall and ask for a 'Little Baby' you will get a knowing wink from the older members of staff, and possibly even a loaf of vaguely foxy looking bread.
The game still labours in obscurity, played by few and enjoyed by less - Olympic recognition awaits . . .or not, the trouble is that nobody cares.