What do you get when you cross basketball with tennis? William G. Morgan, an instructor at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in the United States, came up with the answer 110 years ago: volleyball. Since then, the popularity of the game has continued to grow. First included in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, the game - which was originally called mintonette - is now one of the big five international sports. It is liked in most schools in Hong Kong partly because, as with football and basketball, it places great emphasis on the team spirit. 'But unlike basketball and football, in which you can bring the ball forward yourself, successive hits are not allowed by players in volleyball. Each success depends on the support of many players,' said Kwok Kin-chuen, head coach of the Hong Kong Women's Volleyball Squad. 'When training and in competitions, we share the joy of success and the disappointment of failure together.' In volleyball, each side of six players must get the ball over the net in not more than three moves. Players line up in two rows, and rotate in a clock-wise direction each time their team wins a serve. There are different roles for players according to their physical and technical abilities. A spiker needs both speed and strength as their role is to forcefully hit the ball, aiming to ground the ball on the defensive team's side of the net. Setters are players with good ball control and timing who set up the shot for other players, while combined setter-attackers are versatile players who act as setters when in the back row and spikers in the front. According to Kwok, the easiest formation for beginners is the 2-4 formation, which involves two setters and four hitters. But the players' roles are not as rigid as they once were, as the game is becoming increasingly dynamic and tactically sophisticated. Some requirements of the game, however, always remain the same: the best volleyball players need flexibility, agility, considerable height and strong arms and legs. The coach recommends exercises such as skipping, running up stairs and sit-ups to strengthen legs and stomach muscles. 'You can't be lazy when doing sports, especially volleyball,' the coach said. 'There are no short cuts. You have to be constantly aware of your physique and practise the techniques repetitively.' Kwok says it usually takes about eight years to become a high-calibre volleyball player. While this may seem arduous, the coach says there are more than just skills and trophies to be acquired along the way. 'If you want to play any particular sport well, suffering is part of the process.' For more information, visit www.vbahk.org.hk .