Chinatown’s No. 1 Game


On city streets all around North America, you’ll find athletes playing a game with a net and a ball. No, it’s not basketball, and although this dynamic, aggressive, and attention-grabbing game looks a lot like its sibling sport volleyball, 9-man has more than enough of its own history, culture, and rules to distinguish itself from the six-person game.

Immigrants from Toisan, China, began playing this volleyball-like game in the 1930s to find release and create a place of community. These men would string up a piece of rope across the street or in a parking lot and make a ball out of a tied up towel, and they would spend the days they had off from their grueling restaurant and laundry jobs playing the game that came to be known as 9-man, which is still played in Chinatowns all over North America.

Ursula Liang—a sports journalist, filmmaker, and longtime volleyball player—first encountered 9-man when someone invited her to play in one of the women’s six-person volleyball tournaments often played alongside men’s 9-man competitions.

“As a volleyball player, I was curious about the game because it’s very different,” Liang explained. “It’s very dynamic.”

In 9-man, the ball-handling rules are much less strict than in traditional volleyball. The net is lower, the court larger, jump serving is not allowed, and if the ball is passed into the net, an extra contact is earned. When blocking, players cannot penetrate the plane of the net—referred to as “piking.” And, of course, there are nine players per side.

“You sort of describe [9-man] as a sport that looks like volleyball, but it’s faster and a little bit more chaotic,” said Liang. “Things are happening in a different rhythm, and the rules are a little kooky.”

You can see the full article at:


This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.