Vollyeyball boys can be King for a day
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL ” Tracing the origins of male volleyball players in Colorado isn’t as cut-and-dry as their female counterparts.
Saturday, at the King of the Mountain tournament in Vail, the number of junior girls clearly outnumbered that of junior boys, while the gender imbalance wasn’t that big in the older divisions.
Although there’s a huge gap to close, the number of boys digging and spiking was up this year at the King of the Mountain.
“We’ve got about 14 teams,” said event organizer Leon Fell. “In the past, we haven’t had more than two or three.”
In Colorado, where just about every high school fields a girls volleyball team, there are no boys teams sanctioned under the Colorado High School Activities Association. There are club teams at the high school and adult level for guys, although only a handful of club teams at the youth level.
“There are really only (three) of us,” said John Archer, who coaches a boys team for Colorado Performance.
The youth disparity isn’t just in Colorado, either.
“There are about 160,000 junior girls and less than 10,000 boys,” said John Kessel, the director of membership development and disabled programs for USA Volleyball. “From a diversity point of view, we’d like more native Americans and other minorities, but the diversity problem is boys.”
Many of the men at the King of the Mountain didn’t play in high school, and either got into the game playing at a recreational level in college or just picking up the outdoor two-person game.
“We have … a national intramural championships,” Kessel said. “We hope to see guys there who make the national team. A lot of these guys started playing at 19 … and they don’t peak until 29.”
Still, Kessel would love the youth ranks to swell.
“That’s one of our top three priorities,” he said. “I have one assistant and he is the coordinator of college and boys development.”
The Colorado Performance fielded boys teams this year of under-12, 13 and 14.
“What we are trying to do is make it fun. We realize the boys are just getting started at this,” Archer said. “You look out here and realize there are a lot of men playing. There are as many men as women. To us all these guys will have boys and daughters, so it just surprises me there aren’t more boys playing. We think there’s a good opportunity here in Colorado to get more boys out and playing and enjoying the game.”
One of the challenges is finding the boys who like volleyball, and then them know there is a place to play.
Bruce Decker, and assistant coach with Colorado Performance, had a good idea his son Mitchell wanted to play.
“From the time he could walk and was in diapers, he was bumping with his (older) sister,” Decker said. “That’s a way we found a lot of these kids (on our team). They were little brothers of the sisters who had been playing.
“I went to high school and club matches and would hand kids flyers and told them to come out, and they’d say, ‘There’s boys volleyball?’ If we can get the word our, we think we can grow it.”
With a lack of competition among younger boys, Colorado Performance turned to the girls Rocky Mountain Region for matches.
“We play … against the 16-year old girls,” Archer said of his under-14 team. “It really works out pretty well. Most of the girls have played for years. The boys haven’t played as much. They are for the most part taller and more experienced, but the boys hang in there pretty well.”
“It’s kind of hard, but if you get better and practice hard, it gets easier,” said 10-year-old Mitchell Decker.
Because many of the boys playing club volleyball spent a good amount of time with other sports, the Colorado Performance practices two times a week.
“Frankly, a lot of kids look at it and don’t like as much structure as those (other sports) have, or as much intensity as they have,” Archer said.
Kessel is just fine with that, too.
“The more unstructured play you have when you are young, the better you are when you’re older,” he said, adding he thinks outdoor, two-person volleyball can be better for younger kids. “The beauty is that you’re always touching the ball.”
Colorado Performance runs clinics in between seasons for other sports, and finds tournaments for kids to play in the summer.
“The idea is we can get them interested in the sport and love it,” Decker said.
For the young players ” both boys and girls ” one of ultimate goals is earning a scholarship to play in college.
The gender disparity of youth volleyball is the same in college. While there are about 8,000 girls scholarships available in college, there are only 100 for men, Kessel said.
“There are 12 girls’ (scholarships) per school to 4.5 for guys,” Kessel said. “You can’t even field at team.”
Archer and Decker would eventually love to see boys volleyball as a sanctioned high school sport in Colorado, although Kessel knows it’s a tough hill to climb, in part because of Title IX.
Title IX dictates that boys and girls must have an equal opportunity to play sports, and although there are already girls volleyball teams at most schools, there are also football teams, which often have five to six times as many players than a volleyball squad.
“The numbers it will take to go varsity is daunting,” Kessel said. “Lacrosse went boys and girls at the same time, and we don’t have that.”
Expansion at the outdoor level in Colorado, however, is more attainable.
“My goal right now is to grow volleyball on a beach boys level,” Fell said. “It helps feed, and I hate seeing all the teams come out of California.”
The group of boys on hand Saturday may be a sign of a step in the right direction.
“We had a good turnout, but we’ve worked hard on this since the fall,” Decker said.
The boys will be back at it today, as the King of the Mountain’s father-son and father-daugher divisions hit the grass along with some of the other 22 total divisions. The finals of the men’s and women’s open grace the sand.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.
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