August 23, 2010

Boys' league for volleyball in the works

The Southern Maine High School Boys Volleyball League would play between the winter and spring seasons.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

In the aftermath of nearly every home volleyball match, Greely Coach Kelvin Hasch noticed something similar. Students who had been watching his girls' team play jumped on the court and began their own pickup game.

"If I leave the balls out, it'll probably be 75 percent boys playing after the match," Hasch said. "So they want it, but nobody's figured out a way to provide it for them."

Hasch, and others, are attempting to fill the void by creating the Southern Maine High School Boys Volleyball League, or SMHSBVBL for short. Well, relatively short.

Hasch envisions a season of six to eight weeks between winter and spring -- "The mud season, that's what it is," he said -- where teams from interested schools would practice during the week and come together on Saturdays to play round-robin tournaments. Some teams may be composed of players from two or more schools.

"We're going to have teams of 10 to 12 kids," he said. "If there's two from Freeport, five from (North Yarmouth Academy) and five from Yarmouth, they might all play on the same team."

Hasch said Greely will field a team of 15 boys without difficulty.

"I've already had four kids walk in the gym (last) week," said Hasch, whose girls are entering their second week of preseason practice. "They're asking, 'Do we have boys' volleyball? When do we start playing?"'

Several area schools offered boys' club volleyball a decade ago, but the programs petered out six or seven years ago.

"Volleyball in Maine is not extremely well-organized," said Jeff Scully, a high school and collegiate referee who is also head of the Maine Games. "But we're getting there. We're leaps and bounds over where we were in the past."

Scully said six or seven schools have expressed interest. The Maine Games and USA Volleyball have combined forces on something called the Maine Volleyball Project, and offer one-time grants of $500 to schools interested in starting up a program for boys.

"I would love to see Maine take off," said Jeff Mosher, coordinator for boys' and men's program development at USA Volleyball. "There's definitely potential for some great volleyball. And there's so many collegiate programs on the East Coast that when they leave high school, there's another place to play."

Mosher said the one-year grants are enough to purchase volleyballs, jerseys and shorts. The net systems and gym space already exist for schools offering girls' volleyball. He also said the grants are often renewable for two more years if funding is problematic.

Jeff Sturgis, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals' Association, said a minimum of 10 schools is necessary before the MPA would consider sanctioning boys' volleyball.

Nationwide, girls' high school volleyball remains much more popular, with 15,069 schools reporting varsity teams for girls as opposed to 2,192 for boys. Among New England states, boys' volleyball has taken root in Massachusetts (88 schools), Connecticut (40) and Rhode Island (25) but remains scarce in Vermont (one) and New Hampshire (nine), according to statistics from the 2008-09 school year compiled by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

"Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine definitely need growth," said Mosher. "But as you go south and west, New York is definitely playing a ton of (boys') volleyball. This next year is the first they'll go to a full state championship."

Back at Greely, Hasch said bringing boys into the volleyball fold makes sense for another reason. Unlike some other popular offerings, volleyball is a sport for a lifetime.

"You look at kids as they grow older," he said, "and of all the sports they play when they grow up and become adults, volleyball is close to No. 1. So why not have it?"

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

 

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