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The City Journals

Boys volleyball approved for sanctioning; CC and JD to have own teams

Apr 30, 2022 10:36AM ● By Catherine Garrett

Corner Canyon High junior Gavin Armstrong attacks the ball in a recent practice. (Photo courtesy Dan Penrod)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Representatives of the Utah Boys Volleyball Association had sat in meetings with the Utah High School Activities Association before—over the past four years in a formal fashion. So, when the UHSAA board again put the sanctioning of boys volleyball to a vote, the UBVA members braced themselves. They had been here before, and had walked out disappointed every time. Yet, on this day, March 24, 2022, it would finally be the outcome they had wanted when their organization was formed in 2015.

After decades of boys playing the sport in Utah, boys volleyball is official, and, with a 10-4 vote, will now be a UHSAA-sanctioned sport beginning in the 2023-24 school year, joining the ranks with 25 other states nationwide.

“We had a lot more hope and momentum this time, but it was so surreal to sit there and hear it announced. We were just in shock,” said UBVA co-founder Jill Davis.

This latest attempt at sanctioning laid 10,000 signatures in front of the UHSAA board along with written support from local politicians, including Norm Thurston of the Utah House of Representatives, who was in attendance at the meeting, to BYU athletic director, Tom Holmoe, BYU men’s volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead and USA national men’s volleyball coach John Speraw.

UHSAA assistant director Jan Whittaker said, “The UHSAA is excited to be sanctioning boys’ volleyball for the 2023-24 schools year. This will allow many boys who have not been competing in a sport for their school the opportunity to be part of the high school sports experience. They will be able to benefit from the positive impact that high school athletics has on students.”

“We are very happy for this long overdue addition of boys’ volleyball in Utah high school sports,” said Corner Canyon High boys volleyball director Dan Penrod. “The sport has been growing by leaps and bounds the past several years.”

American Preparatory Academy-Draper boys volleyball coach Bryan Durst said his school is “excited to have boys volleyball sanctioned” after five years as a club program.

“We’ve sure been trying through the years to get this done, so I see nothing but positive coming from this,” said Juan Diego Catholic High School coach Sam Vaitai. “It’s gonna be fun.”

Davis said, “It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment and it was an honor to be in the seat. A lot of people told us it wouldn’t happen, but our grassroots efforts and the community support made this happen. This is a victory for everybody, especially the boys and their families.”

Davis, of South Jordan, has helped spearhead the UBVA’s effort the past few years to get the sport sanctioned. Her sons, Parker and Price, were part of a Bingham High boys volleyball program who three-peated in state titles from 2017 to 2019. She, UBVA co-founder Warren Van Schalkwyk and Duke Mossman, who coaches at Wasatch High, formed a collaborative effort of continually gathering statistics and surveying coaches statewide to keep up with the growing interest and participation in the sport.

What they found was:

·         Boys volleyball is one of the fastest growing sport in high schools across the nation.

·         Boys volleyball is one of the largest club sports in Utah. In 2015, the state had 24 club teams; last fall, that number was up to 56.

·         In 2019, 81 high school teams represented 56 schools in Utah. This year, 122 high school teams are playing from 64 schools with more than 1,500 boys competing.

·         More than half of those 64 high school teams had such a demand in numbers that coaches had to cut players at tryouts due to popularity of the sport and lack of facilities.

·         Most of the 5A and 6A schools have full teams with the 3A and 4A classifications having a more mixed representation and the more rural schools in 1A and 2A coming in with the lowest participation rates.

·         53% of the boys volleyball programs pay for gym rentals from their schools in order to play and practice.

·         90% of participants statewide just play boys volleyball and are not multi-sport athletes.

“The push that Jill stayed on to make was really key,” Penrod said. “Over this long process, there have always been a few parents that wanted to get the sanctioning ball rolling, but when their boys were finished playing, the momentum died down. Jill staying on after her boys graduated was everything in making sure this happened.”

Whittaker noted how the Emerging Sports Program that the UHSAA formed three years ago played a key role in the sanctioning of boys volleyball. “That program was created to grow meaningful participation opportunities for student-athletes, particularly for female student-athletes, in sports and activities,” she said. “A sport can be considered for sanctioning after it meets a certain threshold of participating of our students in member schools. Boys participating in volleyball has steadily grown over the past few years.”

Whittaker said once boys volleyball had met initial criteria for sanctioning consideration the UHSAA Board of Trustees looked at several factors in the ultimate decision-making process including:

·         The impact on Title IX compliance

·         The percentage of member schools that facilitate interscholastic competition in the emerging sport

·         Participation in community-sponsored leagues for the sport

·         Whether other state high school athletic associations sponsor or sanction competition in the sport

·         University, college and junior college opportunities for participation after high school

·         Whether the sport is a lifetime sport or activity, easily accessed in later life, that contributes to public health or fitness

·         Whether the NFHS or other recognized governing body publishes rules for interscholastic competition in the sport

·         Assistance available for growing the sport from national governing bodies, in-state coaches association and/or in-state officials associations

·         Significant obstacles to growing the sport, such as lack of facilities, expensive equipment, risk of injury, lack of experienced coaches and officials

·         The opportunity for student-athletes to participate equally from all socio-economic backgrounds

·         Whether sanctioning the sport will divert participants from and weaken an existing sanctioned or emerging sport

·         Whether there is significant competition for student-athletes to participate in this sport outside of school

·         The length of time the sport has been an emerging sport

·         The burden on member schools, districts and on the UHSAA of sanctioning the emerging sport

·         Utah Division of Risk Management concerns and input

“This is not a check off list, but are items that were discussed prior to making the decision to sanction boys volleyball,” Whittaker said, adding that each school and district will “make the determination whether they will sponsor a sport that UHSAA sanctions.”

Davis said that the sanctioning of boys volleyball is a “win-win.” “This legitimizes it for the boys and creates stability and consistency across the board under a fabulous umbrella. Scholarships are secondary,” she said. “Plus, county rec leagues can still function for those who were cut from their high school teams as well as those who just want to play.”

Davis, the former director of Bingham boys volleyball teams, has been gearing up to step away from UBVA since 2020 when her son graduated but “needed to stay in the game” to see the sanctioning process through. “Personally, to be able to serve these boys has been a thrill, and it’s an even bigger thrill to betting Utah on the map with boys volleyball,” she said. “I’ll forever be a part of the sport, but this ‘cherry on the top’ is so exciting for these kids and a great way to go out for me.”

Penrod said he is excited to see the further growth that Corner Canyon’s boys volleyball program has in light of the sanctioning announcement and official start in two years. A volleyball class at the school, taught by girls volleyball coach Melinda Ricks, has helped introduce students to the sport and build even more teams within the club. “I can’t believe how much it’s exploded,” Penrod said. “There’s more and more energy and this year we have seven teams with enough players from CCHS to fill four teams.”

The JDCHS program is in its first year, after typically sending players to the CCHS teams. “Our boys wanted their own club so we started with eight boys and are now down to six because of injuries,” Vaitai said. “But, it’s going to build quickly, and I’m happy for the boys that it can.”

The UBVA will continue to host the state boys volleyball tournament for the next two seasons as budgets, schedules and regional alignments are put in place for the 2024 spring season when UHSAA will take the reins.

For more information on the UBVA, visit www.ubva.info or email [email protected].

The addition of boys volleyball will come just after Salt Lake City hosts the high school boys volleyball national championships in summer 2023.