With more than 1,400 participants and 55 teams playing in a club league this spring, boys’ volleyball is a popular sport in Minnesota. But for Minnesota educators, just not quite popular enough.
The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) House of Representatives met Tuesday to vote on officially sanctioning the sport. A two-thirds majority – 32 votes – was required to be approved.
The final vote was 31 in favor, 17 against.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing. We were so close,” said St. Paul Como Park’s sports director Koua Yang, a first-generation Hmong immigrant who spoke to the congregation and the large group of supporters at Marriott West in Brooklyn Park. “It’s not about putting one sport against another. It’s about more opportunities for children.”
After missing two votes during approval in 2021, members of the Minnesota Boys High School Volleyball Association focused their efforts. They tried to address the concerns of those who had voted against the proposal and worked to get the proposal before the assembly again this year.
“We thought we had it this year,” said Krista Flemming of Shakopee, an association director. “We answered all their questions, but it seems they did not listen.”
Among the reasons to vote no was uncertainty about the season of the season, fall or spring. The proposal was originally intended for a spring season to take advantage of gyms that may be unused, but many administrators were reluctant to give up limited space in facilities that are often in high demand in March and April due to bad spring weather. MSHSL undertook to set up a task force to determine the right time for the season.
Other issues included costs that athletic leaders are always aware of, the availability of officials, and whose addition of boys’ volleyball would force further moves to meet the gender equality requirements of Section IX.
The strongest support argument in favor of sanctioning boys ‘volleyball arose from its popularity, with more than 1,400 playing in the boys’ volleyball club this spring, and especially with members of Minnesota’s Asian community. Forty-one percent of the boys who play volleyball identify themselves as Asian, a community with an entrenched passion for volleyball.
Park Center senior O’Nell Moua had never played high school sports until he joined the boys’ volleyball club team a year ago. He believes the sport of being sanctioned is important to help students stay invested in their school.
“If it’s just a club, people think you can easily stop, you’re not really learning anything,” Moua said. “Being sanctioned helps you stay motivated and do better in school. Many of us have never played a sport before. It’s heartbreaking.”
Yang, who credited athletics for helping him assimilate when he emigrated in 1980, expects many in Asian society to feel the same way.
“I know they had been looking to feel like they belonged,” he said. “[Volleyball] is one of the few sports that we identify with and that hit close to home. I feel the pain for our community, I feel the pain for the boys. They have been waiting for this opportunity and it is discouraging to be denied again. “
Said Flemming: “All these kids have just been told they mean nothing. It means something to them. That’s what they’ve heard.”
MSHSL’s CEO Erich Martens remained optimistic, despite the unexpected result.
“We saw a great representation here today and we are seeing more and more that support for boys volleyball is growing,” Martens said. “Even though it did not cross the finish line today, we see that it continues to move forward and we expect it to continue.”
- The assembly also voted unanimously for a change to the wording of Article 110, which defines how long a student-athlete is eligible. Now, a student-athlete who practices a sport in seventh or eighth grade can take a year off from athletics before ninth grade and still retain full eligibility.