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John’s Journal: Some Thoughts On The Volleyball Decision

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 1:36 PM


News was made earlier this week when the 48-member Representative Assembly, the legislative body of the MSHSL, voted against making boys volleyball a sanctioned sport. The vote was 31-17 … one short of the 32 votes needed for approval. The people pushing for boys volleyball did a great job in making their case.

There is a process to making changes in League bylaws, and adding a sport would be a bylaw change. The volleyball proposal was approved by at least nine of 16 region committees (as required) across the state. The final step is approval by two-thirds of the 48 members of the Representative Assembly.

The boys volleyball proposal reached the Rep Assembly one year ago and fell short by two votes. This time it was one vote short. Lots of people, including some who have Twitter accounts, asked me to explain the no votes, but I can’t presume to speak for any assembly members. The 17 members who voted no may have 17 varying reasons. What I do know is that those folks take their responsibilities very seriously.

Last year the proposal asked for boys volleyball to be a spring sport. This year’s proposal didn’t ask for a specific season, stating that the season could be decided following approval.

The Rep Assembly includes 24 members from small schools and 24 from large schools. These are coaches, activities directors, principals, superintendents, teachers, etc. By my unofficial count during the roll call vote, the 24 small-school members approved boys volleyball by a vote of 14-10 and the 24 members from large schools voted 17-7 in favor.

It was all very dramatic as the vote was held. The meeting was held in a large hotel ballroom and there was a big group of boys volleyball players and supporters in the back of the room. To be honest, I thought it would be approved and for me it was jarring when I looked at the tabulation in my notebook and realized that it fell one vote short. I had a Tweet pre-written with the news that boys volleyball had been approved, the vote totals and a sentence explaining that a task force would be formed to decide whether boys volleyball would be played in the fall or the spring, and when the first season might be held.

Before the vote, the 48 delegates broke into six small groups for discussion and someone from each group reported to the entire assembly before the vote. Their concerns included finances, transportation, officials, gym space when weather is bad and other teams are forced indoors, and the uncertainty of when the season would be held. Some smaller schools may be concerned that if boys volleyball is approved, they will have boys who would want to play and that would mean forming cooperative teams with kids from several schools, resulting in logistical challenges, including transportation. And some assembly members may be unsure how much of the push for boys volleyball is coming from those affiliated with Junior Olympic volleyball and the business of training volleyball players away from a school setting. I’m not sure the optics were great when boys volleyball supporters held a rally before the assembly meeting at the Minnesota Select Volleyball Center in Osseo instead of outside a high school.

And I wonder if there isn’t some sense of pandemic hangover involved in this decision by those who voted no. We’ve all been through so much, and people working in schools certainly have been pushed to the brink. I hear the sentiment that schools have been doing so much for so long, and some of the folks on the front lines are wondering if schools are already doing more than they can handle. And where exactly is that line? And the uncertainty with school funding in Minnesota certainly doesn’t help.

The passion of those involved in boys volleyball is impressive, especially among the boys who participate in the sport. A few of those boys spoke to the Rep Assembly during the public comment portion of the meeting, and they did a wonderful job.

I feel bad for boys who want to play volleyball as a sanctioned MSHSL sport. But the sport is not going away. Minnesota boys have been playing high school club volleyball for five years and the sport has really grown. Schools will continue to play volleyball as a club sport, they will continue to hold a state tournament every year, and I expect the numbers of players and schools will continue to climb. We’ll just have to see what happens from here.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]  

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