Despite receiving 29 “yes” votes out of the 47 cast Tuesday by the Minnesota State High School League’s representative assembly, an amendment to make boys volleyball a sanctioned MSHSL sport was not passed.
Girls wrestling, however, received overwhelming approval and will host postseason MSHSL competition next winter.
Amendments require two-thirds approval from the representative assembly to pass, meaning boys volleyball came up just two votes short. This after a slew of people from various backgrounds pleaded their case Tuesday to add the sport.
Boys volleyball has thrived at the club level in recent years, supporting more than 1,000 athletes. But becoming a sanctioned sport provides invaluable resources and school backing.
“People want to be state champions. They aspire to feel validated in their school environment, and sanctioning is the way they feel validated,” Minnesota Gophers women’s volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon said at Tuesday’s virtual meeting. “I understand that we could keep this duct tape and string club model going off the back of volunteers that are committing so many hours and so many resources to keep it going, but, unfortunately, what they want is to be a part of your organization.”
Michelle Yener, a delegate who serves on the assembly and as the chair of the District 622 school board, mentioned the opportunity boys volleyball provides for students of color. She said the club sport attracted the highest percentage of students of color for any sport in District 622. The metro areas is home to one of the largest Hmong populations in the country.
“We want every single student to participate in at least one extracurricular, because it’s good for them physically, socially and academically,” Yener said. “They want to represent their school on the volleyball court. They are underrepresented students who have not found a place among other activities, and they are fantastic athletes.”
But representatives raised concerns some schools had about whether this was the right time to add a sport, when budgets are tight and participation numbers are down across the board. There were worries about available facilities, coaches and officials in the spring — the proposed season for boys volleyball — when other clubs are also playing.
Budget-wise, there were concerns about paying for more coaches, officials and transportation.
“I think the easy thing to do is probably reduce our request to some kind of spreadsheet decision,” McCutcheon said. “However, that shouldn’t preclude us from trying to do the right thing here. I don’t know if there is a price you could put on social connection and mental health. Those are the things we’re really talking about here for our young men. I don’t know if you could put a price on the idea of diversity and inclusion in our communities at a time when social injustice has never been a bigger issue, especially in our state.”
Yener noted that girls volleyball is top revenue generator among girls activities, and there was optimism boys volleyball could be similarly successful.
A number of proponents mentioned that the sport could be sanctioned to allow all to have the option to play, and then individual districts and schools could make the decision on whether or not to sponsor the sport.
Fong Vang, the coach at Hmong College Prep Academy, noted the St. Paul charter school doesn’t offer other spring sports such as baseball and lacrosse, due to the lack of interest and resources.
“So volleyball, for us,” he said, “is the only spring sport that is sustainable.”
“Allow the communities that want to participate in this sport the opportunity to do so, and if it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine,” McCutcheon said. “But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t work for all communities.”
But some representatives noted schools would feel pressure to add the sport, even if it didn’t work for them in terms of budget or numbers.
Apparently, there were enough concerns that the wait for MSHSL-sanctioned boys volleyball in Minnesota will have to wait.
Girls in wrestling will continue to practice with and wrestle against boys during the regular season, but they now will have the option of competing in girls-only individual section and state tournaments, which will be held simultaneously with the boys individual wrestling tournaments.