Club-level boys’ volleyball at IRHS nets school board approval

DAGSBORO – It’s a competitive net gain for male volleyball enthusiasts at Indian River High School.

With Indian River School District board of education approval Feb. 26, a boys’ volleyball program is set to spring forward this spring at club-level competition as a pilot program.

Indian River High School girls’ volleyball coach Jim Barnes presents information on the club-level pilot proposal for boys’ volleyball at IRHS.

The school board’s 9-1 approval – Gerald Peden cast the one ‘no’ vote – came with assurances that the two-year pilot program would come at no expense to the school district, which in district-wide budget-tightening efforts has made cuts in the existing athletics program.

“It is a club team. You’re not approving a DIAA (Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association) team at this point,” said Jim Barnes, girls’ volleyball coach at IRHS who plans to be one of the coaches for boys’ club squad. “You are just approving a club team, which is a perfect reason to do it because it doesn’t cost you anything.”

“It has been said that this is not going to cost us any money,” said school board member Jim Hudson. “I understand, and I want kids to play. We have made cuts in sports, so we want to make sure we are on top of that and not spending any money on the volleyball program.”

Mr. Barnes added that the pilot will give the board and district “two years to see … do we have interest? What are the obstacles that we need to overcome? You will have more information to make a decision in the future whether you want this to be an Indian River sport, if it continues to be a club or if it just folds. To me it’s a perfect opportunity to do this at zero cost to Indian River.”

The cost Mr. Barnes said will be covered by Delaware Volleyball Coaches Association, pledges to purchase uniforms and outside sources that have agreed to help fund the two-year pilot program.

Fundraising is an option, Mr. Barnes said, but “if that doesn’t happen we have commitments from individuals that have said they will pay the whole thing. So, there would be absolutely zero cost.”

Mr. Barnes said the Delaware Volleyball Coaches Association was awaiting word on the board’s decision for match scheduling.

Potential competitions would include a home-and-home series with Delmarva Christian and matches with several teams upstate.

“We’re not talking about doing Saturday games unless we have to,” Mr. Barnes said.

Asked by school board vice president Rodney Layfield for his input, IRHS principal Mike Williams said he did have some concerns, mostly regarding the timing given that spring sports season was to get under way with practice in early March.

“I am not against volleyball,” said Mr. Williams. “We are having a hard time right now booking buses for transportation. That could pose a potential problem.”

At the January school board meeting, it was stated that parents and others may be able to provide away-match transportation for the club team.

Board member James Fritz inquired about insurance coverage. Insurance would fall under the district’s overall coverage umbrella, IRSD superintendent Mark Steele said, with confirmation from IRSD Director of Business Jan Steele.

Board members emphasized that club uniforms must meet district approval and all coaches must undergo required background checks.

“It’s done; two of the coaches are the boys’ and girls’ volleyball coaches,” said Mr. Barnes. “We’re getting caught up in a lot of logistic issues. I believe we have addressed them. We are willing to go through that hoop… whatever uniform needs to be approved.”

“Bottom line is we have answered every objection. We have everything in place. We have answered every objection you have come up with to have this happen,” said Mr. Barnes. “The boys just want to play volleyball.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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