Interest in boys’ volleyball at IRHS nets club-level request

DAGSBORO – Interest in volleyball among male students at Indian River High School has reached the courting stage.

Indian River School District’s board of education at its Jan. 22 meeting heard from a mother, a student and a coach asking the district for its support and help in starting a club-level boys’ volleyball program at Indian River High School this spring.

Jim Barnes, girls’ volleyball coach at Indian River High School, addresses the Indian River School District board of education on the interest in starting a boys’ volleyball team at IRHS.

“We have had a girls’ team at IR for many years and it’s been very successful. Let’s give our boys the same and equal opportunity,” said Ginger Palmer, mother of one of several dozen boys interested in volleyball.

Jim Barnes, head coach of Indian River High School’s varsity girls’ volleyball team, prefaced his request with thanks to the district for establishing a middle volleyball program that factored in the varsity’s 14-1 season highlighted by the Henlopen South Conference championship.

“We have a lot of respect from others that know about our volleyball team,” said Coach Barnes, turning to the students seated in the audience. “Now, I am here representing those boys … and about 30 others that keep coming to me and saying, ‘Why can’t we play volleyball?’”

“The boys want to play. We have the players. We have the facility,” said Coach Barnes. “We have the equipment already because of the girls’ volleyball team.”

Ms. Palmer said an “interest” meeting called in school Friday (Jan. 19) by the athletic director showed an “overwhelming and genuine interest by our students. I believe there were 30 to 40 names on the list.”

“I have been a manager of the girls’ volleyball team for three years and I have been told I can’t play on the girls’ team. There is plenty of boys’ interest to have this approved,” said IRHS junior Michael Barnes, adding to have a boys’ volleyball team by this spring “would be awesome.”

The formation effort includes a sponsorship pledge for uniforms as well as coaches – and even a referee – willing to volunteer their time.

“Let me tell you why I believe a male team can begin easily here at IR with little financial assistance from the district,” said Ms. Palmer. “Equipment purchase is not necessary. We already have equipment from the girls’ team that we have here at Indian River. We have three coaches who are willing to volunteer their time to coach the boys team. We have a monetary sponsor for the uniforms. The only remaining expense that this team would incur would be transportation and officiating, which would require the district’s help. I feel this is a minimal request.”

“We have three coaches that are willing to spend their time doing it. Of course, they want to get paid if that’s possible, but if not, they are willing to volunteer their time, including myself,” said Coach Barnes. “We would love to have IR uniforms but if not, we have someone who has said they will donate the uniforms. We need referees. I actually talked to a referee Friday night, who said, ‘I’ll come and referee a match for free.’ We would need transportation. I know from talking to some of the kids and parents we could find transportation.”

Boys’ volleyball would start out as a club sport, not junior or varsity sanctioned by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Delmarva Christian High School has a club team and Cape Henlopen is getting a team, said Coach Barnes.

“I have heard other Southern Conference teams are starting it. There are 10 teams right now in the state. They are all club teams at this point until they get enough,” said Coach Barnes. “I think it is 16 where they could become a DIAA team. They are hoping to have 12 teams this season. We would be one of them.”

If approved for play this spring, an IRHS boys’ volleyball team would have at least four matches, possibly as many as 10, according to Coach Barnes.

“Volleyball has been growing at an incredible rate in the United States over the past decades,” said Ms. Palmer. “Volleyball is not only an athletic sport with healthy benefits, it’s a cerebral game as well. It helps kids build relationships on and off the court and improves communication skills and builds mental focus. Many colleges offer volleyball programs and recruit players from across the country. Boys volleyball would be a positive addition to the sports program here at IR and would move our school in the right direction for our male athletes.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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