Boys volleyball will become a Minnesota high school varsity sport

It may have lacked the heartbreaking drama of a year ago, but for men’s high school volleyball fans, the score was all that mattered.

The Minnesota State High School League’s Representative Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve sanctioning boys volleyball as a full team sport under the MSHSL banner beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

It was the third time the proposal had been brought before the assembly, a 48-member body with three representatives from each of the state’s 16 administrative regions that had the power to support or reject changes or additions to the league’s bylaws. Two-thirds of the representatives, or 32 if there is a full quorum, must vote to approve a change for it to pass.

The vote Tuesday was 39-7 in favor of making boys volleyball an MSHSL-sanctioned sport, with two abstentions. Scores of supporters attended to witness the historic vote, which took place with each member raising a red paddle as a yea or nay vote. Voting took place in a matter of minutes.

In 2022, a proposal to make boys volleyball a sanctioned sport fell one vote short of approval. Voting then took place by oral roll call, with each member expressing his support or opposition. The last six voters at the time voted no, dashing hopes for an overflow crowd at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest boardroom in Brooklyn Park.

“I’m so excited for all the guys who care [volleyball] and we want to play,” said Minnehaha Academy Director of Athletics Josh Turow, who was one of the voting members. “I’ve supported it for the last three years, so it’s good to finally see it go through.”

Boys volleyball has been played by high schools at the club level for the past six years. Participation is booming with about 2,000 participants on 72 teams playing a full schedule this season, along with a state tournament June 14-15 in Shakopee.

Its popularity was one of the advantages of many who voted yes, as was its diversity. According to statistics compiled by the Minnesota High School Volleyball Association, which runs the club sports league, 56 percent of the players are boys of color. Sports have a strong presence in the Hmong community.

“Some people would say we are lucky. I would say we’re relieved,” said St. Paul Park Activities Director Como Kwa Yang, whose school has a vibrant volleyball community. “What’s disappointing for me is that the kids who were here last year didn’t get the chance to celebrate this moment. I would love to have them here and see it happen live. The biggest thing for them is knowing that the MSHSL and the representative assembly supported them in the decision to admit them.”

The proposal received significant support from the MSHSL board of directors last summer when they created a path to making boys volleyball, or any other emerging sport, fully sanctioned by designating it as an “emerging sport” and establishing criteria for such sports to meet. Boys volleyball was the first sport to earn this designation.

Many believed boys volleyball was destined for approval this time around because of the league’s actions, but there was still uncertainty ahead of the vote.

Those who opposed the measure cited the lack of facilities, the ongoing shortage of officials in all sports and the cost as reasons for rejection.

“This time, going in, I felt like, ‘Why not? It will be seamless,” said DeLaSalle AD Keeley Sorenson. “But he still had some nerves.”

Sorenson said that while some still feared a yes vote, their reasons were addressed in extensive discussions before the vote.

“We do this every day for a living: the logistics, answering the questions and figuring out the hard stuff. It’s not always the most fun, but we do it and it can be done,” Sorenson said. “Our job today as a representative assembly was to really listen to those who are there and help their voices be heard.”

The next step will be for the MSHSL to create a task force to address logistical issues, such as determining whether boys volleyball will be held in the fall or spring. There will be another year of club status.

“Some people would say we are lucky. I would say we were relieved. What’s disappointing for me is that the kids who were here last year didn’t get the chance to celebrate this moment.”

Director of Park Activities Como Kua Yang

For Jenny Kilkelly and Krista Fleming, Shakopee parents and volleyball coaches who have spent the past six years running the boys volleyball league and working behind the scenes to approve boys volleyball, Tuesday’s vote was the satisfying culmination of six years hard work and dedication to a cause.

“How can you not be super pleased?” Kilkelly asked. “It’s been such a journey and such a challenge.”

“It’s still sinking in,” added Fleming. “We were hoping that would be the result, but we just have to take everything into account.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *