A stigma in the making?

Recently, I asked my 11-year-old son if he would consider joining a sand volleyball team for boys. Since volleyball was a fun part of high school PE classes for dad some years earlier, I figured he might find it fun, too.

My son’s response? “Volleyball is for girls.”

Try as I might, talking to him about the great Karch Kiraly and all of the stars of the U.S. men’s indoor gold medal Olympic volleyball teams of 1984 and 1988, I could not convince him otherwise. Unfortunately, I could not blame him for his attitude toward the game.

Take a look around. Not so much at the worldwide view of the game, but at what happens right in front of our noses. In my grade school days, the girls played volleyball in one part of the playground while the boys played either touch football, wiffle ball or kickball in another. Never the twain shall meet.

To the present day, California high schools have state championship playoffs for girls in the fall, but none for boys in the spring. And at some high schools, unfortunately, few seem to care much about the boys version of the sport.

Back to the worldwide view, volleyball in its various forms is popular among both genders. Heck, in Brazil there’s a form of the game called futvolley (or futevolei, if you happen to be visiting there). It blends soccer and volleyball as players attempt to play the ball with any part of the body except the hands (which goes a long way in explaining why Brazilians are so good at both sports). But in other parts of the world, sadly┬á– – including some schools and neighborhoods┬ánearby – – old stereotypes persist.

For comparison, field hockey had a 72-year head start as an Olympic men’s sport before the inaugural women’s competition in 1980. But this country has long went against the international grain, as the game has long been considered a “girls’ sport” here.

Will volleyball fall into the same trap? Like field hockey, it’s too good a sport to get stereotyped. Unfortunately, though, it’s very easy for a volleyball-for-all proponent to feel like a voice in the wilderness.


  • Aaron Matthews

    The problem is the schools say it’s a girls’ sport. Because of the insanity that is Title IX, boys that want to play field hockey or volleyball in most states have to recruit a team to play (because they can’t play on a girls team), recruit enough teams to make a league (because they aren’t allowed to play against girls) and then have to recruit enough girls to make a league of their own in some other sport (to maintain Title IX ‘ratios’) So if one boy has to play, he has to inspire a few hundred kids -boys and girls – to play.

    On the other hand, girls are free to play flag football, or volleyball, or field hockey, or tackle football as they see fit. Just show up and play.

    The water polo team at the high school near us is 40% girls, but it still counts as a boys’ team and therefore they won’t add boys lacrosse.

  • Deb Sachwitz

    My son got into volleyball when his high school team at the time did not offer lacrosse. He has played multiple sports over the past 16 years and is so into volleyball now there is no way he wants to play any other sport. He is into his 3rd year of high school & club volleyball. He travels with his club team all over California and will play in the Junior Olympics in July in Sandy City, Utah. There is a sport out there for most kids. They just have to find what they have a passion for and go with it. My son has no desire to ever go back to playing any other sport. Great teamwork, sportmanship and commaraderie epitomizes the sport. If only other sports could be this way. My comment to any boy considering this great sport is to try it and see if it fits your skill set. My son did & he is a great libero! His desire is to go on and play the sport at the college level. Hopefully he will because he is the consummate team player.

  • ss396

    The first thing I would do would be to take your son to a boy’s volleyball game at his future high school.
    Boy’s volleyball is fairly new at the high school level, but is catching on. I see it on the high school sports highlight shows. I wasn’t aware that there is no state championship for boys in volleyball, but that will change as more high schools participate in the sport.
    Before they went to high school, I took my daughters to high school boy’s & girl’s basketball (no stigma in that sport), softball, football and volleyball to expose them to a variety of sports. We even went to some college games.
    As far as the “insanity” of title IX, when I went to high school in the 60’s, there were no sports opportunities for girls in high school. Zero. That was true insanity. Back in those days if you were a girl, you would have had to change an entire culture to play a sport. That culture could have never been changed without national legislation. Even today, 36 years after the passing of Title IX, parents still have to enlist the help of federal agenices to force some high school administrations to embrace equal opportunity.
    During my four years in high school, there was also no high school boy’s volleyball, lacrosse, water polo or soccer. As the opportunities for girls have grown, so have opportunities for boys.
    The reason you don’t see all sports at all schools is
    a lack of funding, which is symptomatic of the overall school funding cuts over the years. Most of the funding for sports now comes from athletic booster clubs, a.k.a., parents.