Bakersfield Derrick Trent started playing ballooning with his father at home and ended up playing volleyball at Long Beach State.
But to get there, he had to drive to Fresno to play for the club – “I did it in school by car”, he remembers – and then he had to take him to high school in Valencia to create experience, but it was hard for him to notice in school, competing. the children had the opportunity to play in their hometown all year round.
“I was what they would call a virtual stranger,” Trent said.
Nearly 15 years later, the Bakersfield boys ’volleyball ecosystem is as fragmented as when Trent came. California may be the birthplace of boys ’volleyball, along with 15 of MaxPreps’ top 25 high school teams, including two as close as Clovis, but the Kern High School District has never supported the sport.
For families who can spend time and money playing at the club, there is still a 150-mile journey from Grapevine. Local volleyball coaches Shawn and Morgan Essert take their son to Valencia to play as one of three boys on the trip.
“If life is to be successful in volleyball,” said Morgan Essert, “we need to get out of Bakersfield.”
Problems start at the junior level with a crazy wheel. Bakersfield Christian coach Matt Touchstone sees high school boys ’volleyball as practical, with schools needing a steady stream of incoming students. But for kids to want to play in high school, they need a way to keep playing in high school.
“You can’t start something at the college level,” said Kareem Bland, competitive sports coordinator at the Cal State Bakersfield Student Recreation Center. “You can’t start something in high school.”
Bland grew up playing Georgian football, and was in a stadium when he was in eighth grade. Intermediate sports here, he said, are not on the same level of seriousness.
Jonathan Freehling, a retired professor at Washington Junior High, said six of the nine high schools in the Bakersfield City School District had volleyball for boys before the pandemic. But only two schools, Stiern and Cato, have “cafes” inside. The rest play outside with the heat of late spring.
Unstable interest is affecting boys ’volleyball teams across the city. At BCHS, one of the closest schools to adding sports (“I think we should be the first team in Bakersfield to do that,” Essert said), a club started with kids over 30, but the boys saw their numbers drop to 10 . He had to train at 6 a.m. to prevent basketball players from taking gym time.
Many local institutes have developed such clubs, with the East also at the forefront.
“We had about 10 schools that had volleyball clubs,” said Johnitta Clemons, a recently retired Eastern girls volleyball coach.
Clemons expressed his disbelief at KHSD’s refusal to add boys’ volleyball as an official sport: “You have volleyball, you have gyms, you have coaches, so what’s the problem?”
Stan Greene, the district’s director of school support services, said he has repeatedly taken boys ’volleyball to sports directors, but has failed to establish enough strength to establish it. Green added that the range should take into account facilities, transportation, coaching, interest, supervision and duration when evaluating a sport. But perhaps the biggest factor preventing boys ’volleyball is IX.
In KHSD, boys play a much larger number of sports than girls. At Bakersfield High in 2019-20, for example, boys represented 48 percent of students but 62 percent of athletes, according to participation data. IX. According to the second basis of the three-part test to qualify, the district must show “history and ongoing practice to expand participation opportunities” for girls.
That would add a new boys ’sport to the“ problem, ”Green said. The district is looking for specific opportunities for girls, such as competitiveness.
Moreover, in a recent 2017-18 survey of 10,552 students across the region, 14.1 percent said they would be interested in participating in boys ’volleyball. That was the second lowest proportion in any of the sports listed, ahead of field hockey.
“We want to offer as many opportunities as possible to our children,” Green said, “and we want them to be sustainable as well.”
Out-of-school clubs have struggled to spark interest. The last team in the Bakersfield boys volleyball club, according to its coach Steve Barnes, was in 2012. Essert said he tried to make it to the Bakersfield Volleyball Club boys league and that four people would show up.
“People say they’re interested,” he said, “but the truth is, they’re not committed to it. So it’s hard to commit as a coach.”
Playing is already expensive, and it doubles when your child has to play in Valencia.
“I think eastern schools … are being pushed as much as we can,” Freehling said, “because they’re kids, they don’t get a chance to play for the club. They can’t afford it.”
According to the four coaches, the perception that volleyball is a sport for girls is another factor that causes a lack of commitment. When Clemons was running his club he realized that the boys had never seen a man play and he took them to see Long Beach State and UCLA. Barnes recalled that the players told him that their friends were making fun of him.
Bland said concerns about “common gender roles in sports” create an obstacle.
“As a community, we need to overcome that,” he said. “Everything it does, when we open those doors to students, gives them another chance to succeed.”
Beyond Bakersfield, men’s volleyball is on the rise. For writing BoleibolMag.comHe mentioned Chuck Curtik NCAA research High school attendance increased by 29 percent between 2008-09 and 2018-19, with college attendance rising by 79 percent.
“So many scholarships for boys aren’t used,” Clemons said.
Players also mention the special benefits of the game.
“I think volleyball has a real ability to teach responsibility,” said Isaac Gamboa, a Stockdal student who became Sarah Lawrenc’s three-year incumbent. “In baseball, if you hit it, it’s the playoffs, but the next guy has as good a chance as you are at base.”
Otherwise, Barnes points out, “Where do you have a sport (where) you can hit something as hard as you can, directly with someone?”
Elsewhere in California, the culture of volleyball is perpetuated. Freehling grew up in the Pacific Palisades, where he played as a child all the time. Touchstone played in San Diego in college and saw great male athletes picking volleyball. Barnes recalled seeing the siblings doing exercises together.
“In the South, boys are growing up from primary school,” he said. “I see them in girls’ tournaments; they’re peppered with their sisters.”
Journalist Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow her on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.
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