Internationally, and on both American coasts, volleyball has a legacy as a coed sport. But here in Texas, it’s traditionally been reserved for girls.
That could change, however, thanks in part to the dedication of some recent Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas graduates. The Rangers are one of a dozen schools with teams in the upstart Texas Boys High School Volleyball League.
“I’d love to see a lot more schools have it,” said Jesuit’s Ben Rodenbaugh. “I don’t think a lot of people understand how exciting men’s volleyball is. It’s a completely different playing style from women’s volleyball. A lot of people can get into it.”
The league isn’t meant to supplant the well-established success of girls volleyball, of course, but to provide an opportunity for boys who play year-round on club teams to compete for their school, as well.
“Club is great, but there’s something about playing in front of fans for the pride of your school,” said Regina Progar, a Jesuit assistant coach and executive director of the TBHSVL. “The interest is there, and it’s definitely growing.”
A handful of area private schools have boys volleyball teams in the SPC, but it’s been virtually nonexistent among non-SPC schools in North Texas until recently.
A version of the TBHSVL was launched in 2015 by renowned club coach Jim Stewart but was more formally reorganized last year under the current name and a board of directors consisting of school representatives.
Despite canceling much of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, growth has been steady. The league should have more than a dozen schools represented next year, including Allen, Keller, Lovejoy, Plano, Rockwall, Wylie, Byron Nelson, Flower Mound, and Rockwall-Heath.
“As the schools see that the guys want to this, hopefully, we’ll have that shift.”Regina Progar, Jesuit assistant coach & executive director of the TBHSVL
Progar said the league is part of a broader effort with USA Volleyball to grow its popularity as a boys sport across the country. Players and league officials have been pitching it to administrators throughout North Texas as a club sport. Still, in many cases, schools require that volunteer coaches be district employees to certify the club.
“Boys volleyball is already popular. For some reason, high schools have been resistant to it, although there are boys who want to play,” Progar said. “As the schools see that the guys want to do this, hopefully, we’ll have that shift.”
In Jesuit’s case, the school offered to hire a coaching staff if the volleyball team agreed to a more formal training regimen that included a set schedule of practices and games. The team followed through and began hosting matches on campus for the first time last year.
Rodenbaugh hopes the team’s 2020 graduates — including Cooper Herndon, who earned a scholarship to play collegiately at Grand Canyon University — have established a foundation for continued growth.
“We’ve gone from trying to find six guys to having enough for a JV team,” Progar said. “The growth has been steady and consistent. It’s been amazing.”
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