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    Boys volleyball to become high school varsity sport in Minnesota

    It may have lacked the heart-wrenching drama of one year ago, but to the supporters of boys high school volleyball, the result was all that mattered.

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

    This was the third time the proposal had gone in front of the assembly, a 48-member body with three representatives from each of the 16 administrative regions across the state that had the authority to support or reject changes or additions to league by-laws. Two-thirds of the representatives, or 32 if there’s a full quorum, must vote to approve a change in order for it to pass.

    The vote Tuesday was 39-7 in favor of making boys volleyball an MSHSL-sanctioned sport, with two abstentions. A smattering of supporters were on hand to witness the historic vote, which was conducted with each member raising a red paddle as either a yay or nay vote. The vote was conducted in a matter of minutes.

    In 2022, the proposal to make boys volleyball a sanctioned sport fell one vote shy of approval. The vote at that time was done by verbal roll-call, with each member stating their support or opposition. The final six voters at that time cast “no” votes, crushing the hopes of an overflow crowd in a meeting room at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park.

    “I’m super excited for all the boys who care about [volleyball] and want to play,” said Minnehaha Academy athletics director Josh Thurow, who was one of the voting members. “I’ve been in support of it for the last three years, so it’s finally good to see it go through.”

    Boys volleyball has been played by high schools at the club level for the past six years. Participation has boomed, with about 2,000 participants across 72 teams playing a full schedule this season, complete with a state tournament to be held June 14-15 at Shakopee.

    Its popularity was one selling point to many who voted yes, as was its diversity. According to statistics compiled by the Minnesota Boys High School Volleyball Association, which runs the club-sport league, 56% of players were boys of color. The sport has a strong presence in the Hmong community.

    “Some people would say we’re happy. I would say we’re relieved,” said St. Paul Como Park Activities Director Koua Yang, whose school has a vibrant volleyball community. “What’s disappointing to me is that the kids who were here last year didn’t get the chance to celebrate this moment. I would have loved 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 be inclusive of them.”

    The proposal got a significant bump in support from the MSHSL board of directors last summer when they created a pathway to making boys volleyball, or any other fledgling 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 that designation.

    Many felt this time boys volleyball was destined for approval because of the league’s action but there was still uncertainty before the vote.

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

    “This time, coming in, it felt like ‘Why not? It’s going to be a no-brainer,” said DeLaSalle AD Keelie Sorenson. “But there were some nerves still.”

    Sorenson said that while some still had trepidation about a yes vote, their reasons had been addressed in extensive prevote discussions.

    “We do that 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 get done,” Sorenson said. “Today, our job as the rep assembly was really listening to those that are out there and help their voices be heard.”

    The next step will be for the MSHSL to create a task force to address the logistical concerns, such as determining whether boys volleyball will take place in the fall or the spring. It will have one more year of club status.

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

    Como Park Activities Director Koua Yang

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

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

    “It’s still sinking in,” added Flemming. “We were hopeful that this was going to be the outcome, but we just need to take it all in.”

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