The Issues With Sanctioning Boys Volleyball As A Sport

This officially made it onto the OSAA radar this fall when members of the Portland Interscholastic League brought this before the OSAA delegate assembly and made a presentation about it. Raising participation numbers in athletics has been a major talking point since coronavirus smashed the world back in 2020, and numbers are struggling compared to pre-pandemic levels. I have seen albeit small pushes to add lacrosse, water polo, boys volleyball, and even girls flag football as OSAA sports, but certainly not enough momentum to actually raise any eyebrows. Out of this trio, boys volleyball looks to be the one that has the most steam but could also pose the most problems despite its much simpler startup model compared to the others.

Running EOG puts me in a very unique position of seeing things from the perspective of girls first, aside from others who try to look at it from each point of view. I’m not against the idea of boys volleyball, I actually think that it could be the next big sport to sweep Oregon, but that even doesn’t pose concerns. What poses concerns are issues that seemingly get overseen or may not even be known, but they have real world consequences for female athletes. The first issue is a simple one: It places boys volleyball in direct competition with other spring sports for media coverage. As it currently sits, spring is likely the closest season to equitable coverage numbers with the rise in girls track and softball. All of those gains and progress will be at risk of being offset by the addition of another boys sport to compete with it.

Another point is that the weather sucks in the springtime, which causes numerous problems with scheduling softball and even track in some cases. Volleyball is a primarily indoor sport, making it easier to schedule and avoiding those postponements from weather, giving it an advantage in the spring when it affects sports as opposed to the fall when it doesn’t. If it gets popular enough, this could turn into a reverse football effect where it dominates spring sports coverage or bites a significant chunk of it away from the traditional sports. Either way, there are legitimate concerns about its ability to suck away coverage from sports that are already struggling in the larger media coverage arena.

Photo: Elite Oregon Girls

Moving ahead is the financial side, which is what advocates are saying will be the least impacted. Moving it from club to a school sport means another sport that will require ample amount of funding for lodging, travel, coaching, uniforms, etc., putting a further strain on already hurting school athletics budgets. You’d have the equipment already necessary and minimal investment needed on the front, but it is expensive to run a full-time sport and transitioning it puts it directly into the budgets of school districts. Without hurting the other present sports or cutting budgets elsewhere, how practical is this for districts that aren’t part of a larger population or wealthier communities? If smaller districts are already hurting from needing to add a basketball shot clock for next season, imagine adding another sport to the mix.

The final point comes to the legal side: Title IX. Title IX requires that girls have a fair share of the athletic participation opportunities. Under the law, the percentage of girls represented in the student body should mirror the percentage of girls represented in athletic programs, and most schools achieve this by providing the same number of sports opportunities for both genders. If schools add another boys sport and put this out of balance, it could lead to a number of situations involving Title IX that could lead them to opt out of adding boys volleyball as an option to keep balance or force them to add another girls sport to bring balance. There are other issues that could be dove into with Title IX such as funding, coaching, etc., but I’ll keep it simple with this lone point.

As I’ve covered before, the OSAA isn’t subject to Title IX and has the general freedom to do as they so please. Just as a point of contention, the OSAA currently doesn’t oversee girls wrestling or sponsor it as a sport aside from operating the state championship event. How would they be able to justify sponsoring the boys version of volleyball without even fully sponsoring the girls version of wrestling? It would be complete hypocrisy. In short, the addition of boys volleyball as an OSAA sport would create many hurdles and questions that schools would need to figure out, not to mention the potential implications of its impact on the current spring sports.

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