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Boys Volleyball Growing In Popularity Across Minnesota

EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) -- Some of the best women's volleyball players and coaches in the country come out of Minnesota. Girls' volleyball is widely popular and successful.

But historically, boys' volleyball has been overlooked. As WCCO's Ren Clayton explains, with more than 1,200 boys playing, that may be starting to change.

The growth of boys' volleyball in Minnesota has accelerated in recent years.

"Boys are starting to get recruited from here much more than they used to," said Kim Benka, boys director for the MN Select volleyball club.

Minnesota Select is the biggest club in the state for boys' volleyball. Within the year, they've set program milestones, qualifying for national tournaments.

"They have eight courts and the whole place is like packed. There's like three or four teams waiting to play on each court. I never like expected it to be that popular," player Will Wood said.

Wood has only been playing for one year. He, like many, play for Select and the MN Boys High School Volleyball Association (MBHSVA). It's a league that sprouted up four years ago, and is the best barometer for the sports development in Minnesota.

"That first year we had 22, and now we're at 55 schools that are going to be participating this spring," said Jenny Kilkelly, MBHSVA director.

The league's founders have a mission: Get boys' volleyball sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

"We've just stayed on it, stayed on it, stayed on it. And in the meantime volleyball nationally, and the interest in boys' volleyball in Minnesota, has just exploded," said Walt Weaver, founder of the MN Boys High School Volleyball Association.

All in all, there are 25 states with boys' volleyball officially sanctioned. The newest, Ohio, just this month. But not Minnesota.

The proposal failed to pass last spring by just two votes. The MSHSL did not respond to an interview request for this story. The effort continues, with broader language, aiming to get back to a vote this May.

Boys Volleyball
(credit: CBS)

Detractors have cited costs and Title IX restrictions. Those in support remind that sanctioning only means it's an option for the schools that are able to add boys' volleyball.

University of Minnesota women's volleyball head coach Hugh McCutcheon says 37% of boys in the Volleyball Association identify as people of color.

"In this day and age, when we're supposed to be a little more aware of inclusion and diversity, that somehow we're making decisions that are based on, you know, solely what's right for a few schools, versus maybe what's doing the right thing maybe for the greater community," McCutcheon said.

A large amount of those players are Hmong, for whom the sport is a cultural fixture. McCutcheon has seen it first hand at his camps.

"Just talking to them about the sport, and how what we're doing, how much it means to them and to their community, their families, it certainly keeps you connected, keeps you motivated," McCutcheon said.

The MBHSVA is run completely by volunteers, making it have a diminishing lifespan.

"It's not sustainable and it's not affordable. If it keeps growing as a club it really pushes out a lot of demographics financially," Kilkelly said.

The growth of boys' volleyball is at risk of slowing or stopping altogether, if it's not made more accessible for all.

This year's proposal allows for flexibility on when the volleyball season would be played.

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