Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Volleyball Pursuit: Boys Chase Girls to Boost Popularity

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Volleyball Pursuit: Boys Chase Girls to Boost Popularity

Article excerpt

Todd Reimer's athletic identity is a victim of his 6-foot-6 stature. And that of his sport.

"Even now, I walk in some place and people will say, `You must be a basketball player,' " Reimer said. "Most people don't think of any guy first as a volleyball player."

They might in California. But rarely will that thought cross anyone's mind in Reimer's hometown of Racine, Wis., or around his Ball State University campus in basketball-ruled Indiana.

And hardly ever in the St. Louis area, where boys volleyball has grown in popularity lately but remains more a cult sport than a common option for male athletes.

Volleyball holds the unusual national distinction as a team sport in which the boys are trying to catch the girls for popularity. Nowhere should that appear more pronounced than this U.S. Olympic Festival, in which the games involving Reimer and other male players might draw less fan support than the women.

"You look at the growth on the grass-roots level, and boys volleyball is doing great," said Mark Pavlik, the Team East men's coach. "Illinois is adding a (high school) state tournament for it, Wisconsin, New York - Pennsylvania has the longest state championship for boys in the country, starting back in 1936. It's always been popular in Southern California, of course, but now it's starting to pick up in Northern California, too.

"But on the collegiate level, we've got gender equity standing in the way."

Even in places outside California where boys volleyball is flourishing, the sport often hits a brick wall on the college level.

That is changing. Slowly.

"A lot of guys who are good in the Midwest go to the West Coast to play" in college, Reimer said. "They think that's the only place volleyball exists. But the Midwest and East are gaining."

Penn State, where Pavlik is an assistant coach, this season became the first non-California school to win the men's NCAA Division I title.

Curiously, the sport might be growing at the youth level, but needs that growth more at the high school and college ages. At least, that's how Mike Hoefer sees it. Also a Festival participant, Hoefer was one of the nation's leading hitters and blockers last season as a freshman at Stanford.

"As far as I'm concerned, you don't need to play until you're a freshman in high school," Hoefer said. "There are a lot of skills to learn, but good athletes can pick them up. It's a great indoor sport, and I don't seen any reason it won't keep growing everywhere."

St. Louis certainly has made an impression on Hoefer, a Californian.

"It's hot," he said. "I like the cloudy days."

One of today's biggest crowds could show up at the volleyball venue at Washington University. At 3 p.m., recent St. Joseph's Academy graduate Kristin Folkl and the North team will play Team West and Amy Albers, an All-American from Washington U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.