When the NCAA deemed sand volleyball an emerging sport in 2009, advocates saw it as an opportunity to introduce more high school students to the game.
In North Carolina, watching the growth of high school lacrosse prompted organizers to consider forming a sand volleyball league.
They hope interest in sand volleyball at the club level will grow to a point where the N.C. High School Athletic Association will consider making it a sanctioned sport, as happened with lacrosse.
“Our goal is in five to 10 years that there will be enough interest in the sport of high school sand volleyball that it will be sanctioned by the NCHSAA,” said Joy Daniels, coach of Broughton’s sand volleyball club.
Broughton is one of nine schools – most of them in the Triangle – that make up the N.C. High School Sand Volleyball Association.
In the league’s first year, sand volleyball association president Mark Nalevanko reached out to the handful of states that have already made moves toward incorporating sand volleyball.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association began offering the sport two years ago. Competition started with five teams and grew to eight this season. Eric Hodgson, director of outreach for the Arizona region of USA Volleyball, said he expects the number of teams to grow again next year.
“It’s going in the right direction. It’s getting bigger,” Hodgson said. “We approached (the state association) four years ago about adding sand because that was the year the NCAA made it an emerging sport. We had a crunch with Title IX. .. .They needed to add a girls’ sport, and one that can be fairly inexpensive and quick, but we see it’s growing and it’s getting better.”
The collegiate growth and resulting athletic scholarship opportunities are also a selling point for high school athletic directors, Hodgson said. He has seen interest in high school programs from California and Florida to Wisconsin.
Apex High, Carrboro High, Middle Creek High, The Epiphany School, Athens Drive High, Cardinal Gibbons, Ravenscroft and St. David’s Academy are the other schools participating in the North Carolina league this year.
To be considered by the NCHSAA, a sport must have participation by 25 percent of the state association’s member schools.
Still, the league may face questions or modifications if it is considered by the NCHSAA.
Right now the sand volleyball association allows both boys and girls to participate, though official competition is kept separate among genders.
Title IX, federal legislation requiring schools that receive federal funds to provide equal opportunity to males and females , may determine whether the sport will be able to stay co-ed at the state level, but Nalevanko is hoping to at least create a buzz among young boys.
Girls far outweigh boys in first-year participation, with roughly 140 girls participating and just 20 boys.
“As a volleyball proponent, I’m hoping this initiative will spur boy interest in the sport,” Nalevanko said. “Our hope is to say ‘hey look, we’ve got an interest in the boys,’ and nurture it and let it grow.”
A number of schools in the Triad and Wilmington already are looking to join next year, Nalevanko said.
The league will hold its third and final regular-season competition Friday and Saturday before preparing for its inaugural playoff round, scheduled for May 10 and 11.
Games are played at Green Road Park, North Cary Park and Green Hope Elementary School Park.