By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Girls’ volleyball has long been one of the most popular high school sports in the area. Many schools and teams compete at a high level, and have done so for years.
Behind the scenes for the last 15 years, boys’ volleyball has gained steam in the stateline area. It has been an IHSA sport for some time, but there have been no teams competing in the Rock River area.
That will no longer be the case, as the underground movement is taking hold at Rockford Jefferson and Rockford Guilford. Both schools have started programs that will be playing their first games at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 25, at Guilford High School.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest in the boys’ volleyball program,” Jefferson girls’ volleyball coach Susie Nelson said. “I’m not sure why it hadn’t started before.”
Nelson is coordinating the boys’ program for Rockford Public Schools Athletic Director Mat Parker and the Rockford schools.
The program is starting off as a club-level team with hopes of becoming an IHSA sport the following season. The interest was so great this year that both Jefferson and Guilford are fielding two teams.
“This year is at a volunteer basis,” Nelson said. “We’re hoping by next year it is an IHSA sport and all the Rockford schools will participate.”
In addition to Guilford and Jefferson, Rockford Lutheran is also forming a team to compete this year with those schools. In addition, Rockton Hononegah is considering starting a program as well.
There is hope that other schools will follow suit, and if they can get enough area schools to participate, they can create a conference for boys’ volleyball in the area.
For the Rockford schools, this is the culmination of some ground-level work to get boys’ volleyball programs up and running.
They have started in the elementary schools with co-ed teams for volleyball. The schools are also allowing the boys to play with the girls in the middle schools.
“The reason this is going right now is because of Mat Parker, he is really trying to build the program from the bottom up,” Nelson said. “He is very in to feeder schools and getting the programs successful.”
The good thing for the area is that there is a good base for talent. The Indoor Sports Center has run boys’ volleyball programs for years, and many area athletes have grown up playing competitively at the club level.
That has led to a bigger talent base than what was expected for new programs. The talent is so much better that Jefferson even has plans of playing in a tournament at Cornerstone Christian Academy.
What Nelson, Parker and everyone involved really hopes is that there is a big crowd to see the initial games for the schools and that the community gets behind the program.
“We are hoping to grow it to where next year we will be a fully-accredited IHSA sport,” Nelson said. “I am surprised at the level that we have already. The boys have grown so much. They were in a league at the Indoor Sports Center and working there, and they’ve grown.”
From the April 24-30, 2013, issue