When Luke Diener heard Jenks High School was forming a boys volleyball team, he was immediately intrigued.
“It just seemed like a fun sport,” said Diener, who also plays baseball. “After meeting the coach it was just a no-brainer, something that I had to go try out and see what it was all about.”
Diener wasn’t alone. The turnout for the first year was 35 players, enough to field three Trojan teams.
“It’s been exciting to see boys volleyball launch and just to see how many people in the Jenks community especially are getting behind it and who care about it and want to be a part of it,” Diener said. “That’s been really cool.”
The Jenks teams are among 14 across the state from a total of eight schools playing boys volleyball. The 2021 playoffs start Thursday and conclude Saturday, signaling the end of what has been a successful revival season.
“Boys volleyball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States,” said Asa Freeman, founder and president of the Oklahoma Boys Volleyball Association. “A lot of people don’t realize that just because of our location. We really want boys volleyball to be the next sport that OSSAA adds to their school-sponsored sports.”
The last time boys volleyball was an Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association sport was 1986. Jenks, coached by Nick Ditolla, won five state titles including in 1972 for the first state championship in any sport in school history.
Boys volleyball, which follows the same rules as girls volleyball but requires higher nets and different balls, is a sanctioned sport in more than half of the U.S.
“Not only is it the fastest-growing sport in the country, but it’s also the easiest and cheapest sport to add to any school because you already have all the equipment there for the girls,” Freeman said.
Freeman and his organization were hoping to generate enough interest to get a handful of teams in the first year. The response, close to triple that, was an encouraging sign.
“Our goal is 20 (teams) next year, but we think realistically we think we could get 25-30 if we get just a little bit more help from people and a little bit more advertising and stuff like that,” Freeman said.
“We’re losing money on this just to grow the sport. We aren’t in it to make money. We don’t care about the money. We just want boys to play volleyball.”
The first step in the OSSAA adding another sport is interest from member schools. Girls wrestling was officially sanctioned by the OSSAA starting last year after a unanimous vote by the board of directors, and eSports was approved last month.
“I don't know why (boys volleyball) wouldn’t be an OSSAA sport,” said Jenks coach Andy Poplin, whose dad played on the 1972 title team. “The new thing this year is eSports. That’s a sport now. If they’re doing that, why can’t we do boys volleyball?”