Volleyball is a forgotten sport. There are no big-time pro leagues. Even the results of high school games are buried below the football, soccer and field hockey scores in the paper.
But volleyball, according to Carmel Keilty, is growing by "leaps and bounds," with more school teams, more summer camps and bigger crowds at matches.
Keilty is the volleyball (and girls' basketball) coach at Heritage High School in Leesburg. She never played on a volleyball team when she was growing up in Vienna. (She played basketball and softball at James Madison High School.) But she coached Loudoun Valley High School to two state volleyball championships, and her Heritage team is among the best in Northern Virginia. I spoke to her about kids and volleyball.
Do you have to be tall to play volleyball?
No. It helps to be tall if you are a hitter near the net. But now college and high school teams have a player called a libero. The libero is a defensive player who can go in and out for players along the back line. My libero at Heritage is 5-foot-4, but she is very quick.
What skills do you need to be a good volleyball player?
Players have to love the game. You must learn the basic skills of hitting, passing and setting. Then you have to be willing to work hard to get better.
Do your players play other sports in high school?
Yes. Some of my players are on the basketball team. Others play soccer, tennis, softball, and some run track.
Do you like your players to play other sports?
I do. Only about 1 percent of high school athletes ever get a scholarship to play Division I sports in college. Kids should experience as much of the fun and friendships you get from sports while they have the chance in high school.
Why are there more girls' high school volleyball teams than boys' teams?
I don't know. When I was at Loudoun Valley there were lots of boys who wanted to play. At Heritage there is a student section of about 35 kids who cheer at the girls' games. They are mostly boys. I think they would be even more excited if they had their own team.
If kids want to play volleyball, how can they get started?
In the Virginia area, the park and recreation departments send out fliers for summer camps. A week at a camp is a good place for kids to start. There are more teams in middle schools, too.
At what age should kids start playing volleyball?
In other countries, kids start as early as first grade. But I don't want kids to get burned out on volleyball. Fourth or fifth grade is a good time to start. Volleyball is a sport that everybody can play.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is the author of sports novels for kids.
You don't have to be a standout
player such as Heritage grad
Lauren Mellott, left.
Just learn the basics.