The mood around the push to make boys volleyball a sport sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League — so somber last spring — has improved greatly after a move by the MSHSL's Board of Directors to classify it as an "emerging sport."
At the MSHSL's Representative Assembly meeting last May, the proposal to officially sanction boys volleyball as a league sport fell one vote shy of approval, leading to disappointment and even tears among the hundreds gathered in hopes of approval.
At Thursday's Board of Directors meeting, the league's newly developed Programs Task Force, formed to provide "a clear process by which activities or sports may be added to the League," classified boys volleyball as an emerging sport.
Under the classification, the league allowed the proposal to sanction boys volleyball to bypass the usual process for promotion of a sport, allowing it to go directly to a vote at the next Representative Assembly meeting on May 9, 2023.
In addition, the board voted unanimously to support the measure, a move that Krista Flemming, one of the leading promoters of boys volleyball, said is an important positive sign.
"They decided that the proposal met all the criteria needed to move forward," said Flemming, who, along with Jenny Kilkelly, is co-director of the Minnesota High School Boys Volleyball Association, which for the past five years has run a successful league for high school club teams. "We're very happy. It's a much different feeling than last year."
Getting the league to throw its weight behind the sanctioning of boys volleyball is an important step, Flemming said. Schools look to the league for guidance, and the hope is that will put the proposal over the top.
More than 1,200 boys signed up to play high school volleyball last spring for 53 teams.
"We've got more than 65 teams who want to play this year," Flemming said. "Once this happened, the response was incredible."
Flemming cited a small, southern Minnesota district that reached out with strong interest. "It was the first time we'd heard from them," she said. "We didn't know they were interested."
Flemming said supporters of the boys volleyball push, who count Gophers volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon among them, are "cautiously optimistic" about the vote in May.
"We definitely took some time to celebrate with all the people who have worked so hard to support this," she said. "Now, hopefully, we just need to cross the finish line."
Also, the MSHSL approved the move of the 2023 baseball Prep Championship Series from Target Field to CHS Field in St. Paul, with title games to be played Friday, June 16. The venue change was necessary because of a conflict with a Twins homestand.