Low athlete numbers force boys Junior Varsity volleyball to get creative

By: Angela Park

John Park and David Kim warm up for their game by "peppering". "Peppering" was a popular warm-up activity throughout the season.

John Park and David Kim warm up for their game by “peppering”. “Peppering” was a popular warm-up activity throughout the season.

In an effort to save the boys Junior Varsity [JV] volleyball program, two varsity swing players and five eighth graders volunteered to fill in the vacant positions.

The shortage was not a surprise to many. Coach of the JV team, Mr. Dalton, said, “I expected, given the fact that we are a smaller school this year, that there would be some issues with numbers and a lot of growth taking place, so I knew that it was going to be a building season.” However, he did admit that the numbers were “a bit disappointing.” He continued, “As a coach, it’s nice to have a full squad so they can grow together as a team and really become quite a family on the court.”

Several times, JV swing players had to play two games a day (one Varsity and one JV), which, according to sophomore Andrew Keller, “feels more tiring.” He continued, “It feels a lot different, switching from JV to Varsity or from Varsity to JV, because the competition is tougher in Varsity.”

The eighth graders also faced a difficult time adjusting to the new level of volleyball being played. “[I feel challenged] because it’s a first for me, playing this kind of volleyball in JV,” remarked Jason Lee, a lower secondary player. “We have to do well because we have a tournament and practices and trainings are hard.”

The lack of players expanded the duties placed not only on the students, but also on teachers in the sports department. Although schools with under 300 students may use swing players in accordance with KAIAC rules, certain additional measures were taken to allow middle school students into the JV program. As stated by the Athletics Director, Mr. Ivison, GSIS was granted a waver to do so as “a short term solution to give us the numbers of people we would need to fill the team.”

This distinction affected the score board records of the volleyball teams. The KAIAC Varsity Conference records stood at three wins and four losses, as opposed to last year’s records with an undefeated conference season. The JV boys stood at one win and three losses while last year they hosted five wins and two losses. But the coaches and players did not seem to mind. Mr. Dalton stated, “There have been challenges this season but we were able to pick up some really great grade eights… We have a few key swing players from grade nine and ten that have come down to provide leadership on the team.” John Park, a sophomore player commented about playing on both teams, “It’s fun and I think it gives me a chance to play a lot and learn a lot as well.”

Mr. Ivison mused that this seemingly limiting circumstance might yield a profitable boon for the later volleyball seasons to come. He spoke for the athletics program as a whole, “We don’t feel this is long term in terms of interest level. It’s just a slight blimp in the process. Now we feel as though it was good for the middle schoolers to come up. It gives them an extra year of playing at the varsity JV level.” He later underscored his point and reiterated, “For the players who’ve been asked to come up, I think it would definitely be beneficial for them if they choose to commit to the sport.”

“It’s confusing because in middle school volleyball we don’t switch [positions]  and the court was just half court, but in JV we switch and use a full court,” responded Hijiri Kamigawa when asked what he thought of JV volleyball. Jason Lee, Hijiri Kamigawa, Alex Kim, Allen Park, and Jin Weisser, the eighth grade JV players all agreed that the level of volleyball played in JV was more rigorous and different from lower secondary level volleyball. However, they also were of the same opinion that upper secondary volleyball was more fun.

The players seemed to be content with their progress throughout the season because they made new individual growths. Changhee Han said, “I’m proud of myself because I made it to Varsity in my freshman year.” Teammate John Park said, “In JV I get good game practice and it’s good to try out new things and Varsity’s good because I’ll get used to playing it for next year and it’s more competitive.” Teammate Andrew Keller added, “I think it’s a great experience to meet both higher grades and lower grades. I get to experience different somewhat roles. For JV I have to be somewhat of a leader because I am part of Varsity as well.”

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