Indians’ boys’ volleyball prepping for first season

Special to the Coastal Point • Bruce Walls: An Indian River volleyball player goes up for a spike during practice on Thursday, March 15.­Special to the Coastal Point • Bruce Walls: An Indian River volleyball player goes up for a spike during practice on Thursday, March 15.­Now that they have completed the politics of permitting boys to play spring volleyball at Indian River High School, the hard work of getting players to gel and play as a team has begun. Due to the recent weather, other sports have been using the school’s gym for practice, forcing the boys’ volleyball team to practice in classrooms, where they study passing and scoring techniques.

“With the weather the way it’s been lately, we’re kind of the bottom of the barrel around here when it comes to who gets to use the gym,” said boys’ and girls’ head volleyball coach Jim Barnes.

Last Tuesday afternoon, they got to use the gym for a two-hour practice. It was their third time in the gym. Despite limited practice, Barnes and assistant coach Jay Clark said they feel that they have put together a team they can work with and have a shot at the season-ending Coaches Championship.

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association requires 16 teams playing in a sport to qualify for their championships. Currently, the Indians are the 11th Delaware high school to organize a boys’ volleyball team.

According to Clark, the main difference between boys’ and girls’ volleyball is the height of the net.

“The men’s nets are set at 7 feet, 11 and 5/8th inches, and the girls’ height is 7 feet, 4 and 1/8th inches,” explained Clark, who got seriously involved in professional volleyball in the early 1970s. When President Nixon visited China, so did Clark, who played for an American team that traveled to all of China’s major cities.

“Other than the height, we play six player teams, like the Olympics,” Clark continued. “I’m excited for the boys. I’ve spent a lifetime in this sport, and I’m eager to watch their growth.”

Junior Mitch McGee of Dagsboro, 16, will be on the team.

“It’s great being on the school’s first boys’ volleyball team. It will be great to play here. I play in the summer, and it feels good to be out here in a real sport for school, and I think we’ll win the championship this year,” McGee predicted.

“It feels pretty great being on this team this year,” beamed Michael Barnes, son of the coach. “I was pretty happy at the board meeting when they finally approved it.”

Senior Porter Palmer will also be on the boy’s team.

“It feels great being on the first team. My mom helped get this program started, and it’s just something cool to do in the springtime. The season is going to be great. We’ve got a good schedule and a good group of kids who are willing to play, and they’re willing to give it their all and try this new sport out.”

“It was a team effort from parents whose boys wanted to play and, as a coach, I heard from boys who wanted to play volleyball who weren’t able to,” Jim Barnes said of getting the school board to agree to have a varsity boys’ team at IR High School.

“It was the process of going through who we needed to talk to and making sure we covered everything that concerns having a team. And there were legitimate concerns, from budgeting or not enough teams to play, would there be enough boys interested — which we thought there would be, because that’s what started this — and other concerns, like transportation, that we overcame.

“The main concern,” he said, “was it’s a pilot program to see if we could overcome the obstacles, and we’re in the process of doing that. The best thing about this is the boys get a chance to play volleyball, and that’s ultimately what they want to do. Now, the boys are playing; we’ve got a nice schedule in front of us and so, ‘play ball’ — volleyball.”

On Friday, they will see how they stack up against Delmarva Christian High School in a scrimmage before the official start of the season. They start their season Monday, April 16, when they return to Delaware Christian High School for their first official match.