Kaizen Volleyball Club (Oklahoma City; Oklahoma Region) hit a major milestone this year: they offered a boys team at every age level, from 12U to 18U, for the first time.
Over the last few years, teams from the club have also earned podium finishes in the Club division at the Boys Junior National Championship (in 2017 and ’18), become the first boys team from the Oklahoma Region to qualify for BJNC in the Open division (2019) and qualified Opens twice again (2020). Two separate squads have qualified for the national championship over the last two seasons. We thought we’d ask Rachel Manriquez, vice president of Kaizen and coach of the Boys 16 Black squad, about building and sustaining a boys volleyball program. Here are five takeaways from that conversation
High School + Club Volleyball: A Perfect Match (Almost)
A few boys coaches and administrators from Kaizen and other volleyball clubs in the OKC area are currently trying to start a boys club volleyball league in middle schools and high schools across the state. The thought is to get more boys to try the sport, and that would be more easily done through a club at school. Of course, Rachel working in the athletic department at Casady School, a rare school that has boys volleyball in the area, as a coach and an assistant helps.
“I work with these middle school boys volleyball players every day of the fall, which I believe gets them hooked pretty early. Several of them have played club for us this year,” Rachel said. “The same goes for high school. Many of the kids we get have grown up playing several sports but start volleyball pretty late. While we have them during the school season, they see an exponential amount of growth, which is super exciting for them. Many just want to continue that growth and experience, leading them to play club. If more schools got kids involved at a younger age like we've been trying to do, I think the club participation would skyrocket.”
The increased amount of interest in boys volleyball commonly results in boys clubs growing in both size and number. Rachel cites similar school-based club leagues in the Dallas and Kansas City areas which preceded a large growth in boys clubs.
“[Coaches in Dallas and Kansas City] told us, ‘You've got to get one started there,’” she said. “I think that's the best way to get boys playing, not just in our club, but across the state.”