By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gopher volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon and Apple Valley legendary volleyball coach Walt Weaver are on a campaign. They want to make volleyball a sport for boys in high school.

“Like I said, I feel like this is a really strong volleyball state, so why wouldn’t we have boys playing as well, especially seeing the states surrounding us that do,” McCutcheon said.

Weaver is well aware, having coached state championship girls teams and continuing to work with summer programs. He’s long wanted both sexes to compete.

“Every family and every boy that thinks, hey, this might be something I’d like to do, give it a try,” Weaver said.

It’s taking shape, offered to boys at several metro schools. The response was a bit overwhelming.

“We’re not really surprised that there’s interest. I think the thing that’s the most surprising is how much interest there is. We knew that boys wanted to play. We have them in the gym, they love following the girls,” Shakopee volleyball coach Krista Flemming said.

Shakopee was one of the first to jump on board because of a pair of women’s coaches. What they now see is the learning curve.

“It’s a big learning curve in some ways for boys, but they’re so athletic and competitive that their learning curve is gonna be quicker I think. Its somewhat like starting from the beginning,” Shakopee volleyball coach Jenny Kilkelly said.

This is where it’s getting fun. The Gophers have long been a national contending program, and it is in that they can see what this game can be.

“One you’ve tried it and you’ve seen it played at a level with some organization instead of a piece of string and a barbecue in the corner, when there’s a net, and there’s a ref and there’s people coming at you and it’s on, it’s great,” McCutcheon said.

What they already know from the girls teams is this: This game is a bit contagious. Once you start, you come back.

“I think our goal is really to get people involved. And you’re right on, it’s getting them started and attached to the game, because once you start playing the sport, it just becomes a passion for so many people,” Flemming said.

So begins the first club season, to create an interest and educate.

“This is the initial, inaugural part of this and it’s going to be an exciting season in 2018 but it’s just going to grow next year,” Weaver said.

And what they are finding is an enthusiasm.

“It’s been really fun. It’s been like eye-opening to realize like, maybe it’s not as easy as I thought it would be, but it’s been fun. It’s been a learning experience,” Shakopee volleyball player Dylan Johnson said.

It’s a natural for some — think basketball players, who already can explode and are strong in the hand eye category.

“I think basketball players probably have an advantage considering most basketball players jump pretty high and there’s a lot of jumping involved in this. And like, a lot of my good friends that play basketball were pretty good at this when we did a league in the winter,” Johnson said

And McCutcheon knows that this is a sport that has already has established itself. He’s seen it for years.

“I feel like we’re already punching above our weight in some points. We’ve got this phenomenal interest, there’s so many kids coming out, but what I know is that once people get a taste, once they get an idea of what this sport’s about, I can’t help but think that the growth is going to continue,” McCutcheon said.

Because one day they want it to look like the girls model — competitive and played with passion, sponsored by the high school league.

“My vision is that we will have a state tournament where, you know, and the high school league will sanction this. There’ll be lots of teams from all over the state that will be playing and we’ll be sitting in the Xcel watching boys state championship volleyball. There’s not a doubt in my mind that it will happen,” Weaver said.

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