Volleyball deserves support, too


School is around the corner, which means a lot of things to a lot of people.

For students it means they no longer get to spend their days doing whatever they please and instead will soon be traipsing back through classroom doors and cracking open textbooks. Parents, if they haven’t already, will be shopping for school supplies and buying new uniforms since their kids shot up like a beanstalk in a few short months. Teachers are busy readying their classrooms and lesson plans and are eager to once again mold a new set of young minds in Marion County.

The beginning of school also dramatically changes my job on a day-to-day basis. I no longer will be following little leaguers around the state covering all-star teams — which, by the way, congratulations to our state champions in baseball (Columbia 8u, Duckworth 8u, Columbia 10u and Columbia 11u) and softball (Columbia 8u and Columbia 10u). Both of the softball state champions also claimed USSSA Southern Nationals titles (the equivalent of the World Series in Dixie Youth), and the 11u baseball team won its World Series. Hats off to those kids for putting in the hard work and being rewarded for it.

Now that the all-star season is coming to a close, I’m turning my attention back to high school sports. While the focus of the community will obviously be on football and understandably so — it may not be America’s favorite pastime, but it is the most popular sport in the country — I want to discuss another sport that doesn’t get anywhere near the same amount of love and support: Volleyball.

To the average sports fan high school volleyball may not be as intense or exciting as a Columbia vs. West Marion football game. I get it.

When I first started covering volleyball in college, I saw it as a nuisance. It didn’t really interest me because I didn’t really understand the game. I knew the basics and knew some of the terminology, which was enough to get me by to write simple articles, but over the years I’ve learned to understand and respect the game, and as a result, the players.

The girls work every bit as hard, spend the same amount of time practicing and have the same level of commitment as any boy playing football. It may not be a contact support, but they sacrifice their bodies all the same, diving for balls, cutting on a dime and attempting to block spikes any way possible. I’ve seen girls tear up their knees just the same as any football player does.

They deserve the same type of community support as any football, basketball or baseball team gets. But when I go to games, the only people in the stands are younger teammates and parents. I don’t think I’ve ever recognized a true fan at a volleyball game that’s there solely to watch the match. At football games they line the fences in droves.

And it’s truly a shame because we have a lot of really good volleyball being played in Marion County. Take East Marion for example. The Eagles haven’t lost a district match since Oct. 13, 2015. That’s nearly four years of excellence and 26 straight victories! If that was happening on the football field, everybody would show up to watch history.

Blood, sweat and tears; victory, defeat and adversity — everything that draws any fan to any sport is happening here in our gyms during the fall, and these girls deserve to have some new fans. If you want to do something different this fall other than watching “The Voice,” head out to a few matches. Learn the game. Support these girls. They deserve to have a community rally behind them.

Joshua Campbell is sports editor of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him via email at joshuacampbell@columbianprogress.com or call (601) 736-2611.