Four months after the MIAA Volleyball Committee and the association’s Blue Ribbon Committee discussed whether to allow boys on girls' teams to line up on the front row, the committee approved a proposal to hopefully rectify the issue and make the sport more inclusive.
Quincy girls' coach Jacqui Niosi and MIAA rules interpreter Carole Burke co-authored a proposal with gender-neutral language that would be a volleyball-specific subsection to MIAA Rule 43.2, centered around gender and participation.
Ahead of the May 28th meeting with the Blue Ribbon Committee, members and coaches voiced their concern that boys playing on the front row on girls’ teams is an unfair advantage. Girls play at a net height of 7 feet, 4 ¼ inches, while the boys’ net measures 7 feet, 11 ⅝ inches.
Rule 43.2 states “If a school offers a single team in a particular sport, it may not restrict eligibility based on gender unless such a restriction is necessary to ensure that the school’s gendered designation of athletic opportunities complies with Title IX (either by demonstrating proportionality or the absence of unmet interest among members of the underrepresented sex).”
The proposed subsection (Rule 43.2.1), in essence, states that if there are underrepresented students that wish to play volleyball, the school should explore all opportunities, including a co-op with another school, or find a neighboring team that plays at the net height that the underrepresented student-athlete qualifies for.
The rule change proposal must now be approved by the MIAA Board of Directors.
“This is a result of the Blue Ribbon Committee eliminating the modifications for the boys and this was an attempt by Jacqui to increase the possibilities of creating boys' teams,” Burke said.
Volleyball, for both girls and boys, continues to grow in popularity nationwide.
As of 2018-19, there were 301 girls’ programs (with 10,218 participants) in Massachusetts, along with 110 boys’ teams (with 2,680 participants).
“We do have males trying out for girls' volleyball teams,” said Jane Bergin, who coaches the Andover girls in the fall and the Lexington boys in the spring. “The hope would be to create more co-op teams in the spring if their school doesn’t necessarily have a team to represent them in the springtime.”