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Popular boys' club sports ponder possible future in CHSAA

July 21, 2013 Updated: July 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm
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photo - "Jumper" Mike Gierlach passes the ball as members of the Colorado Springs Grizzlies rugby team practice a line-out before the start of their game against Chaparral at Mountain Ridge Middle School on April 16, 2011. Mark Reis, The Gazette
"Jumper" Mike Gierlach passes the ball as members of the Colorado Springs Grizzlies rugby team practice a line-out before the start of their game against Chaparral at Mountain Ridge Middle School on April 16, 2011. Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Just a few months ago, teams featuring players from 25 schools statewide took to the courts as the Colorado Boys High School Volleyball Association witnessed its 18th season.

And across Colorado fields, scrums became quite common as rugby continued to mushroom as one of the state's fastest-growing boys' nonvarsity sports.

If popularity meant anything, these entries would merit serious consideration to add to the list of Colorado High School Activities Association-sponsored varsity sports.

"It's not a simple process," CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said. "We've had conversations about volleyball and rugby, even bowling, and every now and then, inline hockey and bicycle sports.

"While it's not a simple process, it's a process that works for schools. It forces them and people who are interested in adding sports to really think them through before they come in with a great idea."

Lacrosse was the last boys' sport added by CHSAA in 1999. At that time, fewer than 30 schools had varsity teams.

"I definitely think boys' volleyball needs to become a CHSAA sport," said Karen Warnock, who has overseen a co-op club team at Liberty for the past nine years after six years at the helm of the girls' varsity team. "I've seen plenty of boys get full-ride scholarships, but because we're not sanctioned, the numbers are dwindling. There's such a huge volleyball presence in the community with USA Volleyball right here in town. It just doesn't make sense."

The CHSAA lists several factors in its bylaws, including school support, funding, recommendation from equity committees, proportionality of member schools, the ability to complete a schedule and availability of school facilities and training of coaches and officials.

Schools already with a full complement of sports, while supporting new sports, fear possible repercussions of being stretched too thin.

"We wouldn't be opposed to adding a sport like boys' volleyball," Cheyenne Mountain athletic director Kris Roberts said. "We have 23 sports already with 1,300 kids. Then you have to ask where you place a sport like that. If you assume the spring, then you have to have gym availability and equipment.

"From a cost standpoint, you have coaching monies and officials. I'm all for giving kids an opportunity to access new sports, but it's more of a conceptual framework to figure out what fits."

The Colorado Springs Grizzlies, a compilation of athletes from 12 city and area schools, recently won their fourth consecutive state championship.

Incoming senior Seth Halliman is playing on an All-American touring team in Argentina.

"Oh yeah, I could see rugby having enough teams at the high school level to be CHSAA," Grizzlies coach Otis McGregor said. "What I've found, is that if I can get a boy to come to a handful of practices, he'll really get into the game. I don't think there's a better sport for a young man when you combine soccer, football and wrestling, and it's nonstop."

Nationally, 23 states sponsored boys' volleyball in the 2011-12 participation survey compiled by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Surprisingly, varsity boys' bowling was next, offered in 22 states. Rugby has yet to be sponsored outside the club level.

While Borgmann sees the interest level growing in several boys' club sports, perhaps the state of the economy will have the final say, at least for now.

"I don't see anything happening any time soon," Borgmann said. "The economy has limited everyone. I think schools want to maintain the programs they have right now, not necessarily add programs."

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