espnW has a new story about the growth of girls volleyball. Why volleyball — not basketball — is winning the popular vote, is worth a quick read.
One of the interesting things in the story is the changing numbers between girls volleyball and basketball.
Two years ago, for the first time, more high school girls played volleyball (432,176) than basketball (429,504), according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. In 2015-16, volleyball added another 4,133 girls to those numbers, while basketball lost 276 participants.
Examine the past decade, and the numbers are more striking. Statistics compiled by the NFHS show an increase of more than 40,000 volleyball players in that span and a decrease of 23,000 basketball players.
But buried deeper in the article is a not about places where volleyball growth is beginning to slow. They note, “The boom in what she [Kathy DeBoer] calls ‘pay-to-play’ youth volleyball makes it less and less likely that a girl with minimal experience will be able to play at her high school…’And that’s what happened in basketball,’ she said.”
While not the focus of the article, this is an important cautionary note for all sports. As any sport grows, so does the professional or “pay-to-play” infrastructure. And we all need to work hard to make sure that the growth of this infrastructure doesn’t force out players or make sports less accessible.