By Brandy Young
Passed on June 3 1972, Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools and all federally funded entities. This amendment opened doors and removed barriers for girls and women to participate in sports at the high school and collegiate levels. It seems so fitting that this year, the 50thAnniversary of this historic law, the Magazine School District is adding girls’ volleyball to its list of athletic activities.
This past spring a group from the Magazine Student Council presented to the school board requesting the addition of volleyball. While there has been previous discussion to add volleyball it has now become more feasible due to an increase in student interest.
“We are extremely excited to start the volleyball program,” stated Superintendent Dr. Beth Shumate. “This will allow our girls to compete in a different way while also increasing participation for some of our students who aren’t traditionally involved. One of our main goals is to provide opportunities for our students to feel and be more involved in the school, community, and obtain their brightest futures.”
With the new program also comes new additions to the coaching staff. Robert Dean was selected as the head volleyball coach. Coach Dean is no stranger to starting new volleyball programs from scratch. In addition to 45 years of coaching experience, he has started programs at Booneville High School, Stephens School District in Southwest Arkansas, and Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas. “As we began to evaluate potential coaches for the program, we were blessed that Coach Robert Dean who has started many successful volleyball programs joined our team as head volleyball coach and science teacher,” stated Dr. Shumate.
Also joining Coach Dean is Aleeah Blansett who will be serving as a Volunteer Assistant Coach. Blansett is a 2019 graduate of Booneville High School, 2019 All-State Volleyball player, and played collegiate volleyball for 2 years at Seminole State College in Oklahoma. Blansett has recently been a coach for the Fort Smith Juniors Volleyball Club where she took her team to nationals. “I’m just excited that Magazine gets to have a (volleyball) program, and I get to be a part of it,” said Blansett.
The first week of practices has been extremely promising with girls already hitting the ball and some even learning to jump serve. There has been an average of 16 girls per practice, including both junior and senior high. Coach Dean encourages any girls who may be interested to come and see what it is all about. Parents are also welcome to attend a practice and see the girls in action. Volleyball terminology and rules are unlike any other sport. Coach Dean encourages patience from parents as the athletes learn not just skills, but the rules of the game. “Substitution rules will be especially confusing,” stated Coach Dean. He also warns that at first, the drills they are doing may seem comical, but that is part of the learning process. “We just laugh together and try it again,” said Dean. He encourages the girls to do their best while still realizing it is a game. “Volleyball is really fun,” said Freshman Kilee Hurst. “Coach Dean makes it more fun.” She has been having a great week bonding with her teammates and learning the basics: how to serve, dig, and set. She is looking forward to getting to play games against other schools.
While there are currently only a couple of matches scheduled for this fall, the coaching staff hopes to add a few more to give the players more court time. The program will be considered independent for the next 2 years, playing scrimmage games with other schools. The program will be AAA sanctioned with a full game schedule in the 2024-25 school year.