Sunshine and the sound of waves and music in the background provide the setting for high-school beach volleyball at Lagerheads on the Gulf.
Though, technically, it’s not an official high-school sport, talented volleyball players from five schools in the area show off their skills on the soft white sand courts in competitive two-on-two matches.
“It’s going well so far with it being our first year,” said Judd Smith, the owner of Bulldog Beach Volleyball and an avid promoter of the sport. “This is our first year of doing this with the high-school kids and it’s taking off in the right direction.”
Caitlin Bethell is having a blast playing it. She also plays for the indoor high-school team at Navarre in the fall and said playing on the beach gives her an opportunity to stay in shape in the offseason.
“I love beach volleyball,” Bethell said. “It’s a great way to stay active and it helps you become a better indoor player because you get a lot faster by playing on the beach.”
Bethell will be a junior this fall and it’s unlikely she will see the day beach volleyball becomes an official high-school sport before her prep career is over.
Yet, the push to make it a sport recognized by the Florida High School Athletic Association is growing. Starting next year, the Sunshine State Athletic Conference will sponsor a league open to schools with a classification of 3A or lower (681 students in grades nine-12).
It is somewhat similar to what is already being done in California.
“Beach volleyball is currently not a CIF- (California Independent Federation) sanctioned sport, but that said, a number of California schools do offer it as a sport at the school level,” said Erin Davenport, a director with the CIF. “As the sport grows, the greater opportunity there is for it to become a CIF-section championship and then eventually a region/state championship.”
The growth of the sport in Florida could trigger the same result, but at the moment, there are no plans on the horizon for the FHSAA to sponsor the sport.
Read more in the May 19 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.