It started on a sultry March afternoon in the middle of a global pandemic. We were bored and depressed. Our days were on endless repeat; nothing new occurred. As COVID-19 continued to shut down sports, every single member of our grade 10 friend group was pent up with no option for group exercise. Lonely and socially isolated, we spent countless hours looking at screens and doing absolutely nothing. Our physical health and mental health were deteriorating.
But on that afternoon, we had an idea.
“Tighten the net from the side!” Josh Moyneur hollered as we set up the volleyball net in my yard. It took an hour. The net was lopsided and a bit short, but it would do. Three friends went to one side, two went to the other, and we were ready.
The ball floated over the net and the game began. None of us were great volleyball players. None of us were even good. The game started off like ping pong with no cooperation or communication. But soon we were having fun hitting, blocking, diving, cheering, and enjoying the best teamwork we had experienced in a long time.
Playing volleyball outdoors was a convenient solution to the problems of indoor socializing or gym access during the pandemic. In parks and yards, we had few barriers.
Unfortunately, across the world, many other athletes have struggled throughout COVID-19 as they were unable to partake in their sporting activities, leading to negative effects on kids’ mental health.
A recent Ipsos study reveals that young people have a higher chance of reporting feeling “lonely” if the pandemic affected their sport participation. Furthermore, research states that promoting exercise during lockdown is needed to support “good mental health and well-being.”
Lucas Koo, a member of our volleyball club, previously spent around 17 hours a week on screens. Now, he rarely spends more than 7 hours a week since he is always outside playing volleyball.
“I used to wake up looking forward to playing video games, but now when I am on video games, I am looking forward to the next time I can play volleyball,” says Koo.
All it took was a few text messages and phone calls to organize a spontaneous volleyball game. Anybody could play with us. You did not need a gym pass, equipment, or competitive volleyball skills to play. When we first started playing in March, we had six people. We now have 17 active members in our volleyball club.
Many additional friends became obsessed with volleyball, although just two months previously they were ignorant of the sport.
“I wish I had discovered volleyball sooner,” says club member Ollin Rath.
“Playing volleyball with you guys has been the highlight of my whole summer,” Billy Tran said.
When summer ended and our volleyball group was settling back into school, we realized there were few opportunities to play volleyball during a regular school day. Disappointed, we talked to gym teachers, our vice principal, and multiple other teachers.
We started a Grade 10 Boys Volleyball Club and obtained access to set up volleyball nets during lunch and break time.
Then, with the help of our gym teacher, Ms. Douglas, we set in motion a physical education course starting next year that will meet in the mornings and focus on volleyball.
The increase in students interested in volleyball has been dramatic. According to the current grade 10 boys coach, Tei Yeum, there were only a few kids who were interested in volleyball two years ago, when he was in grade 10.
Of the twelve players on the grade 10 boys’ team, 5 players are trying out for a team outside of school for the first time.
Cover Image: Carson Kute