There are some incredibly passionate people in volleyball. It’s a shame our sport doesn’t get more recognition in the United States to showcase these great individuals. I had an in depth conversation with Grant Baldwin, coach at DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It is people like him that will continue to expand the reach of volleyball in the United States and continue to grow our game.
Grant is on a soul seeking journey to grow boys volleyball, and in turn, the DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club. He is making all the right calls and spreading his message. His mantra, “Molding boys into men”. The more we can continue to spread the message, the more people will understand, accept, and adopt the mission.
Back in the day (about 10 years ago), I lived in the Dallas area. I played a bit of indoor and outdoor, but there were very few boys (if any) participating in any of these tournaments. Grant and DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club is changing that landscape. It is our mission, as volleyball participants, to continue to spread Grant’s mission by providing him the resources, knowledge, and recognition that boys volleyball is beginning to thrive in Texas.
Fortunately, Grant is not alone on his mission. When I was living on tiny Hilton Head Island, SC, I ran across a 14 year old boy that was interested in playing volleyball. I adopted him by letting him play on our men’s USAV team until he outgrew our little volleyball family and found a more permanent volleyball home with the Southern Storm Boys Volleyball Club out of Atlanta.
Directors, Brian Teague and John Friddle have taken on the “southeast by storm” by allowing boys, like Kyle from Hilton Head Island, to play on their club team. Kyle would drive 4 hours one way to practice once a week and play in some tournaments each year. Brian and John have the foresight to be accommodating and flexible with these passionate youths to help grow our sport. It is our individual mission to adopt a boy or two wherever we may live, help them to grow their game, and find a more permanent volleyball home like DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club or Southern Storm Volleyball Club. The benefits to our sport is priceless and to see a boy like Kyle go on to play in college is priceless. Spread the word.
“We are molding boys into men,” said Grant Baldwin, coach for DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), TX area. By providing a place for boys to learn, develop, and stay physically active while playing a sport that focuses highly on teamwork, communication, strength, and agility, these boys can excel in “the most played sport in the world”, according to USA Volleyball.
USA Volleyball, the governing body for adult and junior volleyball programs nationwide, recently announced the date and location of the 2011 32nd Annual USA Volleyball Boy’s Junior National Championships, to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota June 29th. Boys Clubs teams nationwide are preparing to compete with, the hopes not only of improving themselves, but continuing to promote the sport of boy’s volleyball.
With 998 million people playing volleyball world wide, these coaches in Texas, like Baldwin and Keith Nannie, the Director of DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club, have “worked tirelessly to change the image of the sport” from one of “Picnic Volleyball,” said Nannie, to a competitive and fast paced sport.
In 1969, there were no schools that provided girls volleyball and the participation numbers for boys volleyball was 63,144 nationwide. Over the years the sport began to decline as girls soon began to dominate the sport. Today, according to the National Federation of High School Athletics, boy’s volleyball has almost returned to its original popularity nationwide with 2,089 schools providing boys volleyball for the 2009-2010 season with 50,467 boys participating.
However, these statistics are not reflective of the state of Texas, and the number of boy’s high school, club, or collegiate volleyball teams. In Texas, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is the governing body for all public schools, both academically and athletically. According to Cliff Odenwald, UIL Director of Athletics, if a sport receives enough support from superintendents across the state, legislation can approve the sanctioning.
The primary obstacle for the growth of boy’s volleyball is debatable and could be the result of any number of things, however, over the past 5 or 6 years it has been the financial aspect, said Odenwald. When a sport is proposed to the UIL, a survey of state superintendents is conducted and of the past few years 90% said no to adding any activities citing a “hard time paying for what we have.”
Other roadblocks are determining what season boys’ volleyball should participate in, to avoid conflicts with other sports that could limit participation of athletes. “In Texas, football is king,” said Baldwin when asked why the south, and Texas specifically, has lacked the enthusiasm for volleyball of others states.
As of now, in the schools were boys volleyball is played, which are primarily private schools governed by the Southern Preparatory Conference (SPC), the teams follow a fall season schedule. For public schools, this would pose a large problem, considering the emphasis on football. The most obvious solution is to revert to a spring season, which is consistent with that of the few collegiate varsity programs in the nation.
In addition to the conflicts with others sports, there are socioeconomic concerns that really affect the number of players willing to enroll in the sport, says Baldwin. The number one arena for boys to participate competitively is through club teams, which can be expensive.
In the Texas there are three club volleyball regions, with only two offering boy’s teams. Out of 452 club teams, there are only 10 boys clubs. Many parents don’t find it beneficial to put their sons on a club team that will dominate large portions of their time and money, with travel for tournaments, price of uniforms, and their practice schedule, and won’t yield the sort of rewards that basketball and football do regarding college scholarships.
Nationally, there are only 22 Division I men’s varsity volleyball programs, and only 15 Division II programs. Although the top programs offering scholarships are prestigious universities such as the University of California, Penn State, University of Hawaii, and Brigham Young University, there are far less available than other sports, causing parents to invest their money in more popular programs that provide more potential for collegiate scholarships. This dramatically affects the growth of this sport and it is, clearly not a lack of interest, but instead the circumstances surrounding this sport.
To combat this problem club teams like High Intensity are focused on teaching boys how to become men through sports. They stress good attitudes and try to develop the “qualities parents want to bring out in their sons,” said Baldwin, like positive attitudes, teamwork, dedication, hard work, and physical health, rather than focus on scholarships and college recruitment.
It is through this teaching philosophy that the DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club and the several private schools in the DFW area “usually have about two or three players per year…that go on to play college volleyball at the DI, DII, or DIII levels”, if not on scholarship then on college club teams, said Nannie. They focus on growth as individuals and as men, while still managing to give these athletes a future in a sport they love.
While boys could easily continue to invest in the currently popular sports, they risk being one in a sea of faces of other athletes with the same experience and abilities, facing slim chances of reaching the levels they desire. With volleyball, these boys have the realistic chance to excel and become pioneers of a sport that is internationally acclaimed, reaching heights they never expected, both Onand Off the court.
Everything is “Big in Texas.” Boys volleyball might not be big in numbers or popularity, but big hearts and dedication have helped the sport grow over the years in the Lone Star State.
Hometown standouts like Stanford’s 6-4 freshman outside, Garrett Dobbs, (Greenhill School, Addison); Pepperdine’s 6-5 sophomore middle, Patrick Powers (Fort Worth Country Day School, Fort Worth); and 2007 Penn State graduate Alex Gutor (Greenhill School, Addison) help the cause. Along with these standouts, the state has an ambassador of the sport, a passionate coach, Keith Nannie.
Nannie coaches at Greenhill High School, a small private school in Addison, Texas. With almost 20 years of experience coaching high school and club, Nannie and his programs have come a long way. “The level of play is improving every year for the boys,” said Nannie.
Nannie has taught and coached at Greenhill School since the 1988, where he teaches 6th grade French and Spanish. Under his guidance, the Greenhill Hornets won eight Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) titles, which included three undefeated seasons and an incredible 90 match-winning streak (1995-1999). In 2005, Nannie earned his 500th victory. His current coaching record is 579-118 with a .83 winning percentage. Thus far, his program has produced three standout players- Jeremy Jacobs (2002), Alex Gutor (2003), Garrett Dobbs (2007).
Not only does he have a solid history of teaching the game, but playing the game as well. Growing up and competing in sports in upstate, New York, Nannie took to volleyball in a PE class. He then attended Southern Methodist University in 1982, where he played on the school’s club team. After graduating in 1985, Nannie continued to compete. He played on a different club team, this time for 11 straight seasons. As the team’s setter and defensive specialist, the club successfully advanced every year at the USA Volleyball Adult Nationals. Nannie retired as a player 1993 to focus on coaching.
Coach Nannie recognized a need for more development in the area. In 1992, he started the first boys volleyball club in Texas called Addison Volleyball Club. His club stressed the fundamentals and basics of competitive volleyball. Young athletes are now given the building blocks to become well-rounded and successful volleyball players.
His teams soon saw success. The 18-and-under Addison teams won the AAU Volleyball National Championships in 1995 and the USA Volleyball Junior National Club Championships in 1997. In 2004, Coach Nannie’s Addison 17-1 team won the Silver Medal at the AAU National Championships.
After a two-year break from club volleyball, Coach Nannie decided to re-enter the scene and began a new club for the boys. He created the DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club in 2005 and he continues to move forward.
A higher level of competition for boys indoor volleyball has been a struggle in the Lone Star State. This is because there are no sanctioned boys programs in the public schools. This is due in part to Title IX and the lack of interest, which hinders funding. Currently, only a handful of private school teams exist and compete with football season in the fall while most of the nation’s boys programs compete in the spring. There are only eight boys volleyball teams in the state of Texas with the Southwest Preparatory Conference the center of their competition.
This does not discourage Nannie or his players. They try to find competition wherever they can. Every year his high school and club teams travel across the Nation to find competition. The Hornets’ MVP and all-conference senior setter, Nate Reid-Griggs likes to travel to compete. One of Reid-Griggs fondest memories was one year at club nationals. “Our club team beat an amazing Hawaiian team at nationals and we thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
The team’s highlight trip each year is Canada. Every October, his club team competes in the Western Canadian Challenge, a 48-team tournament in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The team earned the tournament title in 2001.
When asked about the future of boys volleyball in Texas, Nannie spoke optimistically, “It can grow and if we want it to grow and thrive, we have to put in the time and energy.”
He mentioned a few major catalysts that he believes could help the sport in the near future.
One possible influence is The College Club Nationals that will be held next month at the Dallas Convention Center, April 12-15th. This competition gives the small volleyball community an opportunity to watch the best club teams in the nation. Nannie will take his kids to watch. He hopes that the higher level of competition will inspire and encourage his players to keep training and playing.
Many boys players get discouraged because of the limited number of sanctioned collegiate teams. Nannie believes this event will show the boys that there are many opportunities to continue playing, even on good college or university club teams.
Another factor Nannie mentioned is the recent success of several former high school standouts. These collegiate studs might not realize it, but they are role models, creating an impact for the current Texas high school players. There are several collegiate players making a name for themselves. Standout players include Stanford’s 6-4 freshman outside, Garrett Dobbs, (Greenhill School, Addison); Pepperdine’s 6-5 sophomore middle, Patrick Powers (Fort Worth Country Day School, Fort Worth); and 2007 Penn State grad Alex Gutor (Greenhill School, Addison), who is currently playing professionally in Russia.
“These guys are showing the high schoolers that good players from Texas can standout in collegiate programs,” said Nannie.”
His players agree. “Its fun following guys who have gone through Greenhill before like Garret Dobbs. I would love to play club volleyball in California especially at USC (University of Southern California),” Reid-Griggs stated.
Nannie mentioned the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The USA Men’s Volleyball Team qualified for Beijing and is predicted to be a likely candidate for the gold medal. This positive publicity for the men could easily transfer to boys volleyball all over the nation.
Currently, the Dallas, Fort Worth area has the most potential for Texas boys volleyball. “The coaches in the area are really trying to push the sport on the club and private school level. This is where the potential is,” remarked Nannie.
Currently there are three boys clubs, including Nannie’s DFW High Intensity Boys Volleyball Club (Fort Worth Tejas and The Houston Volleyball Academy) and nine private high school teams in the state.
With such a small group of players and coaches, the volleyball community is close-knit. “We are like a family, a very tight and close group. The kids and coaches are all friends,” said Nannie.
He mentioned that the matches are always intense and competitive. However, after the competition, players and coaches from both teams get together and have a great time. Reid-Griggs likes this aspect. “Its pretty cool since there are so few of us playing, we have become friends through volleyball with guys from other schools, even other cities. Most of my closest friends are all volleyball players,” he said.
Not only is Nannie an ambassador, friend and coach, he is a student of the game as well. He constantly tries to enhance the sport for players. “I try to bring the best information and knowledge of the sport to my guys and I really enjoy the challenge of helping to develop our kids into great players and great people,” said Nannie.
Reid-Griggs agreed with the coaching quality, “We have a great group of coaches who help us get better everyday and we are always pushing the rest of the guys to get better for the team as a whole.”
When will big participation numbers match this strong dedication and commitment?
“Next year we will add a 16′s team to our club, along with our 12-15′s teams we already have,” stated Coach Nannie.
With the latest contributing factors, only time will tell. Coach Nannie and the rest of the Texas volleyball community is preparing for a bright future.
Since Greenhill was playing an away match, Nannie could only celebrate by eating cupcakes that parents brought to the game and taking pictures with his players.
Nannie is 600-120 with eight SPC titles in 20 seasons as the boys volleyball head coach.
Nannie said he is grateful for having the opportunity to coach for so long.
“It’s not so much the number of victories that I have, but the number of kids who played for me and have been successful,” Nannie said. “I feel like I have influenced a lot of kids.”
Adam Prinz, joined the University of Texas men’s volleyball program in the Fall of ’99 playing for Gene Chamblis (USAV HOF). He instantly made an impact on the program, his teammates, and the Texas community.
As he entered UT, he emerged as a tremendous athlete with inspiring leadership, determination, and a strong work ethic. By Adam’s sophomore year on the team he was competing for one of the outside hitter spots. By Adam’s junior and senior season he was co-running the UT program, along with being a SIVA All Conference 1st Team Outside Hitter. With his determination and hard work he inspired his teammates. Texas won SIVA conference in 2000 and was runner up in 2001.
In the spring of 2004 the Texas Invitational was renamed the Adam Prinz Texas Invitational in remembrance of Adam’s perseverance and dedication to the UT men’s volleyball program. Along with the renaming, Adam’s jersey number (4), was retired from the UT men’s volleyball program.
Who led you to become a coach?
It was my high school coach and coaching mentor, Keith Nannie. Coach Nannie’s influence was vital to my success in high school. I was not a star student or athlete, and without the structure his program provided my high school experience, I would have been much less successful. I knew I wanted to become an educator and coach to provide a similarly strong, encouraging and supportive environment for student-athletes as he did for me.