Boys’ volleyball is a rapidly-growing sport in the state of South Carolina.
There are just under a dozen boys’ volleyball programs in the Charleston area, and the sport has expanded across the state with more than 40 high school teams.
In Berkeley County School District there are boys’ volleyball programs at Cane Bay High, Philip Simmons High, Stratford High and Hanahan High; the Hawks’ volleyball program is considered a pioneer in getting more boys playing the sport in the area, and Hanahan Middle Assistant Principal Kelly Owens is part of a state committee that has been instrumental in getting it sanctioned as a sport.
Now that it is officially sanctioned by the SC High School League, the Hanahan Hawks have a handful of players to keep an eye on this season as they continue to hone their skills and establish themselves as athletes in this growing sport. View additional photos from a recent practice.
“It’s pretty big recognition,” Kelly said, adding that boys’ volleyball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country right now. “It definitely is growing and gives the opportunity for boys to do something different.”
Getting it sanctioned
Kelly grew up playing volleyball in the Charleston area. She played for Middleton High, achieving personal accolades like being named an All-Region Player. She also played for two years at Mars Hill University.
Kelly transferred to the College of Charleston and when she graduated, she landed a teaching job at her old high school, plus a junior varsity volleyball coaching position; she later coached varsity for a few years.
As an adult, Kelly travelled with women’s volleyball tournaments. Around the time when she started her family, she refereed the sport a few days a week.
Kelly got her own daughter involved in volleyball in fifth grade (her daughter is now a volleyball referee), and the Owens family quickly became a “volleyball family”; her son, Parker (now a sophomore at Hanahan High), would tag along to the gym and to travel club. As a 9-year-old, Parker asked the club coach if he could play on the 12-year-old boys’ team and, after trying out, landed a spot – “and he was good,” Kelly said.
When Parker was in fifth grade he signed up for recreational volleyball, but he was the only boy on the team, which created some pushback from other coaches when his team won the city championship with all the fifth-grade teams.
The following year, the City of Charleston started a boys’ middle school league that has expanded over the years.
In early 2020, just before COVID shut everything down, Kelly was leading a boys’ volleyball club for students from Hanahan Middle and High. Parker was part of that club, joined by many students who were brand new to the sport as well as students who might have previously played elsewhere. Read original story from 2020.
Turning the sport into an actual athletic team was still in discussion at that time, but Kelly serves on the state’s volleyball committee for the Palmetto Region, called Boys’ Volleyball Outreach, and the committee has worked hard to try to get boys’ volleyball going in South Carolina. Kelly said the committee’s goal was to get the sport in the high schools.
As a club, it was a spring sport, but boys’ volleyball became sanctioned as a fall sport by the South Carolina High School League back in April.
Since becoming sanctioned, Kelly said BCSD has truly jumped on the bandwagon.
“We’re super happy with the support from Berkeley County School District because they got right behind putting funding behind it (and) supporting boys’ volleyball, pretty much right after it was passed,” she said.