The OHSAA recently added boys’ volleyball as a sanctioned sport. This will probably not be the last addition to a growing list of official “sports”, as the organization is considering e-sports among its future offerings. Consider this – many states governing organizations who oversee high school extracurricular activities have added squash, rugby, surfing, air riflery, rock climbing, bass fishing, trap shooting, canoe paddling, kayaking, and badminton to their list of sanctioned sports.

These usually begin as clubs, initially funded by parents or community members who have an affinity for a particular sport. Unfortunately, when the original promoters lose interest or their children graduate, “support” is left to already financially-strapped athletic departments. Transportation, salaries, equipment, etc. become the schools’ responsibility. Additionally, overworked athletic directors acquire more duties, training rooms and weight rooms become overcrowded, and facility scheduling is chaotic.


It also astounds me that the addition of the fourth division in track and field has been rejected several times, yet other sports continue to be added. At the present time, track is second in participation numbers among boys and first among girls, despite many challenges.


There are a finite number of students who want or who are able to participate in interscholastic sports.  As more offerings are added, these numbers are diluted. This may not be as significant in schools with several thousand students, but it will prove to be devastating to many smaller ones.


If our readers doubt this fact, talk to high school track coaches who also compete with open-gym basketball, club soccer, and football programs that insist on their athletes’ participation in their “volunteer conditioning programs” in the spring. Then add lacrosse, tennis, baseball, and now volleyball. Spring seems to be the most popular time to make additions; therefore, there is less danger of a decline of numbers in football in the fall and basketball in the winter.


Post high school opportunities are common reasons given by many of these sport advocates. A high school volleyball coach made the comment in the Toledo Blade that by making boys’ volleyball an official OHSAA sport, there would be more opportunities for athletes to receive scholarships on the collegiate level. These athletes would have to be truly outstanding to accomplish this, as only 58 NCAA Division I and II schools offer men’s volleyball. (Only 23 are Division I.) Note that the Ivy League does not offer scholarships, so those programs do not offer specific athletic aid. Consider this: 4.6% of high school participants go on to play college volleyball, 0.6% at the Division I level. (Per NCAA.org)


The maximum number of volleyball scholarships is 4.5 per team (not per year.) According to a recruiting website, “If an athlete is a program changer, they can receive 50% of a “full ride. Most men who play volleyball in college receive 10-15% of a full scholarship.” Also, under the present reality of tightening the athletic budgets, except for football, basketball, and several women’s sports, it is highly unlikely that any new programs will be added for men in the years ahead.


The facts in this article leave the author wondering why the OHSAA continues to divide and diminish the established and successful sports that accommodate diverse talent and socio-economic backgrounds.


What can track coaches to do prevent the current philosophy from damaging our sport? I have offered recommendations concerning this issue in several past columns. Being proactive and continuing to work very hard to make track and field relevant to our students, following the ideas that are enhancing other established sports, and never becoming complacent about critical components necessary for success. Innovative ideas that make our sport exciting are needed and should be implemented at every level for every event. Never, never give up nurturing and defending our very special sports of track and cross-country.


----Congratulations to all of the participants at the State Championship Meet. It was great to return to Jesse Owens Stadium.


----Times in the high school distance races across the country have been spectacular. Many attribute the trend to modern shoe technology. If this theory is true, then track has moved closer to being a sport for an elite population, as the price for these shoes range from $250.00-350.00. If a teenager’s foot grows, which it will, during the high school years, parents will be spending $1,000 or more. This would limit the opportunities to excel for many who cannot afford expensive, high-tech shoes, thus creating another problem for our sport.


----There has been a huge turnover among head coaches on the collegiate level.

Retirement of the baby boomer generation, cuts in budgets, and the implementation of the NIL and transfer portal have been contributing factors for the many job openings.


----Congratulations to Kent State Track Coach Bill Lawson who is among those coaches who are retiring. Coach Lawson was the most successful coach in the school’s history and will be missed. We wish Bill the best. Kent State’s current President and Athletic Director are both very supportive of our sport.


Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell


Read more of coach O’Donnell Keeping Track articles on www.runohio.com


Two Book Reviews  - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/263-keeping-track-two-book-reviews-by-rod-o-donnell

KEEPING TRACK – Remembering – http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/211-keeping-track-remembering-by-rod-o-donnell


Critical Time for Cross Country and Track & Field - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/96-track            


Facts - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/100-keeping-track-facts        


Track - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/67-keeping-track          


2021 Track & Field - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/200-keeping-track-2021-track-field    


Football and Track & Field - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/78-keeping-track-football-and-track-field          


Keeping Track - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/173-keeping-track-2    


Life Lessons from Cross-Country - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/10-life-lessons-from-cross-country-updated-2020  


2020 OHSAA State Cross Country Championships - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/134-keeping-track-by-rod-o-donnell-2020-ohsaa-state-cross-country-championships  


COVID 19 and Sports - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/120-keeping-track-covid-19-and-sports-by-rod-o-donnell      


Marc Bloom’s Amazing Racers - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/43-keeping-track-marc-bloom-s-amazing-racers-by-rod-o-donnel    


Ohio Men College Runnershttps://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/235-keeping-track-ohio-men-college-runners-by-rod-o-donnell


College of William & Maryhttp://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/121-keeping-track-college-of-william-mary-by-rod-o-donnel      


Take care and I hope to see you at a race soon.


Matt McGowan