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Volleyball continues explosive growth in popularity in county

Volleyball has exploded in popularity in Franklin County, statewide and across the nation.

Four years ago, the only schools in the county to have a volleyball team were Belgreen, Russellville and Tharptown. When Red Bay added volleyball, there were enough teams to have a county tournament like basketball and softball. Phil Campbell added volleyball this past year and will host the tournament for the first time.

The third annual Franklin County Volleyball Tournament will be held Saturday at Phil Campbell High School. The tournament will feature three divisions: junior high, junior varsity and varsity.

Phil Campbell volleyball head coach Amy Moss said her program is excited to be able to host the county volleyball tournament this year. “It is an exciting game and fast paced. The kids and fans really get into it,” Moss said. “It is amazing how far this sport has come in this county in just a short time. Once girls try it, they fall in love with it. It takes a lot of skill, agility and hustle to be a volleyball player.

“It is a pure team sport,” she added. “One person can’t carry a volleyball team. It takes all six on the court.”

All four county programs have three teams, one in each division. The participation numbers have grown exponentially, with more than 135 girls playing at the four county schools; Vina and East Franklin are the lone schools without volleyball.

According to the Alabama High School Athletic Association, volleyball is now the most popular team sport in the nation with 454,153 girls participating. It is the second most popular team sport in the state behind softball – and closing fast. There were 9,628 girls participating in 2020, a figure that grew to 9,772 in 2021.

Part of the reason volleyball bloomed late in Franklin County was some resistance from basketball. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal this past week, girls’ basketball has dropped to the fourth most-popular girls’ sport by participation behind track and field, volleyball and soccer.

According to the report, which cited data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, girls’ basketball has lost 19 percent of its players since 2002, while track and field grew 10 percent, volleyball grew 15 percent, and soccer grew 27 percent.

Moss, who coached girls basketball at Phil Campbell from 2005-2010 and took the Bobcats to the Northwest Regional finals in 2006, said basketball and volleyball are very different but complement each other in many ways.

“I love both sports. I don’t want to see one take away from the other,” said Moss. “If you look at some of the best basketball programs in the area and across the state, you will find they are some of the best volleyball teams as well. If programs work together, they can all be successful.”

One glance across classifications of the final 16 teams in girls basketball this past year and the AL.com top 10 volleyball teams this year does indeed show many of the same teams: Deshler, Lauderdale County, Hatton, South Lamar, Spring Garden, St. Lukes, Prattville Christian, Susan Moore, Plainview, Geraldine, New Hope, and more.

Another roadblock to starting volleyball teams is finding someone with the knowledge to start a difficult sport and the willingness to start a program from scratch.

“Volleyball is a difficult sport to learn and coach. It’s not as simple as hitting the ball over the net,” said Moss. “Plus, starting a program with players that have never played before means you are going to take some beatings. Coaches, players and fans alike have to be patient and let the process work itself out.

“Saturday will be a fun day,” Moss added. “We expect a huge crowd all day, from early in the morning until the varsity finals that afternoon.

Admission to the tournament is $10.

TOURNAMENT

SCHEDULE

Junior High Single Elimination Tournament on Court 2

  • 8 a.m. – No. 4 Red Bay vs. No. 1 Phil Campbell
  • 9 a.m. – No. 3 Tharptown vs. No. 2 Belgreen
  • 10 a.m. – Finals

Junior Varsity Single Elimination Tournament on Court 1

  • 8 a.m. – No. 4 Tharptown vs. No. 1 Phil Campbell
  • 9 a.m. – No. 3 Red Bay vs. No. 2 Belgreen
  • 10 a.m. – Finals

Varsity Double Elimination Tournament on Courts 1 and 2

  • 11 a.m. – Game 1: No. 4 Tharptown vs. No. 1 Red Bay on Court 2
  • 11 a.m. – Game 2: No. 3 Phil Campbell vs. No. 2 Belgreen on Court 1
  • Noon – Game 3: Losers of Games 1 and 2 on Court 2
  • Noon – Game 4: Winners of Games 1 and 2 on Court 1
  • 1 p.m. – Game 5: Winner of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 3 on Court 1
  • 2 p.m. – Finals: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 on Court 1
  • 3 p.m. – Double Elimination Finals on Court 1, if necessary
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