The boys are having a hard time catching up in Bakersfield

Jun. 15 — Bakersfield resident Derrick Trent started by hitting a balloon around the house with his father and ended up playing volleyball at Long Beach State.

But to get there, he had to travel to Fresno to play for the team – “I did my schooling by car,” he recalls – and then move to Valencia High School to build the club. Known, and difficult for schools to see, to compete with children who have the opportunity to play each year in their home towns.

“I’m what they call a‘ virtual unknown, ’” Trent said.

Nearly 15 years later, children’s volleyball in Bakersfield continues to be in the field as much as it was when Trent was coming up. California may be a hot spot for boys volleyball, featuring 15 of MaxPreps ’25 high school teams – including two near Clovis – but the Kern High School District doesn’t support the sport.

For those families who can spend time and money playing in the team, a 150 -mile tour of the Grapevine is included in the cards. Shawn and Morgan Essert took their son to Valencia to play, he was one of three boys who regularly traveled.

“If he’s going to have a chance at life in volleyball,” Morgan Essert said, “we have to get out of Bakersfield for that.”

The problem started in high school with a bad circle. As Bakersfield Christian coach Matt Touchstone noted, in order to practice high school boys volleyball, schools need a constant stream of new kids. But if kids want to play in middle school, they need a way to continue playing in high school.

“You can’t start anything on campus,” said Kareem Bland, competitive athletics coach for the Cal State Bakersfield Student Recreation Center. “You can’t start anything in high school.”

Bland grew up playing football in Georgia and was on the field when he was in the eighth grade. Middle school sports here, he said, are not at that important level.

Jonathan Freehling, a retired teacher at Washington Junior High, said six of the Bakersfield City School District’s nine high schools have boys volleyball before the disease. But two schools, Stiern and Cato, have “cafetoriums” inside. The rest will play outside in the heat of summer.

There is mixed interest in boys ’volleyball teams in the city. At BCHS, one of the closest schools to integrating sports (“I think we’re the first team in Bakersfield to do that,” Essert said), a team started with 30 kids but found the his number was reduced to 10 for boys. should practice at 6 a.m. to avoid taking sports time away from basketball players.

Many of the country’s high schools have formed various associations, including the East.

“In about 10 schools we have baseball teams,” said Johnitta Clemons, the retired Eastern girls volleyball coach.

Clemons expressed his disbelief at KHSD in refusing to include boys volleyball as an official sport: “You have a game, you have a gym, you have coaches, so you have what’s the matter? “

Stan Greene, director of the district of school support services, said he often took kids volleyball in front of sports leaders, but didn’t have the energy to implement it. Greene added, the piece needs to consider the benefits, transportation, training, interest, focus and length of time to evaluate a sport. But perhaps the biggest problem for boys volleyball is Title IX.

At KHSD, boys play sports at higher scores than girls. At Bakersfield High in 2019-20, for example, boys accounted for 48 percent of students but 62 percent of athletes, according to inclusion data. On the second page of the three -part attempt to implement Title IX, then, the piece should describe the “history and practice of increasing access opportunities” for girls.

This is what adds to a new boys sport “problem,” Greene said. The district is looking for girls -related options such as competitive fun.

Also, in 2017-18, in a cohort survey of 10,552 students, only 14.1 percent said they would like to participate in boys ’volleyball. It’s the second lowest level for the sports listed, than field hockey.

“We want to give as many opportunities as our kids,” Greene said, “and we also want them to continue.”

Groups outside of the school struggled to get interest. The last boys baseball team at Bakersfield, according to his coach Steve Barnes, was in 2012. Essert said he tried to make the Lions boys at Bakersfield Volleyball Club four or six. perhaps people will report.

“People said they were interested in it,” he said, “but of course, in the future … they won’t swear by it.

Playing in the team is expensive, and doubles when your child plays in Valencia.

“I think the eastern schools … are working as hard as we can,” Freehling said, “because these are kids – they don’t have time to go to the game. He can’t. they pay. “

Another reason for the lack of participation, according to the four instructors, was the idea of ​​sports for girls. While Clemons was running his club, he realized the boys didn’t see the boys playing and took them to see Long Beach State and UCLA. Barnes remembers the players telling him that their friends were laughing at them.

Bland said the concern with “traditional male practices in sports” would work a way.

“As a community, we need to move beyond that,” he said. “All in all, when we open those doors for students, it gives them another chance to succeed.”

Outside of Bakersfield, the men’s pool is on the rise. Writing for, Chuck Curti cites NCAA research showing that high school enrollment increased 29 percent between 2008-09 and 2018-19 as enrollment increased. School attendance was 79 percent.

“There are a lot of lessons for boys that aren’t used,” Clemons said.

Players also enjoy the unique benefits of the game.

“I think volleyball has a real power to teach responsibility,” said Isaac Gamboa, a Stockdale alum who spent three years starting at Sarah Lawrence. “In baseball, if you hit, that’s what’s out, but the guy that’s going to do as well as he is if you’re on the field.”

The other, as Barnes said, “Where are you in a sport (where) you can hit as hard as you can, right at someone?”

Elsewhere in California, volleyball culture continues to flourish. Freehling grew up in Pacific Palisades, where he played regularly as a child. Touchstone played in San Diego in college and saw big male players choose volleyball. Barnes recalled seeing the brothers working together.

“In the south, boys are being taken out of elementary school,” he said. “I see them at girls’ competitions – they eat with their sisters.”

Author Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow her on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.

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