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Hingham Welcomes Youth Volleyball

By Bob Whitney - Hingham Journal 11/04/2010, 11/19/10, 3:45PM EST


Hingham welcomes Youth Volleyball

 Hingham recently welcomed the sport of volleyball to its growing network of successful youth sports programs. This is not the two person, beach variety that you might play at Nantasket Beach in the summer but the real deal that is played competitively at the high school, college and Olympic level.

Volleyball is a sport which is often associated with left coast California types but interestingly enough has its origins in Massachusetts.

As it is so often the case in Hingham, the idea to start a youth program is hatched by one or more parents who grew up playing the sport, at least through high school and in many cases all the way through the competitive college ranks.

Hingham’s Rick Johannes, along with his wife Christy, offered the ideal profile ( two young children who had the desire to play and learn the game) to launch Hingham’s latest youth program.

In early 2010, Johannes with his sheer determination and GQ good looks embarked on his journey to enlist the support of key partners in the local community. First stop was a trip to the doorstep of the Hingham Sports Partnership and head honcho Tom Hoffman.

Hoffman and his leadership team offered encouragement, advice and the possibility of seed funding as they have done on so many different occasions over the last decade, if not longer. There was no doubt that financial support was soon on its way.

“Rick came back to us with his plan for launching the program. It was well conceived  and one of the best I have seen,” said Hoffman. The HSP stepped in to assist with funding to establish the entity, purchase the equipment and supplies, and make the appropriate infrastructure improvements in the school gym, all in time for the Fall 2010 launch.

Other key supporter’s were high school coach, Melissa McCash, who welcomed the program as a boost to the nine-year old high school volleyball program, which has struggled to succeed in a very competitive league.

The strongest programs, like the Quincy’s, Marshfield’s, etc. have excellent youth programs which afford a quicker transition to competitive high school play.

In addition, Johannes had an outstanding group of early organizer’s including Rick Souza, Aylene Calnan, Sonja Finney and Paul Lenzi who ably handled admin details and website development, all of which are vital to early success.

Christy Johannes entered a float in the July 4th parade as a creative way to announce the new fall volleyball program to the community and generate early interest.

Early August registrations were extremely discouraging, but true to Hingham form, once Labor Day rolled around the website was busy with interest, in fact interest was way beyond Johannes expectations.

Total registrations swelled to a robust 110 (parents warmly embracing alternatives to typical fall offerings of soccer and field hockey) which gave Johannes and his administrative team a headache of a different kind – lack of gym space and coaches. The Hingham schools’ Barbara Pye (along with East schools Sean and Jim) solved the space problem and over a dozen parents, many with little or no volleyball experience, stepped up to solve the coaching issue.

The big “Kickoff  Night” took place at Hingham High on September 14.

 “It was wild with all the kids and balls flying all over the place,” said Johannes. “Kids laughing and having fun. Ill never forget the night!”

The program was designed to introduce the game in a fun and energetic way to 5th and 6th graders. The equipment and instruction used was age appropriate and less intimidating for this initial exposure to the game. The 7th and 8th grade group used regulation equipment and trained and played at the high school.

The kids practiced and played twice a week for seven weeks and received over twenty hours of basic skill instruction and on court playing time. A wildy successful “ Celebration Night” was held at the high school gym on October 28. It was a great opportunity for the kids to showcase their new found volleyball skills.

Johannes and his team have received rave reviews from the kids and parents alike who feel that volleyball combines skill and movement with lots of fun and enthusiasm. It’s also a sport that you can enjoy well into adulthood unlike the soccer and field hockey alternatives. One of Johannes trusted organizers, Sonja Finney noted, “We have had growing pains but this first year has been such a success. We look forward to making next year even better.”

Johannes echoed her thoughts, “ The kids and parents have been so patient. We expect to get better next year.” With leadership like Johannes, wife Christy and a whole host of others one wouldn’t bet against them.