Blocking the Ball

Creation of Hackley volleyball team faces challenges


Hackley offers many different sports during the fall season, including soccer, field hockey, and cross country. In the Ivy Preparatory League, every school has a girls volleyball team except for Hackley and Collegiate, which is all boys. Many students on campus are trying to change this.

Though Hackley does not offer volleyball as a team sport, students can take a volleyball PE class twice a week. Senior Maggie Zhang has been trying to get a volleyball team set up since her freshman year at Hackley. Before Maggie came to Hackley, she played volleyball.

“Starting from elementary school, I played volleyball,” she said, “I was the team captain in elementary school, and then in middle school, I was also the team captain…I’m very passionate about volleyball, so I was kind of disappointed that Hackley didn’t have a volleyball team.”

In her freshman and sophomore years, she talked with Athletic Director Jason Edwards about bringing a team to Hackley, but the possibility of a volleyball team seemed slim. She has also talked with the volleyball PE teacher Mary DiNardo, an Upper School math teacher, about getting a team; however, the decision was not up to her.

When Maggie was a junior, she started talking to Gabby Hogrefe and a few of her friends, who were also passionate about starting a volleyball team. However, as a senior, Maggie found it hard to coordinate with Gabby and her friends, so she has not worked on this as much this school year.

As a current junior, Gabby has been taking volleyball P.E. since her freshman year and is currently working with her two friends, Sofia Malhas and Elyse Wang, to try to establish volleyball as a team sport.

Gabby emphasizes how creating a volleyball team will be extremely beneficial, giving players more opportunities to practice. “With a tea,m you could actually play against other schools, and there’s more practice, and it’s more of an organized thing. And right now as a PE class, I know there’s a lot of really good volleyball players, and people who like playing the sport, but they can’t play at a higher level than just competing against their friends.”

Last spring, Gabby and her friends met with Mr. Edwards, and asked about the possibility of starting a team, and were told to set up a team in Middle School before they could create one in Upper School. This fall, they presented to Middle Schoolers during a community time to gather interest in volleyball. While they were getting ready to gather an interest form for Middle Schoolers, they were stopped, as there would not have been enough space for a volleyball team in Middle School.

As Mr. Edwards explained, there are only about 60 girls playing sports in the Middle School. With the programs we already have set up, there would not be enough people to start another team. Mr. Edwards said that the best way for athletic programs to be successful is if a Middle School team feeds into a team in the Upper School. However, this is not an option for volleyball.

Gabby, Elyse, and Sofia have made a form to gather students’ interests in volleyball, and they hope that they can send it out. After gathering this important information, they plan to meet with Mr. Edwards again.

However, this is a difficult process with a lot of steps. First, they have to get their idea approved by Mr. Edwards once they have gathered the interest of students. Then they have to make sure there is space to play volleyball and someone to coach volleyball five days a week so that they can get things up and running.

Gabby hopes that they will be able to get this done to be ready for the fall next year, as she will be a senior.

However, it does not seem likely that a volleyball team will be started anytime soon. According to Mr. Edwards, with the low enrollment rates, and having 20 percent of girls not doing a fall sport, if a volleyball team is started, one of the programs we already have will be hurt. Other schools like Riverdale, Fieldston, and Horace Mann are able to have volleyball teams since their schools are bigger and have more kids. However, at Hackley, this is nearly impossible.

“The basic fact is it’s a numbers game. And we don’t have the numbers the other schools have,” said Mr. Edwards. According to Mr. Edwards, around 137 girls participate in fall sports, which would leave only about 15-20 girls for volleyball, who would have to be proficient in the sport to create a “viable” program.

Another reason why Hackley has not added a volleyball program is that it would hurt the sports teams we currently have. According to Mr. Edwards, with the enrollment we currently have, especially in the middle school, adding volleyball would take away from one other sport, which would most likely be the already successful field hockey program.

“At the middle school level, something’s going to give. One of those traditional sports that have been feeders for the programs that we have up top are gonna go away. And the guess would probably be field hockey.”

Additionally, Mr. Edwards stresses the fact that the time commitment from the volleyball P.E. is a lot different than what a varsity volleyball program would look like. Instead of playing volleyball two hours a week, students would play volleyball 5-10 hours a week, not including tournaments they might have on weekends.

“We would have to see an increase in enrollment to see a volleyball program here…knowing that 20 percent of our students don’t play a single sport here,” stated Mr. Edwards.

Although there is an interest in volleyball here, and students have been trying to start a team for years, Mr. Edwards does not think there is room for a team right now.