MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Amy Warrick has coached for more than a decade and she is astonished at the surge in popularity of volleyball. Even at smaller schools, such as Goshen High in Pike County where Warrick is head volleyball and softball coach, girls – and fans – are flocking to the sport.
“We get great community support,” Warrick said. “At our season-opener at home against Brantley, we had more than 700 people here.”
Goshen’s population is 255.
“I’ve seen this sport just take off in the past few years,” Warrick said. “We can’t keep the kids out of the gym. We’d love to have a boys’ team, too. When I put the nets up, they get so excited. They want to know how to play the right way. It’s a fast-paced, fun game. There’s something that everybody can do.”
Goshen fields three teams: varsity for ninth- through 12th-graders, junior varsity for eighth-, ninth- and occasionally 10th-graders, and a junior high squad for seventh- and eighth-graders. “I have a team of 13 to 14 girls,” Warrick said, “but I’ll have 60 come to tryouts.”
According to Alabama High School Athletic Association figures reported to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 10,095 students participated in volleyball in Alabama in 2017-18 from a total of 384 schools. That total is up 2.2 percent from the year before. Volleyball is the No. 1 girls’ sport both in Alabama and in the United States in terms of participation.
“In physical education classes, we have a lot of kids playing volleyball,” Warrick said. “You don’t have to force them to play (for exercise). When I have open gym time outside of school hours, I’ll see second- and third-graders playing.”
Warrick, whose team finished second to St. Luke’s Episcopal of Mobile in last year’s Class 2A volleyball state tournament, has been head coach at Goshen for five years. She was an assistant at Goshen (and, before that, at Ariton) for a total of seven years.
As a coach, Warrick and all AHSAA coaches and administrators must also focus on ensuring the health and safety of student-athletes. “One thing our county system requires is to have all coaches certify every year in CPR,” she said. “The certifications are good for two years, but we certify every year. As a coach, you have to constantly be aware. In addition to being aware of problems from the heat, we have training on concussions and we have apps on our phones to use for outdoor sports that alert us on lightning in the area.”
All AHSAA schools are required to have an Athletic Emergency Action Plan in place for every sports venue. The AEAP details how an emergency will be handled at each venue, including who should take charge in treating the injured person, who will contact emergency services and other responses including who will contact the family of the injured person. Each school also has at least one automated external defibrillator and coaches must pass an AHSAA Coaches’ Education Program that includes a Sports First Aid Health & Safety for Coaches exam.
“I spend a lot of time with these kids,” Warrick said. “We know each other. I can recognize when someone is having a problem. It all goes back to the relationships you build.”