SANDY Kevin Ring grew up in Oregon and never had the chance to play much volleyball with other boys.
"There was no boys volleyball at all," said Ring, who is now the head men's volleyball coach of the University of California San Diego. "I just went to girls volleyball camps. ... I played in P.E., and the coach that ran the camps just let me play with the girls. I learned a lot."
Ring was a very good student and studied chemistry. He chose to go to UC San Diego and was able to make the team.
"I had the opportunity to combine two things I love," he said.
Now he offers young men that same chance to play college volleyball and it's an opportunity that not many men get. That's because if a school has a volleyball team, it has very few scholarships to offer. Ring was watching the country's best volleyball players competing in the 2008 USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Boys Championship at the South Towne Expo Center Wednesday. He said college coaches attend the tournament because they can see all the best players in one stop as 384 teams play in different tournaments until July 9.
"We're all looking at about the same pool of kids," he said. "The majority are from California because it's a hotbed for volleyball. But there are a good number of players out there, and this is a chance to see them."
Ring believes that if college opportunities were more plentiful, more athletic boys would opt for volleyball over basketball, baseball or football.
"It's sort of a what comes first, the chicken or the egg," Ring said. "But I think more kids would see this as a viable means to go on."
In California, the sport is intensely popular and has been sanctioned for boys since 1973. And while the quality of teams, especially in the Midwest, has increased, the overall popularity is growing at a much slower rate.
"A lot of club volleyball programs in other states (outside California) have gotten a lot better," Ring said.
Trying to earn a scholarship was the last thing on Dylan Kordick's mind when he signed up to play in a two-on-two beach volleyball tournament with a friend when he was 9 years old.
"Rather than just watch his older sister, he decided to sign up," said his father, Bruce Kordick, who grew up in the Midwest. "He started playing indoor at 11-years-old and then he joined this team at 12."
Dylan has played every sport available, including basketball, baseball and football the sport his father played in college.
"But little by little he dropped one sport at a time to focus on volleyball," Bruce Kordick said. "I think after the 1984 Olympics when the U.S. men won the gold medal, it really changed the perception."
Despite the fact that he didn't set out to earn a scholarship in athletics, Dylan Kordick will play volleyball for Stanford next year.
"He just wanted to play the sport he enjoyed," his dad said. And unlike his dad, Dylan grew up in Southern California and attended a school known for its volleyball programs.
Spencer Hill did not have that advantage.
The Illinois teen played basketball until his senior year when a club volleyball coach talked him into committing to the sport.
"My coach gave me the club info and I decided this year I wanted to get a scholarship," he said. Hill will play for Fontbonne University in St. Louis."It's really not very popular in my high school," he said. "That's why I came to club. It's more competitive. ... Although I think it's getting more popular. We just got a middle school team for boys last year for the first time."