Kennett’s Justin Barish joins all-girl volleyball team

This article can be found published on The Kennett Paper‘s website and the Daily Local News‘ website.
Kennett sophomore Justin Barish playing alongside his female teammates on the girls volleyball team. (Candice Monhollan)

Kennett sophomore Justin Barish playing alongside his female teammates on the girls volleyball team. (Candice Monhollan)

Justin Barish hasn’t been playing volleyball for a long time, but falling in love with the sport was instantaneous for him.

He has his aunt to thank for that.

“My Aunt plays and she really got me interested,” Barish said. “We played it at the beach. She taught me mostly everything.”

He wanted to continue to play and when the physical forms came out with the list of sports at Kennett High School, Barish noticed a listing for boys volleyball in the spring.

Unfortunately for him, the team did not exist.

… [Please continue the story on The Kennett Paper website by clicking here.]

“I e-mailed the guidance counselor and she said to e-mail the sports director and the sports director told me there was no boys volleyball team,” Barish said.

In fact, there has never been a boys team in the 81-year history of the school and it has been roughly 10 years since the last time the team has tried to come into existence, said Athletic Director Jeff Thomas.

“There was some interest to start a boys team, but in order to start the process, we need to gauge actual serious interest,” Thomas said. “When we did this, there was not enough interest to start a team so it went no farther.”

Instead, Thomas had a different suggestion for Barish.

Tryout for the girls team – which he made the JV squad.

“I was amazed that he was going to have the courage to do it,” said Maria Barish, his mother. “You could tell he had to give it his all. He wasn’t just handed the position, which was good. We wanted him to work for it and earn it if he deserved it. We are very proud of him.”

She was worried with how her son would be received by the girls on his team, but his teammates have enjoyed having him around.

“I think it’s cool to have some diversity,” said sophomore Erin Kane. “I was excited. You have to be brave to come onto an all-girls team.”

Fellow sophomore Peyton Arcieri echoed Kane’s sentiments and felt Barish helps them all improve.

“I think he brings something a little different,” Arcieri said. “He makes us better in a way because he hits harder than us so we can practice better as a team.”

The feelings from the girls are vastly different from what Barish was anticipating.

“I came here expecting all the girls to hate me because I’m a guy,” he said. “I came here, tried out, and all the girls love me. [There’s] a lot of drama, but they’re all really fun to play with and they have taught me a lot.”

Both head coach Rob Smith and JV coach Mike Ayers were not concerned with the prospect of having a boy on the team.

Once he made the cut, they checked out the rules and regulations with the P.I.A.A. and had discussions with Thomas to make sure everything was in the clear, and it was.

“He’s at the same age as the other girls are and learning at the same rate that they are,” Ayers said. “There really isn’t a difference, honestly. He’s just one of them. They treat it the same as we’re treating it as coaches and he’s just learning the game of volleyball.”

Not only does Barish want to play the game, but he is also hoping that the season spent with the girls can help generate interest from the boys at Kennett.

“This is the first step toward the guys volleyball team,” he said. “I feel this school really needs one because most of the other schools around this area has one, so why not Kennett?”

Smith believes pushing the gender boundaries in order to play has led Barish to garner attention from the school.

“It’s definitely kind of opening their eyes and looking at different opportunities to have a guys team here,” he said.

Thomas will gauge interest in starting a team and if it is appealing to enough boys, the next step can be taken.

“We need to do a cost-analysis and see how much it would be to start a team,” Thomas said. “[Then] approach the School Board with a proposal as a new team would need School Board approval.”

Until that time, Barish’s mother will continue to support her son in the decision he’s made to defy the norms for something he loves to do.

“It’s what you hope your children would do,” she said. “That’s what we need from them to change the world. I would stand behind my daughter if she wanted to be on a football field. I’ll stand behind [Justin] to be on a girls volleyball team and if he’s successful, then Kennett has another sport.”

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Categories: High School Sports, Sports, Volleyball

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