I attended a special event Friday afternoon at Kasson-Mantorville High School. For the first time, the KoMet volleyball team hosted a match during the school day, with all 9-12 students in attendance at K-M's fantastic Home Federal Arena, which opened a year ago.
The match began at 1 p.m. and the place was packed. A large crowd from nearby Byron was on hand to cheer for the Bears as they took on the KoMets, and the excellent K-M band kept the joint jumping.
Dodge County Independent sports editor Chris Schad wrote an excellent story about how the Homecoming event came to be, and with his permission here it is ...
By Chris Schad
Dodge County Independent
Homecoming week is an exciting time for any area high school. As many alumni and the community get involved to help celebrate their local traditions, there are several events that take place. From the coronation of the homecoming king and queen to the parade later in the afternoon, everything has a certain itinerary that has been tried and true over the years with the culmination of the Friday night football game.
However, innovation is key in any aspect to keep things new and exciting and Kasson-Mantorville High School has been making the effort to improve the process of celebrating their Homecoming.
Principal Trent Langemo has been at the forefront of this since his arrival prior to the 2015-16 school year making tweaks such as moving the coronation from Monday evening to during the pep fest on Friday afternoon, but he may have something truly outside of the box planned for this year: matinee volleyball.
The K-M volleyball team will begin what they hope is a new tradition on Friday afternoon when they host Byron at 1 p.m. as part of the school’s homecoming ceremony. The game will be treated as part of the normal school day and will feature the entire student body packed into Home Federal Arena.
“We’re always looking to build school spirit and find ways for kids to participate and engage in supporting their peers,” Langemo said of the concept. “After that first year, we had made some changes and as we were locking up the gym [after coronation] last year, I went up to [K-M activities director] Broc Threinen and told him that this was the next thing.”
A matinee volleyball match was an idea that Langemo carried over from his previous stop as a principal at Pine River-Backus High School. With the area being stricken by poverty, attendance at games was low as students couldn’t afford to drive back to school for the games, or pay to get into them. As a result, Langemo wanted to create an opportunity to get more students involved.
“It was about providing more opportunities to increase school spirit,” Langemo explained. “We wanted to provide a great experience for the players, too. It really came out of an idea to do something innovative and neat to get kids to come out to a game.”
As a result, Pine River-Backus became the first school to play two matinee games during the course of the year with the entire student body in attendance. One for the volleyball team during homecoming week and a basketball game during Snow Daze in the winter. The idea caught on as many other area schools hooked on to form a reciprocal schedule where each team played a home contest for their respective celebrations.
When Langemo brought the idea of bringing that concept to KM, Thrienen and K-M volleyball coach Adam VanOort were both on board.
“They had to explain it to me a little bit, but once I got it, I loved the idea,” VanOort said.
“Homecoming has always seemed to be just about football and the homecoming volleyball match kind of gets lost during the week. I thought it would be a nice way to share the spotlight and get some good excitement built up for volleyball as well as football.”
“It’s a cool opportunity for all of the kids that may have never been to a game or to get to a game,” Thrienen said. “Maybe you get five to 20 kids that think it’s pretty cool to see a classmate they sit next to in chemistry play volleyball and they haven’t been to a game before. They then go a couple more times and become more engaged in what’s going on in the school.”
To play a homecoming volleyball game is one aspect of the formula, but there also needs to be a second school willing to sacrifice a half day of class. However, Langemo and Threinen both got to work immediately to find an opponent.
“When we brought this up at our conference principal’s meeting, the looks on the table were kind of going ‘You’re doing what? That’s kind of crazy,” Langemo recalled. “You’re missing a half-day of school and I don’t take that for granted, but we wanted to be the innovators for this and see if it spreads.”
After a bit of salesmanship, Byron agreed to be the partner K-M needed to make it happen with the hope that Byron and many of the other area schools join in to form a series of homecoming volleyball games. While the logistics are something that should be worked out with the inaugural match on Friday, it’s definitely something that the school hopes becomes a permanent fixture of homecoming.
“I would love to have this as a tradition,” VanOort said. “I hope that everything goes well and the administration in both schools decide that this is something worth doing on a continuing basis. I think there are very few opportunities for the kids to get to play in an environment like the one we’ll have Friday and any opportunity that schools get to add a little more energy and school spirit into their homecoming is a good thing.”