Dual-sport athlete Jerrion Ealy signs with Ole Miss on National Signing Day to play both football and baseball for the Rebels
Mackenzie Salmon, Clarion Ledger
One day in January 2018, Trey Rolison stood in his kitchen tending to a sick daughter when his phone erupted with the pinging of notifications. In less than an hour, Rolison, the principal at Walnut Attendance Center, received more than 30 emails telling him umpires for the school’s softball team had been assigned to cover baseball.
Rolison had locked-in umpires for both teams’ schedules a few months earlier, in October, but softball ended up with unreliable officials because of a lack of available umpires for baseball.
“That put me over the edge,” Rolison said.
Eleven months later, at a District I meeting of the Mississippi High School Activities Association, Rolison proposed moving volleyball to the spring and fast-pitch softball to the fall. The idea enraged volleyball minds throughout the state, and now, the proposal won’t reach a vote during the MHSAA’s legislative council meeting today.
According to a copy of Rolison’s proposal sent to the Clarion Ledger, Rolison gave five reasons for flipping the sports’ seasons:
1. There are rarely rainouts in the fall as opposed to the spring.
2. This would make it easier to schedule officials because you are not competing with baseball.
3. This would give your junior colleges and local schools a chance to recruit games, if they chose to do so.
4. This would give an opportunity to compete against private schools.
5. Many gyms in our state still have no air conditioning. Temperatures are much more bearable in March and April when compared to August and September.
Rolison wanted to improve softball. He didn’t realize the effect his proposal would have on volleyball, a sport that began in Mississippi high schools in 1995 and has grown ever since.
After Rolison’s idea passed overwhelmingly in District I (an area in the northeast corner of the state), putting it on the docket for the full legislative meeting, word spread throughout volleyball circles.
“We are not for that,” Brandon volleyball coach Kelsa Walker said.
Volleyball coaches saw the change as a conflict between the club and high school seasons. Club volleyball begins in November and stretches into the following summer, and collegiate recruiting takes place on the club scene. High school teams wouldn’t be able to play out-of-state tournaments, players couldn’t practice year-round and, as a result, the quality of play would decline.
“We’re finally catching up in the volleyball world,” Walker said. “… That will take us out of the picture completely.”
Before he heard the backlash, Rolison took his idea to District II. He only received a handful of votes there. As he gathered information, he found the further south he went, the less support he received. Rolison heard the argument for keeping volleyball in the fall, and two days before the legislative session, he decided to kill his own proposal.
“If it’s going to hurt anybody,” Rolison said, “I’m not for it.”
Still, Rolison hopes the high school athletics community keeps searching for ways to improve softball. He’s not satisfied, and he wants the conversation to continue.
“No matter how good anything is,” Rolison said, “we should be looking to improve whatever we can when it comes to students and student-athletes.”