Leave a Ball Behind Aids Volleyball Growth

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | May 07, 2020, 12:43 p.m. (ET)

Molten volleyballs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 5, 2020) - As the movie line from Field of Dreams goes, “If you build it, they will come.”

That’s exactly what the Henry Kalungi Foundation did at Kibuli High School in partnership with the Uganda Volleyball Federation and other local high school and club teams. The consortium rebuilt an outdoor volleyball court where future games would be played.

Yet, to play the game, they needed the most important pieces of equipment for team practice – volleyballs.

That’s where USA Volleyball’s Leave a Ball Behind program stepped in, donating 30 volleyballs to the Kalungi Foundation which provided Kibuli High School a chance to host volleyball camps and play the game.

A quarter century ago, USA Volleyball Director of Sport Development John Kessel witnessed firsthand the challenges of truly developing the game worldwide. While interest in the sport gained in underserved areas of the USA and around the world, the lack of volleyballs was a hindrance for growth.

“(Leave a Ball Behind) started when a team in Africa gave me a ball they made from banana leaves, which still sits on a shelf in my office to remind me how much we take for granted,” Kessel said.

That banana leaves ball spurred the Leave a Ball Behind concept, which started in 1995 as a give-back project in celebration of volleyball’s centennial.

“I created the Leave a Ball Behind program with USA Volleyball, our regions and our amazing clubs to donate just one of their used volleyballs at the end of their seasons,” Kessel said. “The balls would be given away to other programs around the world that were less fortunate.”

Over the years, USA Volleyball has collected thousands of used, but in good enough condition, volleyballs and repurposed them to children worldwide and in underserved areas of the United States to help spread the game of volleyball.

Clubs and regions are encouraged to gather unclaimed volleyballs at tournaments. When volleyballs are brought to USA Volleyball National Championships or regional championships for donation, USA Volleyball asks the players to sign their favorite quote and provide good luck wishes on the balls with a sharpie pen. Once everyone has had a chance to include their messages, the balls are flattened for shipment to their local Leave a Ball Behind program.

Clubs and individuals can also ship donations to the Leave a Ball Behind program to USA Volleyball at 4065 Sinton Road, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80907. The program is a great resource for clubs to pass on gently used balls that are being replaced with new balls.

Jacqueline Kalungi, a former volleyball player at Winthrop University, serves as president and co-founder of the Henry Kalungi Foundation. She was able to use her expertise in volleyball to share and empower these young ladies during the day-long volleyball camp at Kibuli High School.

“The young women learned many skills, as well as the coaches gained more knowledge to take with them to their individual team practices,” Jacqueline Kalungi said. “We hope to continue this camp and expand our support to the volleyball community in Uganda through rebuilding volleyball courts just to start.”