Merritt Misfits is the new volleyball sensation in town.

The U13 Girls volleyball team is hitting the volleyball courts during their first year of club volleyball and marking their presence.

Gian Cavaliere, coach of the Merritt Misfits, said that he decided to create a U13 girls volleyball team in Merritt after noticing a steady decline in how many girls are playing sports in the province.

“We (the provincial board for B.C. high school sports) were slowly noticing once the girls hit about Grade 9, the number of girls that play sports really drops,” he said.

He saw it as a golden opportunity to keep advocating for kids to have more access to sport and keep playing sports, especially volleyball.

“One of the sports that’s really standing out, that’s getting a lot of momentum is volleyball,” Cavaliere added. “We have, for the first time this year in many years, a full set of girls’ team and a full set of boys’ team, which is great. So I really wanted to tap into that momentum.”

While building the team, Cavaliere was caught off guard during the tryouts. 

“We had 49 girls come to try out, which is fantastic for a small community,” he said. “We now have a travelling team where we travelled to spots like Vernon, Burnaby, Abbotsford and Kamloops to play games.” 

The Merritt Misfits was recently nominated Team of the Week by Volleyball BC. Cavaliere describes them as a “great group of girls who work hard, have lots of energy and bring a lot of personality to our team.”

“It’s a lot of fun to be with them,” he said. “What’s exciting is that other club teams who have been in B.C. for a long time, they’re loving the energy we bring to our games, they love our logo and they love our name,” he added.

Cavaliere recognizes the impact of sports on people’s social skills development and network and hopes that kids are impacted the same way. 

“The networks you develop and the community develop is so special and so impactful. For me, without that community of people, I feel like there’d be an empty void in my life,” he added. 

While most of the volleyball teams have nicknames inspired by animals such as the Cougars Volleyball Club based in Maple Ridge, or weather patterns such as the Vancouver Thunder Volleyball Club, Cavaliere wanted to break the pattern for his team and decided to call it Merritt Misfits.

“I just wanted to do something different, like something that would symbolize who we are,” said Cavaliere. “Growing up I was a bit of a misfit myself, in a fun way. So, I just felt it was a good representation of our team. We have girls that are kind of sassy and fun.”

Despite having a cost attached to it, just like any other community sport, Cavaliere said that the program tries to support parents and make it as easy as possible, giving the option for parents to pay their fee monthly.

“I just try to help to break that barrier of cost because I don’t want cost to be a hurdle or a limitation for our kids. I want our kids to play as much as possible,” he added. 

Cavaliere added that the not-for-profit club is also looking for possible volunteers to coach, as his goal is to keep the program running and growing.

“My hope is that now that the brand is developing some momentum now that people are coming and hearing about us, my hope is that others will say ‘you know what, I want to be a misfit’,” he said. 

“Our community has a lot of members who grew up in Merritt, played volleyball in Merritt, and they’ve chosen to come back and live in Merritt. And I like to tap into that community and see if some of these members would like to come out and coach a team and take over a team.”

As Cavaliere continues to expand the ‘Misfits’ brand, he shares on what he is planning up ahead to offer a community house league for those who didn’t make into the travelling team.

“Anyone that tries out can play in a house league and the cost would be lower. We’d have referees, it’d be a fun kind of like jamboree style kind of league,” he added. “So my hope is that even if you don’t make into that travelling team, there’s still an opportunity to play volleyball in the community and play against other kids in your age and just have some fun.”

He also partnered up with a Kelowna-based company to host a volleyball clinic in Merritt on Saturday, May 4.

Merritt will be hosting the U13 Girls Regionals on April 13-14, and volleyball enthusiasts will be able to check the Merritt Misfits in action. The Misfits will also be attending the provincials on April 27-28 in Abbotsford.