Even though Jared Caberto can’t play in games, he is a member of Kent-Meridian’s volleyball team.
Without a boys team at the high school, the senior’s official role is manager, but he practices with the girls.
“I feel like this isn’t really a team,” he said. “This is a family. I have been with them for so long.”
Caberto fell in love with the sport after meeting beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, when she visited Meadow Ridge Elementary School. May-Treanor was the principal’s niece.
“I barely knew volleyball but being in front on an Olympian, it gave me the courage that I could probably do this,” Caberto said.
With limited opportunities for boys volleyball in the area, Caberto decided to volunteer as manager for his school’s team his sophomore year.
“My friends were like, ‘You should be a manager,’” he said. “They weren’t really looking at me as a player.”
Kent-Meridian volleyball coach Michael Christiansen encouraged Caberto to learn the game.
“He pulled me aside taught me what to do and led me through all the steps,” Caberto said. “All the coaches love interacting with the players on the court and off the court.”
Christiansen, who played volleyball at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., advocates for boys getting into the sport.
“Any time a boy is like, ‘I want to come help and play,’ I am all about supporting them. (Caberto), I think, is our third boy manager that we have had,” said Christiansen, who has coached the Royals for 12 years. “ I want every person, boy or girl, who comes through my program to have love for the game.”
Christiansen has enjoyed watching Caberto improve.
“This summer coming into his senior year all these alumni came back and all these players and these college players and they were like, ‘Jared has gotten so much better. He has gotten so good,’” Christiansen said. “It just started as he wanted to hang out and help out and now I hope has got a love for it. He is very good. He is a great athlete.”
Christiansen said boys volleyball seems to be gaining popularity in the area. Each year, Kent-Meridian, as well as Kentwood and Kentridge high schools, host a weeklong intramural boys league, called macho volleyball.
“We get a lot of boys that want to come out and play, so there is a big interest,” he said.
There are also club teams and high-performance leagues in the area for boys.
“There are a lot of kids that play volleyball here in Kent, especially boys,” Christiansen said. “I run volleyball camps, and boys come to it.”
Caberto played briefly on a club team in Tacoma, but decided against it because of the long drive. He also played on a Christiansen’s Kent Parks and Recreation team.
Hopefully, there will be more opportunities for boys to play volleyball, Caberto said.
“I feel like there are a lot of people, especially tall guys around school, I see and I am like, ‘You would be a great volleyball player,’” he said.
Caberto said he would like to possibly coach volleyball someday.
“I don’t just love the game,” he said. “I love the people in the game, seeing the people progress in what they are doing.”
The 5-foot-7 Caberto is on the smaller side for a mens volleyball player, but he wants to play collegiately if given the opportunity. He has the support of his family, friends and coaches.
“They see a passion in me, that I have a passion for volleyball,” he said. “They want me to got further in it. I want to see myself go further in it as well.”