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IX AT 50: WRHS alum Kaylee Manns part of effort to grow pro volleyball in the US

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 8:52 PM CST
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for high school and collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Washburn Rural star turned Iowa State All-American setter Kaylee Manns never saw professional volleyball in her future.

“It wasn’t as prominent then,” the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Famer said. “It wasn’t as simple to get that opportunity. Not as many people did it.”

Unlike basketball and football, a traditional pro volleyball league in the US wasn’t an option.

“You either played sand in the States, or you went and played overseas,” Manns said.

So, she made the leap across the ocean.

“I was like, well, wait, I don’t want to go work and get a job yet. I still love playing. I can still play. And I had opportunities to do so,” she said. “So it just became like a no-brainer.”

For more than a decade, the game she loved took her across the world with stops in Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Albania, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

“I’ve been to so many countries and so many landmarks and gotten to actually live there,” Manns said. “Somebody was paying for my living and paying me to live there and giving me cars, things like that. So again, it’s crazy to think that happens for volleyball over there — because there’s nothing like that in the States. There hasn’t been.”

Until now.

Last year, Manns was one of 40 players asked to join a new professional league in the US — Athletes Unlimited, based in Dallas.

As the sport’s popularity grows, Manns is helping lead the effort to create new opportunities for American players in their home country.

“That was a lot of what we all talked about,” she said. “We’re like, ‘This is so cool.’ Like a girl that’s playing club volleyball right now that wants to play in college or a girl that’s a freshman in college can be like, this is my goal. I want to play in the States. I want to play in this league. And we didn’t have that. We said, ‘We’re going to leave.’ So it is pretty cool to give younger athletes that option.”

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