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Gregg Braun has wanted to grow Joliet Junior College athletics since he became athletic director in July 2019. Three years later in March 2022, Braun announced men’s and women’s bowling, men’s and women’s golf, competitive cheerleading, men’s and women’s track and field and men’s volleyball would be joining JJC.
“Knowing the area and staying up to date with our local high school sports programs, I knew the success being had on the state level for sports like bowling, golf, cheerleading and boys volleyball,” Braun said. “Then when the NJCAA declared men’s volleyball and competitive cheerleading as emerging sports, I knew JJC had to be one of the first to bring these to our students.”
Over 60 percent of district high schools offer these sports, a “huge reason” for bringing them to JJC. High school athletes in these sports would have to go out of district to extend their athletic careers. Now they can stay.
“We hope to keep these student athletes ‘home’ to compete for the Wolves,” Braun said. “We want to be able to provide them with all the resources they need to make JJC their first choice to continue their academic and athletic careers.”
The National Junior College Athletic Association Foundation and First Point Volleyball Foundation awarded JJC a $10,000 grant to start a men’s volleyball program. Nearly 250 high schools in Illinois offer boys volleyball, but the state has only 22 college-level programs — including top-ranked NCAA programs at Lewis University and Loyola University — but only one at in NJCAA Region 4.
“The reality is, not every kid is a Division I athlete,” Molly DeSerf, head volleyball coach at Bolingbrook High School, said. “There is a need and a demand to grow the game at all collegiate levels. It is wonderful that young men will now be given the opportunity to continue playing.”
Men’s volleyball will start spring 2024, but the other sports will debut sooner. Competitive cheerleading begins in the 2022-2023 school year, and track and field will follow in spring 2023. Bowling and golf are set for fall 2023.
“I want JJC Athletics to be an option for all student-athletes looking to move on after their high school careers,” Braun said. “I want our new sports, as well as our current ones, to continue to grow and be an amazing resource and avenue for our local student-athletes to play the game they love and get an amazing education.”
This story originally appears in the fall 2022 issue of Connections magazine.