February 27, 2017

All around volleyball skill development.

Hello Coach,

My daughter plays National club volleyball.   She has been placed on the opposite side (right side) because of her height and blocking ability.  As a result,  she sees very limited opportunities to hit the ball.   My daughter is middle school aged.

She plays middle hitter for the highschool team. Should I be concerned about the lack of hitting opportunities at the club level for college recruiters?

Thank you for your response.


Because of your daughter's age, I would not stress about her lack of hitting opportunities.  Flip it around, and think about the opportunity she has to improve her blocking abilities against the other team's primary attacker.

Many junior high age club teams will put their taller players on the right side, for the obvious reasons of blocking, but also to buy them time to mature physically.  Players which enjoy an early growth spurt can fall behind in their coordination. They eventually catch up and surpass many of their shorter team mate in volleyball ability, but that early spurt can wreck havoc on the hands eye feet symphony for a 7th grader.

I understand in today's club volleyball recruiting world, there is a pseudo pressure to engage early in the recruiting process; everyone hears about that one player who committed to giant state university as an 8th grader, so all the parents of other junior high age players start to get antsy.

Please, please and please remember - Freshman Free, Sophomore Slow.   Don't get caught up on the quicksand of college recruiting when in Junior high; just play, have fun and live in the moment!

If she is playing MB in high school (already?), then she is getting sets and the MB and/RS attack swings have transferable characteristics.

Be as concerned about her passing and ball control, as you are about attacking.  

Sure, those big tall hitters who bring the thunder garner attention from friends, family and fair haired college recruiters.  But who is to say if your daughter is done growing?  Many female athletes will come close to their final height in Junior high or freshman year of High school.  While 5'10" is big for 7th grade, it is nothing special come 17's club.

Plan for her not growing any more, by diversifying her skill sets.  If it is not possible now or next year for her to train as an outside hitter with her club, then get her into camps/clinics/beach volleyball so she can pass, play defense, set, transition, etc.  If she continues to grow, then these additional skill sets will only help her should she stay in the middle or right side.


February 23, 2017

Way too early recruiting question #488

Hi Coach, 

My PSA daughter is a 12-year old, seventh grade, 5'7" outside hitter and setter for her club's 13-1's team. She is still growing and hopes to be about 5'9" when done growing (any taller than that isn't very realistic as her mom is only 5'2").  She has been playing club for three years and volleyball for six.  Her club is a pretty well known national club that competes in the Arizona Region and sends several teams to nationals each year.  She is also an avid beach player.  Volleyball is her passion -- if she could, she would be playing 24/7 all year long.  Indeed, as it is she drives us crazy by walking around the house setting and hitting balls off the wall at all times of day or night.  She loves to hit, but also loves to set and knows setting may be a better longer term option for her given her likely eventual height.  

I read your column regularly and have read your book and am familiar with your timelines, including the concepts expressed in it to take it very slow with recruiting until sophomore year.  That said, even as a 12 year old, my daughter is very interested in playing volleyball in college (particularly ASU, which I know has had some tough volleyball times of late), and asks me frequently about the college coaches at her various national qualifier tournaments and the process of recruiting in general.  

My question relates to the timeline of college recruiting -- my daughter is only 12 (so she is in the class of 2022, which is hard to believe -- so many good volleyball times ahead of her!), but I just read an article posted by the NCSA website you are affiliated with that states:  "The Division I recruiting timeline is the most accelerated of all divisions. DI programs are normally creating lists of athletes they are interested in during their middle school athletic career, and then heavily recruiting them by their freshman and sophomore year, with offers coming shortly after." 

This timeline seems more accelerated than that discussed in your book or columns?  Should my daughter hope to start hearing of interest from D1 programs as early as next year (her second/last year of middle school)?  If she doesn't get that interest in 8th grade is it unlikely that she will be able to compete at the D1 level (unless she grows significantly more in high school) for scholarships?  

Finally, given the NCSA post, when is the right time to post video highlights from her games or skills video to her NCSA profile?  I have been reluctant to do that for her given that she is only 12, but maybe it's not too early....

Thanks for any guidance you can provide. 

Proud AZ Dad 

Thank you for your email and questions.

NCSA Next College Student Athlete, which is my full time position, does a great job of providing valuable recruiting education articles for their Free and Premium members.  NCSA focuses on the trends in recruiting, in addition to the governing body rules, when they share information.  The early recruiting of NCAA Division I athletes has moved beyond a trend, and now is established protocol, but there is such variety in Division I Volleyball programs.  

As the article references, the DI category has the earliest recruiting timelines but there still are differences within DI program's timing.  The top Power Conference programs are evaluating 7th and 8th graders and offering scholarships to 8th grades.  But, the players which are being recruited so young have exceptional height, athletic prowess and advanced skill set; it is obvious to all observers that these are stud players.

The NCSA post also talks about freshman and sophomore scholarship offers - When we move away from those top DI programs, we see the timing of DI recruiting slow down a bit.  The rest of the power conference programs will be offering freshman, the mid major programs will be offering sophomores, the lower DI programs will be offering Juniors, etc.  There are over 300 NCAA Division I volleyball programs, and as you move from #1 to #300, the recruiting occurs later. 

Back to your question, and my answer - Freshman Free and Sophomore slow.  Read that again; no mention of 7th grade.  There is, and should be a, difference in what the college timeline is and what the family timeline is.  I have written quite often about Freshman Free and Sophomore slow because that mantra should apply to the vast majority of club players.  Even if a player is an absolute phenom, it is a stretch to believe that an 8th grader knows exactly what she wants to study in college and where she wants to live while in college.  Sure, there are a few that are Sooner Born and Sooner Bred and when I die, I will be Sooner Dead, but this is the exception, not the rule.

Early commitments by families because of some type of pressure (college coach, club director, peer, etc), has lead to a large number of transfer situations.  Again, how many with graders or even freshman, have the maturity to know what they want in college.

The NCSA article contradicts collegevolleyballcoach.com and Inside College Volleyball (by the way, thanks for purchasing a copy!) only for those outstanding young players, who obviously are going to play for a Top 1o program.  For everyone else, the recruiting efforts of colleges will be focused during their high school years.

Freshman Free is just for the player; let her focus on having fun and improving skill sets.  Mom and Dad, you need to be focusing on recruiting education; academic eligibility, contact and communication rules, the variety of collegiate programs available, the support and reputation of various conferences, etc.  If a school sends an outreach email, then that is great but that is not the goal of a player's freshman year.

Sophomore Slow is as it reads; slowly start to engage in the recruiting outreach with video to colleges based upon the player's goals and family comfort zone.

Because your daughter is only 5'7" (and expected to top out at 5'9") and 12 years old, it is my belief that she will fall into the sophomore to junior recruiting time frame, if she has the skill sets to be a Division I player.  And, there is absolutely nothing negative about that; waiting a big longer in the recruiting process allows your child to mature and clarify her collegiate desires, along with having less time for something bad to occur between commitment and arriving to campus her freshman year.

Enjoy the now, because tomorrow will be here too quickly.