June 8, 2020

Libero and Attitude Adjustment

This past year I’ve really struggled to find the position that I want to play and I spent my club and high school season on the bench (I’m a freshman). I’m pretty short 5' 4", so I know my best bet for now is Libero. But how do I get better at home and gain confidence in myself again for next year? I’m not entirely sure about college right now but I’d like to give it my best shot.



I realized I had yet another question that I wanted to ask you. After lots of time thinking and replaying scenarios during quarantine I know that my attitude had a huge impact on my playing time. While changing my attitude wouldn’t have given me a starting position I know my coaches would’ve tried harder to put me in. 

How can I let my coaches know that my attitude has improved and that I’m working on my coach ability? I have a goal to start as a Libero by senior year and would appreciate any tips to show my improvement and attitude. I’ve played since 7th grade (that was the earliest I could play) and I’ve always been a setter. But I know if I continue to be a setter not only will I be riding the bench my chances of college ball might be out of reach. 

How do I introduce my self as a Libero?


The best way to improve is to practice and play; in any sport, the way to get better is to practice.  For instance, I enjoy surfing and I only get better by getting in the ocean and falling off my board.  With your height, the libero position would be your best fit.  Your time as a setter will help in your transition to a Libero, as the setting position also includes a focus on ball control and game intuition.  

To improve as a libero, you have to train as a libero with the focus on on passing and defense; and passing is the critical skill (too often back row players get hung up on their great digs and defense, when it is passing that the coaches need the most).  Use this summer to transform yourself into a libero by attending as many camps/clinics as possible (college/high school/club) and only train in the libero position.  Use this summer to play as much as possible on the sand or the grass or indoor pick up games. If you can't get out, then pass the ball against the wall a thousand times a day, set the ball against the wall a thousand times a day, grab a buddy or parent or sibling and play pepper as much as possible.   You are trying to achieve as many touches as possible, especially since you did not garner much playing time this past season.  

I commend you for taking a step back and evaluating that your attitude was holding you back - Not too many athletes, myself probably included, have the maturity at a younger age to realize an attitude adjustment can be needed for success.

Attitude is something which must be demonstrated, not talked about.  Even if you approach your coaches and say your attitude has changed, they will not believe that until they see the change.  A few attitude improvement suggestions; always be a bit early to the gym, always keep eye contact when the coach is talking, always be the first to jump into a drill, always be the first to shag a ball, compliment team mates (verbally, high five, pat on the back) and never demonstrate negative body language no matter how tough the drill/match.

As a libero, your attitude is huge - The two best liberos I ever coached in college had 2 vastly different styles of playing.  One was the silent assassin and the other was non-stop talk but both shared critical attitudes - They went after every single ball no matter now near or far from them, they always got dirty by going to the floor to keep every ball off the ground, they worked extremely hard in training, they always paid attention in games and practice, they were instantly supportive of their team mates, and they never ever ever had anything but positive energy no matter how tough the situation.

Because of your graduation year, you have time to transform in to a collegiate level libero by maximizing your touches and your positive, hard working attitude!

Good luck!

June 1, 2020

June 15 and Volleyball Recruiting.

Hi Coach Sonnichsen,

How are you? I hope you are staying safe during this uncertain time. I have been a long time fan of your blog. Your blog is the most helpful blog that I've found in the internet and I've read through all of your posts. Thank you for your time and dedication in this matter. 

I'm a mother of a 2022 setter and she is 5'9" tall. She is currently a sophomore and her GPA is on track to be 4.0 by the end of this school term. My daughter has had some successes locally and got some individual awards at tournaments. We are located in Idaho and my daughter has started emailing coaches in the northwest to express interests since last October. She has had some responses (mostly Division III and Ivy Leagues) asking her to complete a questionnaire and two Division III schools have invited her to some Zoom meetings, along with other recruits, to have a conversations with the coaches and current teammates. She hasn't had any Division I responses asking her to complete questionnaires, despite having sent out 5 emails to those coaches since last year. 

These are my questions:

1. As June 15th is quickly approaching, I am wondering what the recruits should be expecting from the coaches by that date. I heard from someone that coaches would actually extend an offer on that date. This sounds odd to me because if theoretically the coaches haven't communicated directly to the recruit before June 15th, how would they know that the recruit is a "good fit" to the team (not just skill wise, but also personality-wise, etc)? Shouldn't there be an official visit prior to an offer? 

2. My daughter's club team does not travel much for competition. For the coming club season, should she change to a club that does travel to out of region for tournaments in order to increase exposure? We are on the west coast and the furthest that the local teams usually travel to are Washington and Oregon. They don't attend the big tournaments in Las Vegas etc. Do Division I coaches generally travel to the smaller tournaments in Washington or Oregon for recruiting purposes? 

3. My daughter also plays up this year in club because she enjoys playing with tougher competition and faster pace. She tends to improve more when she's older girls. She did well and was the starting setter and she was mature enough to socialize with girls who are one year older than she was. However I have read that for recruiting purposes, the player should play at their own age because the coaches may overlook the player if they are not in the right age group at the tournament. Should she continue to play up next year or should she go back to her own age group?

4. Do you have any recommendations in terms of coaches that do personal online coaching assessment? I think it would be beneficial if I can get a coach (who ideally has a setter background) to watch a game tape or two of my daughter and then critique her play and decision making.


Setter Mom

Thank you for the compliments on collegevolleyballcoach.com and I am glad to hear that it has been a good recruiting resource for your family!

Allow me to jump right into your questions:

1. After June 15th of Sophomore to Junior Summer, college coaches are allowed to communicate with Prospective Student Athletes (PSA) via email, text and telephone calls.  In a very real sense, July 15th of the Sophomore summer is when direct communication between college coaches and recruits can begin.  

Leading up to this date, college coaches will find ways to communicate with athletes via club coaches, high school coaches, camps/clinics (even though no recruiting is supposed to occur at camps/clinics).  Families can still engage with the Colleges/Universities outside of the athletics department as to gain information via admissions, financial aid, student life, etc.  

With the NCAA Division I recruiting pressure for obtaining the elite athletes, college coaches don't want to be late to the scholarship offer party. They will extend that scholarship to the 6'3" Outsider Hitter, who passes nails and has a great armswing, because they have been watching them play since 8th grade and they can see if the PSA has a good attitude, is hard working, is respectful to the coaches and supportive of her teammates.

But, these early scholarship offers and the resulting commitments, can often times lead to not the best fit between athlete, coach and college.  The result of this not best fit will be transferring.  The combination of early commitments, college coach staffing changes and DI Transfer Portal has lead to an increase in the number of college volleyball players transferring each year.

2. To gain maximum recruiting exposure, PSA's should be playing in the National Qualifiers and especially out of region National Qualifiers if they are open to playing outside of their current geographic footprint.  

Because of budget and time limitations, most college programs will stay within their greater area to recruit, except for National Qualifiers (and/or the really big MLK and President's Day weekend tournaments) because they can get more recruiting bang for their buck.  The sheer size of the tournament, the concentration of talented athletes and the use of technology, allows colleges coaches to effectively evaluate hundreds of PSA's at a large tournament and maximize their recruiting dollar; this is why the National Qualifiers and huge Holiday weekend tournaments draw hundreds of college volleyball programs.

In general, local tournaments are only attended by local college coaches.  Again, it is a matter of time and money for out of region college coaches, and with the COVID 19 impacts, college volleyball programs will see significant reductions to their recruiting budgets.

If your daughter's goal is to be on a college volleyball team, and she is open to more than just schools close near Idaho, then she needs to be on a club volleyball team which plays in a National Qualifier and/or Holiday mega tournaments, especially those outside of the northwest United States.

3.  Don't think about playing up in age in terms of recruiting, but rather in skill development.  A one year jump in age group is easily manageable for recruiting by making sure her graduation information is correctly listed on the team roster, and in your recruiting outreach she makes clear she is a 17's playing on an 18's team.  If by playing up, she can readily increase her setting skills, then playing up is the better choice because college coaches recruit on talent. The better your talent the better your collegiate opportunities.

4.  I am unaware of coaches that do online assessments; plus, the setting position is the most difficult to evaluate via video, as there are just too many nuances which must be seen in person.  The most honest assessment is response to recruiting outreach.  If she has contacted 10 mid-major DI programs with video, and none respond, then she is not a mid-major DI athlete.  Her club coaches should be telling her what she needs to improve upon, and by her watching elite level club and/or collegiate setters, she can see where she needs to get better.

Overall, with her height, graduation year and grade point average, she will be in a good position to have the luxury of many collegiate choices.  The key to greater opportunity is greater exposure via playing in large tournaments outside of your region!

Good luck!