The recruiting process for college volleyball has significantly changed in the last few years. Coaches and recruits are commenting upon the accelerated pace of the process and pressure to recruit/commit in a much earlier time frame. Many folks feel that this is a result of the Internet and all its ramifications - Instant Messenger, Text Messages, e-mail, college athletic web sites with interactive features, etc.
In addition, some prospective student athletes (PSA's - the NCAA term for any athlete that has entered 9th grade) are current with the NCAA rules because of research or just having had a sibling or friend go through the process. These rules, which I will make note of in an upcoming entry, allow for unlimited phone calls placed by the PSA, unlimited Unofficial Visits to a campus, unlimited e-mails (but no reply from the college coach until September 1 of the Junior year of High School), unlimited interaction while on campus (provided it is not a Quiet or Dead Period), etc.
With all of this information being exchanged and the visual reference of having college coaches scouting the earlier ages of Junior Club Volleyball, there is the false impression that PSA's may be left out in the cold if parents don't get with it! The reality is - not really.
Let's start with a time table to effectively prepare for the world of college volleyball recruiting.
Freshman Year - The most important thing to do as a freshman volleyball player is to NOT think about college recruiting - this should be the LAST thing on anyone's mind. What all freshman in high school should be doing is just having fun playing volleyball and trying to improve each time they go to practice or a competition.
What may happen, if someone is a tall, coordinated volleyball player as a freshman, they might get an introduction letter from a school(s) that wishes to get them into their database for the future. As college programs become better supported (full assistant coaching staffs, secretary, Director of Operations, etc.) they may have more time to send out early letters to make an initial impression, just in case the freshman turns out to be good, but one cannot put too much stock into such letters - in two years time, who knows what that college will need to recruit? Injuries, red-shirted current players, academic issues and coaching changes all affect the building of a roster.
Not too long ago, players made a verbal commitment to Division I schools after taking an Official Visit to the college when their volleyball season had finished during their Senior year. That seems like a long, long time ago, because we have now moved to the point where players are making verbal commitments after paying their own way on a Unofficial Visit sometime before or during their Junior Year of High School. This is a very tough decision to make while a player is 16 years old and trying to interact and project a future with 22 year old college kids.
Don't get me wrong, it is special to get that 1st recruiting letter (I still remember mine and I think it is somewhere in my parents stuff), but it is nothing more than a piece of paper. I cringe every time I hear a parent talking about a letter their daughter got from a Big Time Program and how she is being recruited; the odds of their child actually attending that Big Time Program on a scholarship are very, very slim. In a sense, it is a false illusion that can really taint a relaxed year of volleyball.
The focus of the player and family should be to just play ball and enjoy this special time of being young, healthy and athletic. Please don't spoil the experience of just having fun and playing volleyball by worrying about the recruiting process. The future will get here soon enough - enjoy the freshman year of high school and club volleyball.