November 5, 2007

Recruiting Video Tapes

If you decide to be your own recruiting service or you pay for a recruiting service, you should make a video tape. The only Prospective Student Athletes (PSA's) that I would exempt from this recommendation are those fortunate players that have been blessed with an abundance of volleyball ability and play with a top flight junior volleyball club team - these players will be seen and recruited.

For the rest of us, we need to catch the eye of college volleyball programs by making a video tape. With volleyball recruit video tapes, there are three varieties - the skills tape, the game footage tape and a combination of both.

As a college coach, I prefer to see more skills demonstration on the video tape and less game footage. A video tape that is all game footage, while the easiest to put together by Dad (or Mom), probably showcases your ability the least - how good is the competition, was the setting or passing not good that day for your team, was it the first or last match of a tournament, how often do you actually touch the ball during a game. For example, if you are a Middle Blocker, how long does it take for a slide play to happen on the video tape to show how good you are at hitting slides? Is there more than one?

The best tapes focus on skills. A skills driven video tape allows the college coach to see, repeatedly, how good you are at your positional skills. We can guesstimate how high your approach touch is, we can quickly see how fast you load your attack elbow, it is clear whether you pop pass or follow through, do you deep dish your sets or is your release quick - many, many things that we can see in a skills tape, do not show up clearly in a game tape.

When you make a skills tape, the first thing to do is just relax. If you don't think you are doing well, then you just start again. The erase button is the best feature when doing a skills tape. You should focus on those skills that are specific to your position: Middle Blockers should show all the attack options that they can hit, blocking footwork right and left, transition footwork from blocking to attacking. Setters need to illustrate setting every possible attack option and setting from all the various zones on the court, along with end blocking movement and technique. Outside Hitters need to go through all the outside attack and combination attacks, show how you receive serve and your defensive movement. Liberos should be all about serve receive and defensive movement. For each position, focus on the main responsibility of the position.

Try to stay away from any lengthy video on non-essential areas. Two things that I see on video tapes that are not really necessary are a long introduction by the player and showing long sections of skills that are not really applicable to the college position (middle blockers in serve receive) - especially serving; college coaches trust that you can serve - we don't need to see it on a tape unless it is something unreal!

College Volleyball is a skill specialized sport. With the Libero and 15 substitutions, the game is even more position specific than in club volleyball. Focus on what your position does in college (attend a college match to see first hand) and video tape yourself doing that repeatedly to the best of your abilities. I would rather watch an additional 3 minutes of hitting from an outside hitter than 3 minutes of serving.

By and large, the video tape is just something shiny to attract the attention of college coaches, especially early in the recruiting process. It is rare that a college coach would offer a significant scholarship based solely on a tape. In Division I, the coaches will make the effort to come see you play in person. In Division II, you can join in a training session while visiting a college, so the coach can see you in person.

I use the term video tape, because the VHS format is the all around best bet to be seen. The world of DVD's and web-site hosted footage can still be a bit tricky. In my office, I have a desktop computer with the latest media package and a stand alone DVD player, yet I still sometimes have issues with getting something to play. In fact, the day that I write this, I could not watch the DVD that a recruit just sent to me. With a VHS, I always can watch the video.
After you have put together a video tape that you are comfortable with, it is time to get those out to colleges. Be realistic about where you are sending your tapes. Don't send one to Oregon if you live in Ohio and don't want to go far from home for college - Stanford is not going to be interested in a 5'9" middle blocker! Make more copies of the tape than you think you could need - it is better to have too many than not enough.

When you send out the tape/DVD, be sure to do two things - 1) Send it in a padded envelope; the postal service can be quite rough, 2) Include a quick guide to the video (skills or game footage, jersey number and color) along with your latest volleyball bio that clearly shows your name, graduation year, e-mail, telephone number and current club volleyball team.

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