The Club Volleyball season is upon us and each year it seems to start quicker. I am now hearing stories of some California and Illinois players not playing high school volleyball because they want an off-season from club volleyball!
The younger years of Club Volleyball should be solely focused upon bettering skills and to have an enjoyable experience with friends and team mates - it should be the experience that is important. As a player transitions from the Sophomore to the Senior year of high school, Club Volleyball moves from experience into business. It is the business of finding a college that fits your academic and athletic needs.
Like any business, exposure to potential customers is critical. To this end, as a 17's and older Club Volleyball player, you should be very selective about which Junior Olympic Club Volleyball tournaments you attend. Since you or your folks are paying a fee to participate with your Club team, you have the right to influence the selection of the playing schedule.
I believe the tournament schedule should be made up of fewer, but bigger tournaments and less small tournaments when you are a Junior or Senior in high school (this usually equates to the 17's and 18's year of club). Showcasing your abilities to college coaches is the goal and to maximize this exposure we need to remember the parameters that college coaches operate within.
Division I coaches cannot go to off-campus club tournaments until February (for the 2008 recruiting calendar click here), they can only spend 80 days recruiting until the beginning of the high school season and they have a finite number of evaluations per player. Division II coaches do not have a recruiting calendar,yet they have small recruiting budgets which severely restrict their ability to travel - Same applies to NAIA and Junior College coaches.
With these recruiting parameters for college coaches, combined with the accelerated time frame of Prospective Student Athletes (PSA) making commitments, playing a majority of your club tournaments in the mid-February to end of April time frame is the best choice (May is another NCAA Division I recruiting Quiet Period).
Playing a bunch of tournaments in December and January is not smart - tournaments are costly and you don't want to wear yourself down before the college coaches can begin evaluations. Since most college programs have secured their commitments from the Junior class and/or filled needed spots from the Senior class during the spring, playing a bunch of June or July tournaments does not make sense either.
Now that we know our tournaments should be focused into a two and half month time frame, which tournaments are the ones to attend? Below is a theoretical tournament schedule, after one or two early regional warm-up tournaments:
1. The Las Vegas President's Day tournament or Omaha President's Day tournament. With the Division I recruiting calendar, these are the first big tournaments that college coaches attend. Las Vegas has always been the more popular, but recently that has changed. Many club teams and college coaches are finding the Omaha tournament a better fit for their budgets and opportunities to see players - Las Vegas is very spendy for everyone because of the Holiday and is spread out all over the city, while the Omaha one is much less costly and event site allows for one stop shopping.
2. A Tour series organized within your region or conducted between regions. A number of regions run such Tours that typically have 3 to 4 events with a championship weekend - they usually start in January and are scheduled as not to conflict with the major tournaments.
3. Two Junior Olympic National Qualifiers. There are a total of eight such tournaments around the United States and they all run in March and April. These are the largest tournaments in the country and where you will find the most number of college coaches attending. That is the good news, the bad news is that these tournaments are long and expensive. But, for colleges that may not have the money or desire to get out to recruit every weekend, these are the tournaments they attend.
With this type of schedule, you can maximize your exposure to college coaches without your folks having to take out a 2nd or 3rd mortgage on the house! Playing a bunch of no-name regional tournaments is only going to expose your skills to smaller local colleges and universities and make the club season feel too long.
With two smaller regional warm-up tournaments and/or a Tour, along with a President's tournament and two Junior Olympic Qualifiers will assemble about a six event schedule which should showcase your volleyball skills to hundreds of college coaches. This schedule will give you the best quality exposure, as cost effective as possible and will keep you fresh during the club season.