December 3, 2007

Want to Transfer? - The Good, The Bad and The How.

It seems as if today's game of college volleyball has more instances of Student-Athletes (SA) wishing to transfer schools. The desire to transfer could be the result of a few things:

1. The SA may be unhappy with the academic avenues available to them - this does happen if their academic interests change once they get into college.

2. The SA may be unhappy with a lack of playing time. This is probably the most common reason for transferring.

3. There may have been a coaching change and the SA does not wish to remain a member of the program, thus they are interested in finding a new school to play for.

4. Even though the SA took an unofficial and/or official visit to the school before committing, once with the team, they realized that this was not the best fit for them. This type of transfer happens more and more, when SA's realize that what was shown to them on a visit, is not the way things really are.

With these being the most common reasons, let's look at the Good, the Bad and the How of transferring.

The Good - You get a chance to possibly find a better situation; academically, athletically or socially. If you really feel that your current school is not your place and you are unhappy, then maybe a new school can be the answer. You will get a fresh start on a new volleyball team, you may have a whole set of academic avenues open to you and a whole new world of experiences is waiting. The best thing about a transfer, is when you are leaving a clearly bad situation at your current school, you will be in a position to truly appreciate a better place. Sometimes it is only when we are in a bad spot, that we come to savor being in a good place.

The Bad - The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence - or to use another example; You don't want to go from the frying pan to the fire! It may be hard to hear, but maybe the problem is internal, not external. If you are not playing, is it because the other player is better, or you are not doing what is necessary to gain the spot? Many times academics are only as good as you make them - if you are not challenged, have you sought out a challenging environment? Speaking of academics, you will lose credits/units when you transfer. The number transferable units depends on the new school, but you will need to take more units to catch up or look at graduating a semester or year later. Finally, the new school situation may not be any better than the old school and it could be worse. Are the other players nice or bothersome, is the campus safer or not, is the academic support better or worse - be careful because you may just transfer into another poor situation!

Before I get to the HOW - some of my experiences with the Good and the Bad. As a player, I never felt the need to consider a transfer, but a couple of my team mates did. In general, what they were looking for at another school they did not find. Their issues were internal, not external. As a coach, I have been privy to a few transfer situations - the Good was when a player realized that the reality of the program was much different than what was presented to her, and she was not happy; a transfer allowed a much better place for her. The Bad was when a player transfers because they are not happy with playing time and I know from professional experience, that the new school they are going to is not going to be the answer - they will not play any more at school #2, then they were playing at school #1.

A dis-service has been done to a number of SA's by parents and club coaches - When you spare the rod, you spoil the child. I am not saying more kids need to be spanked by mom and dad, but more high school volleyball players need the tough love of honesty or they will not have a grip on volleyball reality. If a player is an average player, but looks good because they play in a small high school or for a second tier junior volleyball club, they need to hear this in high school so they don't go off to college and face the hard reality of NCAA sports. Sure, they may not be going to Stanford, but any college volleyball program will have much higher demands than any high school or club team.

I have sat stunned while a player or parent lectures me on how great they are and how I have no idea about what I am doing because they are not playing. Amazing, because my job and the future of my family depends upon our ability to be successful as a team - if it was so obvious that this player was so good, then she would be on the court!!

The How - This is where you get to go Back to the Future! Back, because you have to start the recruiting process all over again to find your Future! With a bit of luck, maybe a school or two that was on your short list, has a scholarship available and will offer it to you. But, many times this does not happen, especially if you decide to transfer late into the spring semester.

The first thing that you need to do is request a Permission to Contact release form. Per NCAA rules, you (or your parents) can have zero contact with any other school before you receive this Permission to Contact form. Some players will side step this rule, by having a club/high school coach make some initial calls/e-mails to college programs - this is a bit shady and will only make you or your new school look poor.

The Permission to Contact release form comes from the Athletic Director via the Compliance Director - the volleyball coach is not authorized to issue a release. The process is to go to your coach and tell them you would like to have a release - make sure you are clear in your reasons why you want a release. The coach may or may not support your request for a release. Then you go to the Director of Compliance's office to tell them you have spoken with your coach and would like a Permission to Contact release form. The Compliance Director will not issue one right there - they will need to confirm with your coach and find out if the coach supports your request. Then the Compliance Director will need to relay this information to the Athletic Director. If the coach and Athletic Director support your request, then the release can be issued quickly.

You want to receive a blanket release if possible. This type of Permission to Contact release will allow you to initiate contact with any school you wish. The majority of schools WILL NOT give an outright blanket release, but will release you to any non-conference member institution (this is no big deal because transferring in-conference, you would automatically lose a year of eligibility in Division I). A few programs will be very specific about what schools they will release you to and you may need to provide a complete list of schools you wish to contact. Then the Compliance Director will give you a series of specific Permission to Contact releases.

If the Athletic Department does not support your request for a release - you have two avenues; stay at the school or request a hearing. Per NCAA rules, any time a transfer request is rejected, the school must provide a non-athletics committee to hear the reasons for your transfer and to make an independent decision. Personally, I have never heard of a transfer committee not releasing a student athlete - it is a hassle to engage in such a review, but you will win.

OK - you have your release, now what?

- You must IMMEDIATELY start calling schools to inform them of your interest. Because of the accelerated recruiting time frame, most programs are long done with the current year's recruiting cycle. They may want you, but they don't have any scholarships. The quicker you contact schools, the better chance you have of securing a scholarship.

- Be clear in the reason why you want to leave your current school. Many coaches, rightfully so, are uncomfortable about accepting transfer players; all to often, transfer SA's can bring a lot of emotional baggage with them! They will want to know exactly why you are transferring; do yourself a favor and be completely honest.

- Unless a potential school had earnestly recruited you while in high school, be prepared to send them video tape of your matches. This can be a bit tricky, because you will need to get these match tapes from the staff you just told you want to transfer! But, just like when you were in high school, potential coaches want to see your skills.

- Offer to make an unofficial visit, if the a new program shows interest. Don't wait for an official visit, this will take too long - remember that you are not the only SA looking to transfer. If you do receive an official visit, be sure to take a hard look at everything, especially since you are a bit more mature and experienced with college volleyball.

Again, either by support or reject and overrule, you will have your Permission to Contact release. One situation that may come up is if you don't have a release to a certain school you really want to attend - this likely happens if you wish to transfer to a rival school. In cases such as this, the transfer committee may not support your request. You can still transfer, but per NCAA rules, you cannot receive any athletic related scholarship for one year - you have to pay your own way for that 1st year. For some players, who may be transferring to a home state school, this is manageable - but, if you are looking at massive tuition associated with a private school, you may wish to rethink your transfer destination.

When looking at transferring, make sure you understand exactly what you are doing. Be sure you are leaving your current school for a valid reason that can be remedied at a new school - I promise you there is more emotional satisfaction by overcoming a tough challenge, then by running away from it.

But, if you are in bad spot because of the character of the coach or some significant negative aspect of the school - then please go through the necessary steps of getting a Permission to Contact release and be proactive in searching out your new future.

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