January 27, 2008

Men's Volleyball Recruiting Question

A question regarding Men's Volleyball and Recruiting:

Hi Coach,

Nice to find your site. I have a HS junior son who took up volleyball last year and is passionate about the sport. Apparently he is quite an adept and smart player. His club coach tells us he is already playing at Junior College level. I have a friend who played at one of the Ivys - 25 yrs ago - and even at that level he felt the time commitment was simply too much and limited his college experience. Thus, maybe I should have him focus more on intramural club rather than make the effort required to get noticed by even the low level collegiate teams. Any words of wisdom?


Another good question from one of our readers that may shed some light upon Men's Volleyball and recruiting. Many times, and I am guilty of this, more information is published/discussed for Women's Volleyball than Men's Volleyball.

A few things that we must be aware of before I could offer suggestions for what Steve and his son could consider.

1. Men's Volleyball does not field the volume of teams that Women's Volleyball does - Men's NCAA Division I and Division II is combined for the NCAA Championship and I don't think it tops out any where near 100 teams. There is NCAA Division III Volleyball, but like all DIII sports, this is non-athletic scholarship based and I would not know the number of schools that sponsor at this level (I would not expect it to be huge, but it could be similar to DI/DII numbers). Also, there is Junior College Men's programs, but I think they are mainly limited to California and I would not expect the number of programs to be huge.

2. The NCAA limits Men's Volleyball scholarships to 4 per team (actually funding those 4 scholarships is the decision of the school) - because the typical roster is 12 players (or more) it is rare that the players are on fulls, but rather they are all on a partial scholarship of some amount.

3. As a point of comparison, NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball includes over 320 teams and the NCAA allows for 12 scholarships; NCAA Division II Women's Volleyball approaches 300 teams and is sponsored with 8 scholarships, but is not a Head Count sport (this means that a coach can take those 8 athletic scholarships and divide them among any number of players, then combine jthem with academic funding to create possibly 12 or more players on a full scholarship - this is one area that DII private schools have an advantage over public schools). When you mix in Junior College and NAIA teams, the total number of programs that provide athletic based scholarships to women's volleyball players (not including Division III which is academic only), approaches 1,300!

4. If we look at the number of Volleyball playing spots available, in each gender, by multiplying the number of teams by a roster of 12, you can easily figure out there are many, many more playing opportunities for woman than men, and that number only increases when you factor in scholarship playing opportunities.

5. The concern of athletic time commitment negatively affecting academics and the general college experience is valid - This time commitment demand is a huge change from my days as a player. Everyone expects the regular season to be crunched with practices, lifting, travel, games and normal studies, but now the off-season is no longer off! The off-season begins the first week of school and runs until finals. With coaching staffs now wanting their players to lift, condition, small group skill train, 'volunteer' pick-up games, and then engage in the 6 week non-traditional full team training season, the off-season can easily approach the time commitment of the regular season! There is no more off-season. I very much disagree with this new micro-management trend that I feel is a result of volleyball coaches mimicking the worst of basketball to try and gain a very small competitive advantage at the expense of the players! There is a reason Men's and Women's Basketball teams statistically have the worst grades and graduation rates for their genders: I just described it - no time to be student, all available time is to be an athlete.

Finally, Steve referenced that the current evaluation of his son was that as a Junior in high school, he is playing at the Junior College level. This would indicate that making the roster at a 4 year school would be tough and receiving an athletic scholarship at a 4 year school would very much be a challenge. This is because men's volleyball has a large talent pool and not too many places to play - most high school players that have 4 year college ability, are already playing at that college level as a Junior. It sounds as if there may be room for growth in volleyball ability, as Steve's son has only been playing one year.

To answer Steve's question would be based upon Steve knowing his son best; thus, I really have 3 possible suggestions.

1. If Steve feels that his son would benefit from the the structure and discipline that a 4 year scholarship supporting program (i.e. DI/II) would provide, then the family should push hard in the physical development of the player and the recruiting efforts to garner a roster sport and/or scholarship. In reality, NCAA teams provide the mechanism to keep students moving in a positive academic and social avenue because of the discipline and structure provided.

2. If the family feels that his academics and collegiate experience would be limited (not able to pursue a tough major, join a social club or career organization, etc) or negatively affected, then Steve should just play recreation or intramural volleyball to have fun with out the burdens of an NCAA team.

3. Division III would be a nice fit if the son wanted a higher level of volleyball than the intermurals, but did not want to commit to the drastic time demands incumbent in today's DI/DII Men's teams. This is exactly the reason Division III athletics are here - to provide a high level athletic experience, but to also make sure academics are the priority!

Because the Prospective Student Athlete (this is Steve's son) is a Junior in High School, there is zero time to waste - the family must come together and decide a game plan for the remainder of the club season and for next year.