January 29, 2008

Women's Volleyball Scholarships and Club Tournaments.

Another question from one of our readers!

I enjoy your web-site and the very practical information. My daughter is a junior on a very solid club team and your advice and opinions are both interesting and timely for us.

Two questions, if I may: 1) Scholarship information - This is the first year we have seriously considered pursuing a scholarship for our daughter. As we try to educate ourselves about the options and merits of various programs I've been surprised by the lack of (or at least my lack of being able to find) accessible information on what schools and PSA's have negotiated on scholarships. Is there any network or pooled source of information to determine which schools have used up their allotted scholarship #s or $s? That info would help us focus our promoting/contacting towards bona-fide opportunities/needs. At present I review the individual school websites and attempt to glean who has accepted a recent offer, who may still be on one from previous years. Am I a slow learner to realize the process depends 1st on the coach of a specific school developing an interest in your daughter, and only then does the dialogue begin about what level of scholarship might be out there? Is there a better way to promote player to scholarship opportunities?

2) Related to the first question, regarding strategies to link up with a scholarship: How much more, if any, impact is afforded to a player getting seen for recruitment is the JO finals,, vs. a regional JO qualifier or final, or, another venue like the Reno Festival? Our daughter (and the parents too, to be honest) are interested in universities within a certain region that is closer to home so we can hopefully watch and support the team on a more frequent basis. We've heard that the JOs attract more of the East-coast schools and if our interest is towards the West coast can we not fret as much about not winning a bid? I'm not interested in chasing a JO bid around by playing at 2 or more qualifiers if it serves more to gratify the club coach's ego, or market the club instead of our family's interest.Feel free to condense my questions for you postings if you think they can serve a broader audience. Thank you in advance.


These are interesting questions that I will try and answer appropriately.

Answer #1: It can be tough to determine what scholarship funding is available, especially because of the variations between NCAA divisions and Junior College/NAIA programs. With Division I programs, the NCAA allows for 12 scholarships and only 12 'heads' can be on scholarship (this is called a Head Count sport by the NCAA). If a school decides to fully fund the volleyball program, and most schools now do, then that team will have 12 kids on full rids, but the volleyball roster could be larger than 12.

To determine available scholarships for DI teams, you need to view the roster and use a little deductive reasoning - how many seniors are graduating and how many of those seniors looked to be scholarship players; if there are 3 liberos in the graduating class, odds are that they are not all on a scholarship. Next, you can figure out how many scholarship offers have been accepted by looking through the program web site releases and read about the incoming players. Usually there will be a release after the early and late National Letter of Intent signing periods that publicise the incoming players.

The simplest way to determine scholarship availability is to e-mail the coach and ask - hopefully the coach will reply with general outline of what they are looking for in each recruiting class.

Division II is much more complicated than Division I for scholarships. DII programs are allowed by the NCAA to provide 8 scholarships and each school/conference determines at what amount to fund volleyball scholarships. But, NCAA DII Women's Volleyball is an Equivalency sport - this means that you could have 25 volleyball players on scholarship, but the total amount spent on these players has to equal 8 scholarships. Many DII programs will use academic scholarships, federal and state grants, plus non-academic/scholarships (ROTC, Future Teachers, religious based, etc.) to provide financial support. This creates a rather murky picture in determining the amount of money available for a recruit.

With DI programs, it is simple to determine a scholarship amount - it is a full and each player on a scholarship is getting the same exact amount. With DII programs, each player is on a different amount and thus responsible for paying a cost of attendance bill from the school that could be significant - because of this, many DII coaches discourage any discussion of scholarship amounts because of the potential negative ramifications with team chemistry.

Again, I would strongly encourage a dialogue with the head coach at schools your daughter might be interested in - they are the ones that could provide the most specific information available. Just ask, 'what positions are you recruiting and approximately how much scholarship support do you anticipate' - While the coach may not give you an exact answer, they should be able to provide a range of support.

Answer #2: With Junior Olympic Club Volleyball tournaments, I feel that earlier in the Club season is the best opportunity to showcase a player's talent. Recruiting is a 3 headed monster - Looking at Seniors to fill open roster spots for this fall, evaluating Juniors to determine abilities for fall after next, and marking Sophomores that look to have college playing potential for 3 falls from now - Almost Crazy! Of these three, the Junior class demands the most attention and with the accelerated commitment process, this means that coaches must get a solid feel for the Junior Prospective Student Athletes (PSA's) as soon as possible.

The Junior Olympic National Championship and/or VolleyFest used to be very important to attend, but I feel this has been devalued a bit because the available Seniors are long gone, the majority of the Juniors are committed and while the Sophomores are coming into their own, there is a certain fatigue factor that comes into the college coaches - they have been recruiting hard since February and now it is summer camps and some time for vacations.

The battle between the Junior Olympic Championships and the Reno Festival (VolleyFest) has raged for years. The traditional reputation was that the VolleyFest was for the top flight
west coast teams and whatever mid-west/east coast teams could not get into the Junior Olympic Championships. Because of this, the college recruiters would usually go out to the VolleyFest (it used to be in Sacramento/Davis) for a few days to see the California teams, then shoot out to the JO Championships to catch the rest of the top flight teams.

But, there have been some interesting shifts recently in the year end tournaments - A number of California teams have begun to switch over to the JO Championships; reason being that many CA teams did not like having to play such a lengthy format at VolleyFest with the first few rounds being against not very good teams, plus there were some rumbling within the Club community that some of the Chicago and Texas teams were better. Also, the feeling was that the JO tournament was an invite/at-large selection, thus the matches were immediately competitive and it is felt to be a National Championship.

College coaches tend to prefer the JO tournament because it is all at one site, is very age and skill level specific, and coaches can see many good players on many good teams quickly - it seems to be a more efficient way to recruit. But, to complicate matters, many mid-western and eastern club programs have become very frustrated with USA Volleyball and have formed their own tour and championship - I am still waiting the outcome of this 'protest' movement, but there were some rather big name clubs that joined it!

In general, more and more top flight CA teams are heading to the JO championships because of the quality of play. But, that being said, it is a very expensive proposition to travel to JO Nationals, not to mention the costs associated with trying to qualify. VolleyFest is more straight forward, pay your money and you are in, plus it is in Reno so CA teams can drive or hop a quick flight there.

I would caution anyone to stay away from the rational that by wanting to stay on the west coast to play college volleyball means that one should only play club volleyball on the west coast.

Rather, I would determine my daughter's college volleyball potential (ask the club coach, director or recruiting coordinator's opinion and/or ask them to get feedback directly from a college coaching friend - I have done this many times for someone), then build the club schedule around that potential. If a player has potential to play DI volleyball at a mid to upper level program, then I would choose JO's. If a player is thought to be at a lower DI or DII level, then I would be comfortable going to either tournament with cost/time factors weighing in upon the final decision.

A radical suggestion would be to not play in any year end tournaments, but to spend that money on going to another JO Qualifier or high ranked regional tournament early in the season - By Nationals or VolleyFest, the college coaches have already made their evaluations of the Junior class and extended offers/received verball commitments; honestly, all they are doing is 'baby-sitting' their top recruits and then going out to socialize with their friends at night. All the hard work was done in the spring.

From what I know, even with a player wanting to stay on the west coast, if I were to choose one year end tournament to attend, it would be JO's.