February 19, 2008

Unsigned Senior Club Volleyball Playing Time

A very good question from one of our readers:

My daughter is an unsigned senior on one of the top club teams in our state. She is probably the 6th or 7th best senior middle in a very deep class (six MB's have already signed with PAC-10 schools) but unfortunately two of the top three middles in the state are also on her team. As a result my daughter is the third choice and does not play in the big matches. During a recent tournament she played in the first matches on Day One and the last matches on Day Two (about half of the games total between the two days) but during the time that three coaches were there to watch her in particular, she did not get to play. So the touchy subject is… her coach does not want to hear anything about playing time, but is there a way for her ask to play in a given match while a particular coach is watching without sounding like she is complaining about playing time? Thanks for any suggestions you might have. Sincerely, Scott

The bottom line is the bottom line: You are paying money for your daughter to play club volleyball and as an unsigned senior, the focus of this club volleyball season is to expose your daughter's talent to potential universities (double this if the other MB's on the team have signed). I understand the coach's desire not to get involved in playing time issues, but the reality is YOU are the boss and your daughter needs to get seen - especially this early in the club season. It is not the time of the Qualifiers and we are a long shot from Nationals - this time of the club season is about exposure, winning is only a nice benefit of taking care of the players.

High School and College Volleyball are different from Club Volleyball simply by the fact you pay a monthly fee so your child can play volleyball. Since you are buying this playing time, you have every right to request and expect a certain satisfaction for your money. By nature, sports are competitive ventures where each coach wishes to place a team on the floor that has the best opportunity to win, but this does not in any way exempt that same coach from fulfilling the inherent responsibility of providing exposure to potential college programs. Some may say that Club Volleyball is for skill development and a social opportunity, which it may well be for the younger age groups. But once you are playing 17 Open and 18's Club or Open, the focus shifts to garnering a spot on a college roster (hopefully with a scholarship) and continuing the improvement of volleyball skills in preparation for college volleyball.

My suggestion is to ask for a meeting with the coach, away from practice or competition that allows for a comfortable conversation. Too many parents get 'heated' and try to communicate in the wrong environment - at a competition is for sure the wrong place. After a practice session is not really the best place, but at least the adrenaline of playing a match is not there.

Explain your situation and your concerns about your daughter being properly evaluated by potential schools. You may wish to suggest, that in light of the early nature of the season (not near Qualifiers yet), that you would appreciate her being allowed playing time in each match (not game, but match), even if it is just one trip across the front row, so college coaches can at least see her during competition. Trying to get a player on the court, when coaches are watching, can be a bit tricky and distract from the focus on the match.

Because of this, I would ask for limited playing time each match; with a gentle reminder that the other MB's have signed, your daughter is still exploring her future, and the club season has not yet reached the Qualifier rounds. When presented this way the club coach should be open to some slight adjustments to the playing rotation. Again, if you present your request in the form of playing time each match, rather than game, this give some flexibility to the coach to get a few rotations in for your daughter.

But, if the coach is still hard-nosed about the situation and does not want to make adjustments, then don't get mad at her/him, but go to the Club Director and spell it out - You are paying money for club, your daughter has not made a commitment, the other MB's have, and she needs to be seen. Be very clear and unemotional in your presentation of the current situation, what you suggest as a remedy and what you have already tried to accomplish before visiting with the director. Remember that you have the power since you are paying the bills and your reasons for wishing playing time are not egocentric in nature, but rather to better the future of your daughter. The Club Director should be supportive of your desires.

Finally, if a college coach is serious about recruiting your daughter, then they will realize that the other two MB's are elite level recruits and will garner the bulk of the playing time. They should make time to see your daughter during warm-ups, pepper and keep swinging by the court to check the status. I know from experience that to find the hidden gem on the team, I have had to just watch hitting warm-ups and pepper to get a feel for an athlete and be patient until I can see her player later. Good college recruiters will make time to see a player's skills. If a few coaches are doing a 'drive by', then they are not really interested in evaluating - I would be more concerned if a certain coach or two are constantly checking up on the court throughout the day, and they are not getting a chance to see game action.

Once again, the biggest thing is to communicate with the coach in a low key environment, then take your request up the food chain to find satisfaction!

Good luck!