February 28, 2008

Volleyball Recruiting Verbal Commitments and Walk-Ons

One of our readers has asked a question(s) about Verbal Commitments and also Walk-Ons:

Can you please explain how it works for juniors to verbally commit when they can't talk directly with coaches off-site? Are they connecting when the PSA goes to the campus for an un-official visit or when the PSA initiates a phone-call to that coach (assistant or head?)? Who is signaling each other that a mutual interest has been developed - the club coach? Just wondering if I'm missing the bus here and need to be making more aggressive moves? We've sent the intro E-mails, athletic/academic resumes - some with a DVD and then subsequent follow-up E-mails on tournament results. Is it still our move to contact the school, or wait now for some type of response?

Second question - How realistic or ridiculous is it to consider as a back-up plan for our daughter - her trying to become a walk-on freshmen player, hoping some scholarship money might happen in subsequent years if she 'proves' herself, e.g. works hard and continues to develop? Let me attempt to better define the scenario: Getting into a solid academic program for her intended major, a school that has good career networking, is more important to us than just getting a VB scholarship/free education at 'University Anywhere'. Still, if she wants to play VB (assuming she is good enough, just not 'great'), than a VB program that will be fun and well supported is important. If she were to successfully establish herself at such a program, should we ever expect or be able to negotiate any funding for her? Thank you Mark

To answer the first series of questions about Verbal Commitments - With E-mail and Text (in August Text or IM will be against the rules), college coaches are encouraging prospects to call them. Remember, that a call placed by the Prospective Student Athlete (PSA) to a college coach is legal. If you were to look at any college coach's signature section on e-mails, they will have their office number, direct line number, cell phone number, home number and IM identification listed so PSA's have many avenues to initiate contact.

Either via e-mail, a received telephone call or via the club coach, college coaches are very direct about encouraging the PSA to come to campus for an Unofficial Visit. If a PSA does decide to come to campus, it is during this time frame that a scholarship offer would be presented. As I had written about before, the Unofficial Visit is the new Official Visit. The major difference between the two, is that DI schools can't pay for anything (DII can buy one meal on campus) but you can view practice (DII you can participate), attend classes, stay overnight on campus (if you pay the normal overnight fee via admissions), meet with professors, etc.

If the PSA or parents are responding to e-mails, sending out updates and video, then you just have to be patient. College coaches work from the top down - they are shooting for the highest possible recruit to come to campus first and thus receive the first scholarship offer. It can be a good thing, because some coaches are hesitant to invite you to campus if they would not be able to offer you a scholarship during your visit - they don't want to waste any one's time.

What I would be aware of is the response or lack of response from college coaches. If it is a one way line of communication with colleges, then I would suggest you step back and re-evaluate your list of schools. If a school has a sincere interest, then they will respond - no matter how busy they are; it is our job to recruit. The harsh truth is, by this time in the Junior or Senior Year recruiting process, if schools are not responding, they are not interested. Sometimes this could have nothing to do with talent, but rather because they do not have the need for the position that your daughter plays. If you are not getting responses, then you need to target another set of colleges that maybe play at a lower level.

In terms of Walking On at a program - If your daughter likes a school for the academic fit primary, then a Walk-On is a good situation - if she happens to do develop into an impact player, most coaches will reward her with a scholarship for her last year or two. I would not count on such a scholarship happening, because there is always another incoming freshman class that has very talented players and coaches are always trying to improve the overall ability of their program. Also, many times a scholarship being allocated to a Walk-On is a last minute situation because a scholarship became available (an incoming freshman bailed out just before the season or a returner did not return!).

I would not limit your Walk-On scholarship opportunities to just Athletic. There are many, many other scholarship opportunities on every campus that can add up to significant support. What is great about these other scholarships, is since they are not Athletically based, if your daughter decides that Volleyball (the coach, other players, travel demands, etc) don't mix well with college, then she can step away from Volleyball without the family taking a financial hit.

If a scholarship (athletic, merit, need, etc) never happens and she really likes the school to begin with, there are many perks to being an NCAA athlete; preferential enrollment, athlete only academic support, athlete only training and weight rooms, athlete only meal halls, top flight equipment, free travel, etc. If your daughter Walks-On at a program, don't ever expect an Athletic Scholarship, just be happy if one lands in her lap.

For those of you wanting the Reader's Digest version of the above answer: If your daughter is a Senior, the eliminate all schools that have not responded that are on your list of scholarship volleyball programs, then create another list of scholarship schools and start looking for a Walk-On slot at the school she most wants to attend for academic reasons; If your daughter is a Junior, then keep staying active in the recruiting process and be patient, there is still a bunch of time for the Junior class - Don't worry about a Walk-On position until after her Senior High School season is finished.

Good luck and I commend you for being aware and active in the recruiting process - your daughter will be better for it!