March 6, 2008

Volleyball Recruiting Evaluation by College Coach

A question about player evaluations at tournaments from one of our readers:

I love your website and have learned a lot from it! My daughter is a junior and with the club schedule underway she has some coaches watching. What advice can you give when she doesn't play her best when someone is watching, when they have made a special trip to see her? She doesn't like to disappoint people so I feel she is still beating herself up about it. Second day of tournaments go much better and she tore it up! Will coaches just move on right away or should she call and talk to them? Thanks!

I have been party to this type of response many times in the recruiting process - it is common to hear that player did not think she played well. Some points to consider, based on your questions:

1. A majority of the time, how a recruit perceived her play versus how the college coach evaluated her talent are miles apart. Players are much tougher on themselves than they need be. A college coach is watching for many things - we are interested in technique, attitude, competitive ability, etc. I know at times I like to watch a situation where a player is playing poorly, so I can see how she responds to adversity; does she fold or does she fight?

2. Personally, I don't care if a player's team wins or loses. For the player, I hope her team wins, but for me, it does not matter. I am just interested in evaluating her skills and team ability.

3. College coaches may say they are coming to a tournament to see just your daughter, but I can promise you they have many, many other players they are evaluating. Unless it is a Power Conference school and your daughter is an very elite level recruit, the mass majority of programs cannot afford to spend the resources to attend a tournament just to see one player - it does not make budget sense.

4. The only person that she should be concerned about disappointing is herself - nobody else really matters. Tell her to just be concerned with having an enjoyable time and playing her best. Again, college coaches look at so many factors when evaluating talent. Recruiting is our job and we are volleyball smart enough to see talent that may be playing poorly, versus poor talent.

5. If she wants to visit with a college coach over the phone, this should be motivated by her desire to know more about the school and program, along with getting a feel for that coach as a person, rather than trying to make up for a poor match.

I really can't stress enough that college coaches, who are talented and build good programs, are complete in their evaluation abilities. We are looking for players that have good technical skills, a positive attitude, work hard and are team players. If someone is playing poorly, but has these characteristics, we will still evaluate them positively. If someone is playing poorly and also has poor skills and a poor attitude, then we will remove them from consideration.

Tell your daughter to just play volleyball. Sometimes as a player, the worst thing is when our mind gets in the way of our body. Have fun, relax and play volleyball!