May 19, 2008

Division I and III Men's College Volleyball

A question about Men's College Volleyball recruiting:

Hello, Our son is a 17yr old (jr) student-athlete, (grad 09) wanting to continue playing volleyball at the college level. we have emailed all D1,II,III colleges with numerous responses, mostly from D3's on the east coast, we live in Calif. so we feel making the right choice to move that far away is vital.
Many colleges are interested but no scholarship/financial offers. They offer "recruited walk-on (DII), come visit our campus, we need you on our team, you will play etc etc.
My question is, what is our next step? What replies are necessary, etc
Any help would be appreciated - thank you

It can be very tough to be a Men's Volleyball player with aspirations of playing at the college level, when compared to Women's Volleyball players. Look at the math - 4 scholarships per fully funded NCAA Division I program and about 50 programs (I think there may be NAIA men's programs but I can't say for sure); Women's Volleyball enjoys 12 scholarships per fully funded program and about 320 programs in Division I alone. When you throw in NCAA Division II, NAIA and Junior College opportunities, you are talking about thousands of college volleyball scholarship spots for female volleyball athletes.

The competition is fierce for those few scholarship opportunities in Division I Men's Volleyball and because of the numbers, the majority of Division I players are not on substantial scholarship support. Fortunately, there is Division III Men's Volleyball, that tends to be most represented among East Coast institutions.

Per NCAA rules, Division III athletic programs cannot offer scholarship support in anyway that reflects athletic ability. All scholarships must be based on merit (academic credentials) or need. Those are the rules that are written, but I know from experience that what is written and what is reality can be two different things. Some Division III schools truly embrace the DIII philosophy that reflects the importance of academic endeavours while supporting athletics as a component of the collegiate experience. Some other institutions will provide a bit more emphasis on the role of athletics within the college environment and tend to have a broader interpretation of what qualifies a Potential Student-Athlete for merit or need based scholarships.

Back to Charles questions - First off, don't get caught up in the term "recruited walk-on"; this is a Division I term that merely notes that a coach contacted a potential walk-on PSA more that once and in a quirk of the scholarship rules, which I have written about in a previous post, puts a cap on the amount of non-athletic aid so that it cannot exceed the value of a full athletic scholarship. Since these are Division III scholarships, there is no athletic aid, thus the term just sounds nice to a PSA.

next step
is to establish a dialogue with the schools that are interested in your son to determine what the application process and time table is, what is the protocol for exploring financial aid (scholarships, grants or loans) and to get a feel for the personality of the program and coaching staff.

Since the distances are considerable, it is important to be as active in this dialogue as possible and ask as many specific questions as possible - Some questions that come to mind:

1. What is the application deadline?
2. Does your school have an early decision or commit deadline?
3. What is the criteria for admission?
4. What scholarship opportunities are available?
5. What person in admissions or financial aid should we talk to about these opportunities?
6. What support does the program receive - Team travel, lodging, food, equipment? Find out exactly what is provided - there can be huge disparities between schools.
7. Does the school have a visit program (some schools will pay for a visit to their campus if it is non-athletics related)?

Because of travel cost considerations (at least gas would get cheaper for the middle stretch of a drive to the East Coast), you should plan on making one trip that allows visits at your top three schools - the function of communication is to determine your top three schools. The coach's job is to recruit and part of recruiting is to present accurate and attractive information to PSA's, no matter what the Division.

Ask specific questions and expect specific answers - if you are getting vague or general responses, then this should be a sign that maybe this institution does not support Men's Volleyball or the coach is not experienced or passionate. If a coach is able to provide detailed answers, complete information about the process as it pertains to their school and what resources may be available - then this should make a positive impression.

Don't be concerned about the DIII label - it is just bad luck that in the USA Men's Volleyball receives precious little support. Put forth the effort to gain knowledge and that effort will be rewarded with a great opportunity for your son (and maybe with some scholarship support)