October 2, 2008

Invite Summer Volleyball Tournament Question

Here's an interesting question:

Hi Coach, my question is about this Club USA Championship in Hawaii my daughter has been invited to participate in. She has played volleyball for several years, and plays well, and has always been extremely competitive. She’s only 5’4” though, a libero, and believes because of that her volleyball career will end with high school. She has begun playing more for fun this year, although she’s still competitive, but had decided to play on a lower level Club team because her best friends don’t play Power. Then, today after practice she was given this invitation, which reads in part “Your high school coach nominated you…as a volleyball athlete with college volleyball potential” and that ”Your selection and participation in our program will be a great bonus for your portfolio”. One of her teammates attended this tournament last year and has been offered a full scholarship, but I don’t know if that is from this or her club performance or school performance, or if she sent out skills videos, but that girl is a powerful 6’ MH. I’m wondering if there is any value to attending this tournament (at a cost of $2780 plus travel) and even how much room there is in college for short players. I read somewhere on your site that if a player can pass and serve they will always have a place on the team, and my daughter can pass and serve as well as anyone I’ve seen play. I know I’m rambling here , but what I’m wondering, basically, is: Being only 5’4” is it a waste of time and money to put too much into trying to play in college, whether for scholarship or as a walk-on. Most of the college players seem to start at around 5’7” on the very short end. Do college coaches recruit from this National tournament? Or maybe the rosters lie? She is ok with playing strictly for fun and I love watching the games too, but if it’s over after high school I’d rather save the $3000, have her play club with the girls she loves and enjoy it like a 16 year old should. On the other hand, if there is a possibility of her continuing to play in college in spite of being short, or even getting scholarship $$ to play, I’d like to have that information too. Thanks, and have a great day! Jessie

I have heard of such 'invite' tournaments before, but have yet to meet an individual who went to such an event. My impression of these type of summer events, which are not affiliated with High School teams or Junior Club teams, are glorified volleyball vacations. What I find disappointing is that the organizers/promoters of such tournaments are using the lure of a college scholarship to entice participants.

A good thing to do would be to ask your high school coach if he/she actually nominated your daughter - Did they send in a nomination form, or just submit a roster of seniors? I have had a few high school coaches ask me about these summer events, because they would get a letter from the organizers asking for names of players that had college potential because this tournament they conduct would be attended by many college coaches. My answer to them is the same as to you; it is just a well thought out marketing ploy to obtain names of players, so they can 'invite' these players to such events. Honestly, I have never heard of a college volleyball coach attending these type of events - this does not mean coaches do not go watch, but I have not heard of any doing so.

You are looking at spending around $3,500.00 for your daughter to play volleyball in an exotic locale. That is a ton of money for one tournament, no matter if it was on Venus (well, maybe volleyball on another planet would be worth almost 4K!). If you have disposable funds and your daughter has never been to Hawaii, then this is something to consider. But, to view this tournament as an avenue to college support is the wrong perception.

The player you referenced, who also played in this tournament, had a number of other opportunities to be seen to garner a scholarship offer - a physical 6' middle, who played high school and club, and mailed out skills videos; these are the things that attract college coaches.

With regards to Liberos or Defensive Specialists, height is really not such a big deal - passing and defense is. When college coaches look at back row players, we want to see great passing, technically correct defensive skills and outstanding effort. I was completely serious when I wrote if you can pass and play defense, there will always be a spot.

Here is my suggestion - Your daughter needs to make a decision about playing in college or not playing in college. When you mentioned that she decided to play on a lower level club team, because her friends don't play "Power", this makes me think obtaining a spot with a college team and a possible college scholarship is not within her future goals. College coaches desire to see potential team members playing at the highest possible level, especially a back row specialist because the speed of the college game is non-replicable at the Club level and making the jump to that speed is easier if you are closer to the velocity as a player in Juniors.

If your daughter does not want to pursue college volleyball, then I encourage you to support her decision and keep volleyball fun because it will make your family dynamic more enjoyable for her remaining months in high school and Club volleyball. In addition, if she keeps volleyball in an enjoyable mental environment, this is a sport that she can play her whole life.

If your daughter wants to play college volleyball, then that $3,500.00 can be much better spent on promoting her abilities to potential programs. This could buy a bunch of skill DVD's, unofficial visits, mailing with academic and athletic information, etc. Not to mention, if your daughter finds a school and a program that she really likes and connects with, but they don't have a scholarship available (this easily happens with back row players), then $3,500 will a long ways towards funding a walk-on season to demonstrate her abilities and possibly earn a scholarship in the years to come.

Should your daughter choose to pursue college volleyball, please do read my various Recruiting Plan posts, along with the Walk-On posts. These are the game plans that I have seen work as a player and as a coach. Please remember and remind your daughter that sometimes to achieve the goal of a college roster spot and a scholarship, may require going to school a distance from home, choosing a school of a different size than she may have first wanted, exploring a different level of conference ability or division. Not everyone has the good fortune to play college volleyball within a 3 hour drive of home while being on a full scholarship and competing in a top flight conference.

Long story short - Save the money and ask your daughter what she wants and what is she prepared to do to obtain what she wants.

Good luck!