December 16, 2008

NCAA Volleyball Recruiting - School or Spot?

A tough decision for any 18 year old to make!!!


I am a senior in high school. I have been talking to several schools and have gone on visits. I have been offered a scholarship to one, however my favorite so far is a DIII school. The coach on the visit says they do not guarantee spots and that there are tryouts in the end of summer (right before season starts and after you move in). Is this normal?

I guess I just don't understand how a program can get better because all of the really good athletes are going to go somewhere where they know they can play. There is a difference from making a team and playing, and I totally respect that. The person who will better benefit the team should play. The coach viewed my tape and had all good things to say about it saying that I could help the team out, but then says that the team is picked in tryouts.

While talking to my high school coaches they think this is not common and are advising me that since I love the game and want to play, to go to another option. If I knew if I even had the opportunity to be on the team and earn a playing spot, I would pick that school. However, I really want to play and don't want to go there and give up another opportunity where I am already offered a spot on the team.

Any suggestions as to how to go about this situation? Is it wrong to have the high school coach call and talk to the coach? Thanks,

Confused Volleyball Player

Well, I can understand why you are Confused. On the surface your situation does seem to go against the grain of how NCAA volleyball programs are traditionally administered and how a team should go about becoming better each season, yet there is one important clue - You are talking about a Division III program.

Division III Athletic Departments can be a different world, when compared to traditional competitive focused Division I and Division II schools. Since Division III schools do not offer athletically based scholarships, they have already gone drastically against the grain for building competitive volleyball teams. Some schools do put a priority on being successful, while other schools view Athletics as something that enhances the student experience at their institution, but nothing more - no different than the drama department, or sororities, or a business society. My guess would be the Division II school that you like is probably this type of institution.

When view in this light, the statements of your coach make sense. It could well be department policy not to allocate positions to an athletic team before the student arrives on campus - sounds crazy but I know of schools that do this. The coach can provide positive feed back, like this coach did with you, but cannot go so far as to assure a PSA that they have a roster position. Remember, Division III schools sometimes are not concerned with winning, but rather with participation.

You are correct in your assertion that this is not the way to build a competitive program. Unless the other programs in the conference have the same policy, this school would be at a disadvantage because not too many talented volleyball players are going to go to a school that does not open the door to the team locker room for them.

I would not have the high school coach call and talk to them, the DIII coach has explained the situation; he/she will just be repeating the same thing.

In the Division I recruiting process, it is advised and rightly so, to pick your future not because of the program or coach, but because you like the school. I know not every PSA does this, but many times for athletes, the volleyball programs can be so close that it does come down to something about the school that they find the most comfortable - location, size, academic standing, weather, etc.

If you like the Division III institution the best and would go there had you not been blessed to be an athlete, then trust your volleyball abilities to make the roster and become an impact player. Hopefully you or someone you trust has seen this DIII team in a match and could honestly determine your comparative ability.

On the other hand, if you want the mental stability and comfort of going to a school that has flat out said you are on the team and thrown a scholarship your way to prove it, then mental comfort goes a long ways towards happiness. I would not think you are going to pick a school in a war-zone just because they said you were on the team, so the guaranteed spot is probably with a school that meets your academic needs.

Either choice is good, but it is the choice you wake up with a smile on your face in the morning that is the best!

Good luck!