December 3, 2008

Volleyball Club Team Choices

This seems to be the time of the year when players and parents are making tough choices about Club Volleyball. A question from one of our readers:

Dear Coach,

I am a parent of a 5'9" outside hitter, with an approach jump of 9"4" , top player on her high school team, but we know she is small for OH. Her goal is to play volleyball on the best academic program she can get in, as she wants to do pre-med, she likes small to medium size colleges.

She sent skills video and game footage to colleges and the following colleges had a positive response and wants to see her playing this club season. Scholarship would be nice, but it is not a decisive factor, as she is looking to schools that do not offer scholarship.

DIV III: Amherst, Tufts, Emory, Bowdoin, Middleburry,Washington and Lee University, Swarthmore, WASHU, Hamilton, Carginie Mellon
DIV I: Lehigh, Georgetown, Holly Cross, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton

She needs to pick a club team: All of her choices are National teams.

1) Should she play on a weak/not competitive 17's national team, number 1 team on club A where she will be basically the team?
2) Should she play on a strong/competitive 17's national team, number 2 team on the other club B, where she will be the 1st or 2nd outside hitter, great playing time?
3) Should she play on a really strong/very competitive 17"s national team, number 1 team on club B. where she is will be the 4th outside hitter, fighting for playing time?
4) Should she play on a strong/competitive 18"s national team, number 1 team on club B. where she is will be the 3rd outside hitter, fighting for playing time?

She is leaning to accept the Second option, but she worries that although the team is a National team, it is not the number 1 team on this club B.

What she should do, according to her goals?

Thank you so much!


Based on what you wrote and her options, I would suggest Option 2 or Option 4.

From your account, your daughter has an academic focus where volleyball is a passion that enables her to have a complete experience with school and sport. Also, since you mentioned a scholarship (Athletic?) would be nice, but not necessary, this allows for some flexibility in choices.

With any Prospective Student Athlete (PSA), I would always suggest to pursue playing time. In college volleyball you get better by training, but in club volleyball you get better by playing - This is a function of court time, coaching staff, strength training, etc. Since your daughter is focused on the academic schools, it takes a bit of pressure off of her to 'showcase' her abilities against top flight PSA's that are focused on traditional Division I programs.

Since she is not really 'competing' for an athletic scholarship, she needs to illustrate her overall ability as a 5'9" outside hitter and how she can do this is by playing as much as possible. Option 1 sounds like she will get more than enough playing time, but if her team is weak, then by Day 2 of any tournament, they will be playing against other weak teams and you don't get better playing against weak competition.

Option 3 is not appealing because she would be too deep on the outside position to gain any real playing time, even though the club is top flight.

Option 2 is probably the best all around choice to obtain court time while playing against better competition. I would not worry too much about the team being classified as a second team because if they are competitive and can win, then they will stay in the better pools in club tournaments and thus play against top teams. Again, since she is not really 'competing' against other recruits for traditional DI scholarship, this is a good fit.

Option 4 is not a bad choice. While she would be hitter number 3, she should still be in a position to get solid playing time. One never knows how a season will play out in terms of other players - kids get sick, injured, are not as good as club coaches thought - lots of things can happen to increase playing time. Since it is an 18's team, the competition should be better because the players will be older.

I would choose Option 2, but would be very comfortable with Option 3.

With either option, I think it is important to review the tournament choices of each club. What exactly is the schedule? How many Qualifiers, how many top flight tournaments, how many tournaments total - how much play versus how much practice. Choosing the team with the best schedule may be just as important as choosing the team with playing opportunities.

The positive is that you do have choices - too many PSA's don't and have to take whatever their area has to offer.

Good luck and I hope your daughter has a great experience!