February 22, 2009

Volleyball Injury Situation and Recruiting Question

I stumbled upon your sight and found it very refreshing and honest. I have to admit that as the mother of a junior who has a passion for the sport of volleyball (she has been playing since she was 4) I am totally lost as to college recruiting. My daughter is a strange case. She is only 5’4”, but a very strong L/DS who has been playing court since she was 4 and beach for the past 3 years. She and her team have won various local tournaments, but as a resident of Puerto Rico, there aren’t a whole lot of coaches who visit us. This is compounded by the fact that her school is much more academically oriented than sports oriented and no one there really knows anything about NCAA college sports. Finally she has been out of play since November due to ACL surgery so the video we were going to make to send out to coaches never got made. The doctor said she would be ready to play in March. What should I do? Will early summer be too late in terms of sending out video? How can I get a realistic evaluation of her possibilities?


Thank you for your kind words about the site and I hope you find it useful as you make your way through the craziness of recruiting. Before I answer the questions in the last part of your e-mail, allow me some observations about what you have written.

  • 5'4" is small, but great passing has no height requirement and if she can augment her skills by playing in the control demanding venue of beach volleyball, then she will be all the better
  • My impression is that many college coaches stay away from Puerto Rico not because it is Puerto Rico or a lack of quality players, but because the professional volleyball leagues allow players to sign contracts and compete with professional players at a young age. Per the current NCAA rules, this makes a young player a professional and one of the quickest ways to lose your job as a college coach is to break rules, especially with recruiting professionals. I understand a number of Puerto Rican players are active in NCAA Volleyball, but not as many as you would anticipate given the level of talent on the island.
  • It sounds like your daughter does not play club volleyball, and that is the challenge is - not the high school. There are way too many high schools on the mainland who really don't have any idea about NCAA Volleyball recruiting and rules, so don't feel bad. Club programs and coaches tend to have a bit more understanding of the current trends.
  • I strongly encourage you to read the Recruiting Plan and NCAA Terms (which I should update soon) on this site to get a feel for what the protocol and process entails. Also, go ahead and visit the ncaa.org website; I have linked directly to the Eligibility and Recruiting section where you can find a comprehensive list of information topics.
  • If your daughter had ACL surgery in November, being 'ready to go' in March would be very surprising. With a Libero not having the jumping demands of an attacker, I can see a quicker return than usual, but a 5 month return time would be impressive. The biggest hurdle that player's have to overcome with ACL's is between their ears. In my experience, it takes a full 12 months post surgery to get back to physically and almost mentally where they were pre-injury. Managing pain, gaining confidence, fighting fear, rebuilding muscle support, etc., just take time. Please do not worry if your daughter does not make it back to 100 percent until next fall.
Now, too the questions which you have asked:
  1. "What should I do?" First of all, stay positive and relaxed with your daughter. Encourage her to be focused in her rehab and nobody panic. It is going to take time for her to get comfortable in a low position and then to explode out of that position to play. You can't put the cart before the horse - Until she is back physically and mentally to pre-injury ability, then there is very little you can do at an elite volleyball level.
  2. "What should I do?" Part Two - Your daughter should be making the best possible grades and taking and/or retaking the ACT/SAT exams to garner the highest possible score. The reality is that the college volleyball recruiting world is full of Liberos - the more you can bring to the table academically, the more you will receive financially from NCAA schools (even DI because of Presidential and Academic scholarships that do not count in the 12 scholarship DI limit).
  3. "Will early summer be too late in terms of sending out video?" No, not at all. Liberos tend to be last in line with scholarship offers. We all hear of some super duper Libero getting a scholarship from Giant State University when she was 12, but that is not the rule. College coaches will tend to determine their passing/defensive needs after securing their outside hitter recruits. If a coach gets a couple of hammers, who pass average, then the last scholarship could be spent on a Libero, but that is only late in the process if the coach could not find a hammer who could pass great.
  4. "Will early summer be too late in terms of sending out a video?" Part Dos - You should really consider sending out a second video after the fall volleyball season. This will show her post surgery ability and be closer to when the college coaches will be re-evaluating their needs for the next season. Post season (and not the fun kind) December-January is where things 'shake-out' for the next year and college coaches can easily find themselves in need of a specific position that was not on the radar in August.
  5. "How can I get a realistic evaluation of her possibilities?" That is a bit of a tougher answer. Since I am not clear if your daughter plays club and because of the professionalism aspect of volleyball in Puerto Rico, it is hard for me to make a suggestion. I would believe the Puerto Rican Volleyball Federation would have some type of Juniors or Youth teams, and as such you could pursue tryouts with this team. The Federation may have a coaches which could give you honest feedback and by working through the Federation, you would avoid any problems with the professional organizations.
  6. "How can I get a realist evaluation of her possibilities?" Part Two - The other option, should she actually return to form sooner than I would anticipate, is to have her attend a couple of college camps. I suggest attending more than one and would gravitate towards the shorter duration camps - two day camps so she could go to a few. In Florida alone, you could hit a number of camps without having to travel very far - If you approach the coaches before the camp and ask them for honest feedback about your daughter's level, they should accommodate you.
If I can emphasize one thing, it is to stay slow and steady. Don't panic, there is lots of time left in the recruiting process and there are many, many NCAA programs that will have scholarships available for 2010. Good luck!