January 2, 2010

Long Intro - Short Questions


As volleyball parents, we often think our child is either better or worse than what she is. I have to frame my thoughts and questions, because I’d love to know what college coaches are looking for and what you might feel about my daughter’s circumstances.

First, she is a junior (Class of 2011), almost 17 and has been in both club and school volleyball since the 6th grade. She seems to get a little better every year she plays and has not “leveled off” yet. She is an outside left side hitter, but also has really good hands. She has not set on any of her teams. Basically, if she has the ball come to her, she does set very effectively.

In high school, her team this year went to the semi-finals of her Region and was a top 16 team in 6A (Florida). It is a very good team, but she did not get as many “attempts” since the team played a 6-2, with the setters getting quite a few “kill” attempts, as well as the middles. The team was very good across the board, so the players all had “good” stats. There was no “standout” or player who received more credit than another. For the season, she played in 18 matches, but they only took 4 of the matches to 4 games, so they played a lot of three game matches. She has not had a “great” setter in either club or school and makes a lot of adjustments while hitting. I guess what I am saying is she seldom gets those “perfect” sets, but when she does, they are usually kills. She was clearly the team leader in kills (over 100) and is good defensively. She had good stats for digs, service points & aces. She passes really well, so she does not hurt the team when in the back row after serving. I might be biased, ok I am, but it seems whenever she was not in, the team struggled a bit and she was brought in whenever the team needed points or a “lift”. She can hit very hard across court or place it smoothly down the line and can read the blockers well if she has to “tip”. I hope she has a breakout year in club this year.

Measurements taken in August were: She was almost 5”10”, 8’11” approach jump, 8’8” block jump touch. She might have better stats now, but haven’t measured since.

In club she plays all around most of the time as a left side hitter. They do not keep stats and play the gold metal squared. They are a very good team, but will probably not make JO’s. We are going to mostly Florida tournaments and the NE qualifier in Baltimore.

We are attending the AVCA showcase in a couple of weeks in Tampa. This is her first exposure to any college coaches. She has received only one letter from any college and it was kind of a “broadcast” letter from a “military institution”. By reading your recruiting time frames and we are quite a bit behind. She is a “B” student and try’s hard on the academics. I see this as strength, but other parents have told me she needs to speak up more….she is a very nice person, she speaks her mind but only when she feels she has to speak up. She laughs and smiles a load on the court (she has fun) and brushes off the bad plays when on the court. She is a cooperative, team-first style of player. I have had to remind her to “call” for the ball when she is open and ready. She can “size-up” her competition pretty quickly. She is never selfish and very “quiet”. She is very intense and determined on the inside and competitive, she is just not a demonstrative person. After a tough loss or when she feels she plays a bad game, after the team meetings she will quietly go off and grieve away from her teammates and us as parents.

We have not done any video but have started a PSA information sheet. We have a load of great pictures.

I know there must be a lot of players in this kind of “category”. I am not sure if she has the height to get recruited in D1. I have my three questions below and I would imagine a load of parents and players have the same ones:

How does she get noticed by recruiters? (Any tips for her while at the showcase?)

As parents, we have the philosophy never to question or interfere when we see things that should be happening on the court. We have told our daughter that this is her job. Is this the right thing to do or should we in a nurturing way ask some question?

Can coaches “see” the attitude of a player (and parents) and how much does this count?


Proud Dad in Florida

First of all, please let me apologize for not getting to your question before 2010 (and before the AVCA Showcase which your daughter attended - By the way, could you make a Comment on this post about what you thought of the AVCA Showcase from a parent/participant point of view? Was it worth it (did it cost money to participate?), were there a bunch of college coaches, was it well organized, etc.)

I appreciate the back ground information which you have provided before presenting your questions, which should allow me to provide a bit more direct answers for your situation. Honestly, I think your daughter standing is similar to hundreds, if not thousands of other high school players.

Pre Question #1 - It is not that your daughter would not have the height to get recruited by Division I, it is more does she have the jump to get recruited by Division I? There are many 5'10" outside hitters in Division I, yet they would look to have a higher attack touch than what you listed for your daughter (8'11"). By and large, most DI OH's are coming in with mid 9's as a base to be an OH and then they back this jump up with very good ball control. A reference is that the lower the attack jump, the better the ball control must be - There are very good 'low jumping' OH's but they pass nails, play great defense and can hit every angle, speed, and tip/roll shot there is.

Question #1 - How to get noticed by recruiters? And Tips for the Showcase? Second part first - From being in tryout situations myself, the best thing to do is just be yourself, but to go 100%. If a player tries to be something they are not, tries to make plays or execute skill sets they are not comfortable doing, or tries to act in a way out of their comfort zone, the results will not be good. With any try out or showcase or combine, the best thing to do is just relax, stay within your comfort zone with skills and go 100%.

First part second - I suggest you read and follow the recruiting game plan I set forth in the label, Recruiting Plan (on the left side bar). In a nut shell, what you need to do is identify the playing level most appropriate for your daughter, make sure she has expressed her academic, geographic and school size preferences, and then hammer this target group of schools with an introductory e-mail and video link attachment. Being a Junior entering winter/spring, this is the time to go hard in getting your daughter's information out to schools - As I said earlier, there are many, many 5'10" OH's with good ball control and average jumps out there in the Club world; the ones who get the opportunities will be those players which work hard to promote themselves to potential schools. Also, don't be hesitant to look at Division II programs - I have written extensively about my support of this Division of play and how it may be the best Division of play for a well rounded college experience. Since her team is just playing in local Florida tournaments, with attending one Qualifier and not expecting to make Nationals, then the opportunity for a college coach to happen upon your daughter is less than other players who participate in a national schedule. This scenario demands that the player/family put forth the extra effort for attention.

Question #2 - Asking Questions. By your writing, I would think you mean that, should you ask questions of your daughter about things happening on the court? Usually, folks don't use the word 'nurturing' when they contemplate asking a coach a question! You have presented a challenging scenario. My suggestion would be to provide supportive, positive feedback. One of the things that parents do, many times inadvertently, is reinforce a privileged or entitled mentality with a player. The bottom line is that sports are competitive and in elite level competitions, the best players are going to play with the belief that victory will be the outcome. Even though it may seem coaches partake in illogical choices or may have favorites or don't give all players opportunities, the truth is coaches are putting the players on the court who they feel will achieve victory. When parents act as emotional therapists and support the victim mentality, it does no one any good. It is a tough situation because a parent wants their child to succeed and be happy, and should be there in support when a bad outcome occurs (tough loss, or a terrible match). The problem arises when parents validate excuses or the player's reality. If a player is complaining that so and so played, or they did not get enough sets or they did not have a chance to play, and the parent is supporting and validating these statements, it just creates a negative situation for all parties.

As simple as it sounds, I suggest that parents state the obvious within a team framework and give lots of hugs. If your daughter struggled in a match and she asks you, then let her know she had a tough match but it is not the end of the world and you know she will do better next match. If she is upset she did not play or wanted to be on the court, then say you understand it is tough but she needs to stay positive and be ready when she gets her chance.

I provide these simplistic examples because selfish, entitled behaviors are team killers and when kids come to college with such attitudes, they will be in for a harsh reality. Remember that one of the main differences in college versus club, is that the dime is coming out of the college's pocket, not the families and as such, the college coach makes the rules and will seldom tolerate poor behavior.

Question #3 - Coaches can definitely see the attitudes of players and parents; for me (and I would think many other coaches) this is a key component of our recruiting evaluations. As I referenced above, selfish behavior is a team killer and to recruit such behaviors to your team is illogical. No matter how great of a coach I am, or how good I may be at managing players and a team, I cannot undo 18 years of learned behavior. I would rather take a lesser skilled volleyball player with a great attitude, than the reverse. Parents are also under the microscope; we realize that not only do we get the player for 4 to 5 years, we also get the parents. It is no fun getting the evil eye from parents after matches because precious did not play or got pulled after hitting negative. The last thing I want to do is bring in high maintenance parents along with a high maintenance player - That is the double whammy!

By my reading of your e-mail, it sounds as if you have a solid grasp of your daughter's situation and are being supportive. The only area which I would drastically change is your efforts to promote her to potential schools.

Good luck!

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