January 15, 2010

NCAA Women's Volleyball Recruiting Question

Dear Coach,

I am trying to help a friend that is interested in playing college volleyball. I have been involved in the Softball recruiting process but am not sure about time lines for Volleyball. My questions are follows:

If you are a freshman, should you be writing to colleges of interest? My friend is probably going to be looking at DII or DIII opportunities, possibly smaller DI schools. I guess my question is what is the true recruiting window, I don't want her to be behind.

Also she plays club volleyball but may not want to play high school volleyball because she really wants to work on her academics? I have heard that most opportunities come from Club Volleyball? Does it hurt her in the recruiting process not to play high school volleyball?

Your site was very helpful to me as I am not a volleyball parent but have had some experience in the recruiting process. I just want to help this young lady reach her best potential and find a school and volleyball program that will be best for her.

I appreciate any guidance.

Sincerely, Leah

Thank you for your question and it 'tis the season for recruiting!

First of all, I encourage you to read through my Recruiting Plan (left side labels). In this year by year game plan, I have tried to provide some general guidelines for the recruiting process with an emphasis on the Division I process. I hope to update/edit this four year plan soon, to capture any nuances in recruiting which may have changes in the last year or so.

A true recruiting window is best viewed as simply a window of time based upon the specific details concerning a Prospective Student Athlete (PSA). I get nervous when I hear parents saying that they are panicked because so and so just committed to State U and she is a sophomore, while someone else is getting tons of letters from coaches as a freshman - This peer pressure can easily lead to a penguin panic where everyone goes of the side of the recruiting ice cliff.

Please do not misunderstand me, there are many times when elite level players have found the perfect fit for what they wish to have out of their collegiate experience and do commit their sophomore year or early in their Junior Year; and on the rare occasion you hear of a fabulous freshman making a verbal commitment.

My view is that the pre-Christmas Junior Year commitments occur, but may be trending down a bit. These time table commitments tend to be for the very good players, which are comfortable with the parameters of the recruiting process; location, size of school, conference membership, etc.

I say trending down a bit because a season or so ago, college coaches got really ahead of themselves and were offering scholarships to anything that was tall and shiny during the sophomore summer. The problem which has arose, is that all too often the shiny sophomore was not quite as polished as previously thought. VolleyFolks are realizing that what may look great as a sophomore against other sophomores, can look average the next year when everyone is a year older and stronger; many times the improvement curve is not symmetrical between all athletes.

My general philosophy that the Spring of the Junior Year of Club Volleyball is the time to look at making a commitment, if an athlete is comfortable with the schools which are recruiting her. Remember that the Spring is a long window of time, from after January 1st to early summer. I believe that an athlete needs this time frame to take a few unofficial visits, try to see potential schools in practice or spring season matches and compare/contrast potential futures.

I say, looking at making a commitment, not to make a commitment. What PSA's want to stay away from is to commit to a place that is not exactly what they want - better to wait a bit longer and find exactly what is desired than just to take something to be able to say they are committed.

I get concerned with there are schools of college coaches circling the 14s and 15s age groups - 8th graders and freshman in high school should be concerned with a thousand other things in volleyball and life than aware of the college volleyball recruiting process; no matter what any parent or coach says, seeing college volleyball coaches observing play on a court makes players aware of the process.

Proof of this way too early pressure to make commitments, encouraged and supported by college coaches and families, is evident in recent rumblings of NCAA proposals to eliminate the one time transfer rule exception currently being enjoyed by NCAA Women's Volleyball. What is being volleyed around (now give me some love for that blending of volleyball and NCAA legislature!!) is for Women's Volleyball to be like Basketball and Football - You can still transfer, but it will cost you one year of eligibility and you have to sit for a full year! The misguided hope is that this move will discourage transferring by student-athletes because they are not happy or the coach is not happy with the player; thus when PSA's are going through the process they will take more time to make a make a college choice

Now, with no further delay - Your questions:

1) Not playing High School Volleyball - This is something that the mass majority of college coaches are really not concerned with. One, we are in season so really can't go see players very much, and the level of training (on average) and competition is not particularly good. If your young friend wishes to concentrate of academics, I think this is better in the fall because she is not missing out on any top flight development, versus a club season.

Please note that I said on average, so those high school coaches which are outstanding and have a tremendous grasp of elite level training should consider themselves not of the average group! I am referring to those lucky individuals who get told a few weeks before the season, that they are now the volleyball coach - Congratulations!

2) I would go far as to say almost ALL NCAA opportunities are the result of club volleyball training - the exception would be for some DIII programs (which are sincerely academically based) or regional DII programs which know of a two sport athletes.

3) My belief is it does NOT hurt the recruiting process to not play high school volleyball. Again, college coaches view club volleyball as the elite training and most of us don't have time during our season/high school season to get out and watch/evaluate PSA's. If one of our potential recruits said they were not going to play high school volleyball, my reaction would be no problem.

For my committed PSA's, my only concern is that they make it through the season uninjured - that is all I care about. They could to 30 and 0, or 0 and 30, and all I want is them healthy at the end.

Hope you are able to be a resource for the young lady and I wish you both the best of luck!

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