February 1, 2010

Junior College Volleyball


I thought your posts on JUCO were interesting. My senior daughter in HS daughter is looking at JUCO even though she could play for mid level D2 schools. I have 2 questions;

1) Does it matter which JUCO programs you play for to have a decent chance of playing for D2 during her Jr year?

2) While in JUCO for 2yrs when she should be contacting coaches at 4 year schools about transferring into their programs? At end of freshman year?

Thanks, Terry

This is a good question(s) and I have advocated in a number of posts about playing Junior College Volleyball. As the recruiting commitment time frame keeps accelerating (which I strongly disagree with), I believe we will see more and more NCAA athletes choosing the Junior College route because NCAA schools may have locked up their recruiting class before a prospective student athlete was able to demonstrate their abilities (not every PSA is from a large city or region of the country that supports elite level club volleyball).

To answer Terry's questions:

1) Yes and no (how is that for an answer?) - There are different levels of Junior College Women's Volleyball and actually different organizations which sponsor and hold championships in Junior College Women's Volleyball. The NJCAA (web site here) has three levels of Women's Volleyball sponsorship and I would not be able to tell you the exact distinction between the levels, but it is my understanding that Division I receives the most funding and hence is the more elite playing level of the three. The Junior Colleges in California have their own competitive association and it is called the CCCAA (web site here) - Again, I am not exactly sure the distinct characteristics of this association or level of play. In addition, there could be other state or region based Junior or Community College athletic associations which I am not aware of.

In terms of where to play, it would be a combination of academics and athletics. On the athletic level, it would be important to be in a program which competed at a certain level, with regards to the team level of ability and the conference level of ability. If a PSA goes to a bad JC program which competes in a poor JC Volleyball conference, then the PSA is probably not gaining the playing experience to successfully transition into the NCAA realm. You can do some research about team/conference abilities by doing some basic research via the national organization sites. A PSA does not need to play for a top team in a top conference, but you would hope to be in a spot where you had a good training environment and could refine skills in competitive situations.

Academically, a PSA needs to be comfortable knowing that the JC units she is earning will be transferable to an NCAA school. This is like two ships in the night because each JC has its own academic protocol and each NCAA school has its own academic protocol; in the end, you hope to have the two academic organizations be somewhat on the same page. I have been at NCAA schools which ranged from awarding 4 hours for a CPR class to others which would not accept a transfer class even though the class description was literally the same in the JC and NCAA school catalog!!! Once again, doing a bit of research about the academic standing, history and focus of the Junior College will help. For instance, a Vocational or Technical type JC would tend not to be as applicable with classes to a NCAA member school.

2) In terms of contacting coaches, I would think that the fall to early winter of a PSA's freshman year in college would be the best time to initiate contact. We need to think about the reality that a JC PSA is 'competing' with High School PSA's for the NCAA scholarship spot. For example, a freshman in Junior College right now, would be graduating in May 2011, so they are in competition with other 2011 recruits for scholarships/roster spots. Many, many and too many DI programs are done with their 2011 incoming class and any number of DII schools are well on their way toward this end. Now, don't panic, because many, many, thankfully many DI schools are still actively recruiting the 2011 class, along with DII programs.

When contacting NCAA programs, it is important to link or provide video footage from a PSA's first year in JC. Right now NCAA coaches are all going to Club events to recruit and not too many are going to JC's to see practice, especially in January/February. A JC PSA needs to provide a visual to compete with the visual that HS PSA's are showing each club tournament.

Not only does waiting until the end of the fall or early winter allow for increased skill presentation because of having one season of college level experience, it also allows the opportunity to present fall semester grades to a future school. Many times, athletes may have to take the JC route because of academic issues, and being able to show good semester grades to a coach will provide a positive impression.

To finish, I support the Junior College avenue for college volleyball. It provides the opportunity to garner immediate playing time at a high level, to gain academic experience and transfer units, and to capture a bit more time to determine exactly what you want from a 4 year school both academically and athletically!

Good luck!

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