My daughter a senior has some interesting offers which is good because it's late in the season. One offer is a walk-on freshman year and then 4 yrs at a public university. I thought it was good but our club coach says to be careful because it's only a promise not a contract..Any advice? Kathleen
This type of an offer, the walk on to a scholarship, is becoming more and more common within college volleyball. I currently have two walk on student-athletes which came to my school and I am about to place them on a scholarship. In addition, I am talking with two additional PSA's about such an option.
For me, the motivation is to secure an athlete who I feel will have an impact upon our program beyond what the next year's PSA's might/could bring to our program during the year the scholarship comes available. With the current climate of college volleyball recruiting, programs are active with three classes. In this sequence, we are still aware of 2010 PSA's (even though we have no current scholarships), trying to secure 2011 PSA's and establishing/interacting with our 2012 recruits. Pertinent to my program, I have found that an available 2010 player is better or will be a better fit for my program, than the class for which I will have a scholarship for, the 2011 class (which includes projecting the development of the 2011 player).
Also, there may be situations for many programs where the 2010 PSA is a great kid - Smart, great attitude, hard worker, can play a couple of positions, positive presence on and off the court and a coach will always want this type of player. It may happen that the current class allocation only has a scholarship or two which were awarded a long time ago, but the next year's class has 4 or 5 available.
Public schools have a better chance of arranging such a walk on to scholarship scenario, because they are much less expensive for in-state players, versus private school institutions. It can be a tough sell to ask a family to put forth $30,000.00 for a year, while it is much easier to swallow $10,000.00 public in state.
Families should also take advantage of the opportunities for non-athletic scholarship support via the college/university and/or the state and federal government. As a freshman walk on, any non-athletic scholarships do not count towards the NCAA maximum of 12 heads on scholarship. An incoming student athlete should pursue academic scholarships (which range from $500.00 to almost a full tuition scholarship and many states have academic scholarships available based upon gpa or class rank), need based (the Pell Grant is an example, which must be obtained via the US government), or merit based (such as community service, Girl Scouts, YWCA, etc.). When you add up the non-athletic scholarships available, it can really off-set the costs of walking on to a school.
The downside is what the club coach mentioned - This is not a contract or National Letter of Intent, it is just a verbal offer. Most of the time, everything works out as promised and everyone is happy. A couple of things can change this scenario - 1) The coach moves on, either voluntarily or not, 2) A super duper great player magically appears who wants to come to the school.
Example number 2 is not common, but does happen. As much as a coach is a good person or wants to award the scholarship to the promised walk on, they would be professionally silly to pass on a player who can hugely impact the program on day one.
Example number 1 is more of a concern - Things can change which are completely out of the control of a coach, yet have a huge impact upon the security of the coach. Maybe it is a positive situation where the program has done so well, that other schools are active in trying to lure the coach to their institution. Or it could be a case where things have changed on campus (new athletic director, huge budget cuts, conference change) that create a situation that the coach no longer wishes to be a part of - Sometimes these new environments can come up on coaches very quickly.
In the end, all you can do is follow your instincts. If you believe it is a good school, good program, good coach and your daughter is choosing the school for the right reasons (not solely based upon the coach), then move forward and enjoy the experience.