May 4, 2010

Volleyball Recruiting Information

Hi Coach,

I am a parent and have e-mailed you in the past and appreciate your great insight and wisdom.

Here's my question (not sure if it's appropriate to post on the site), but anyway, my daughter is a Junior (Class of 2011). We received a letter from a very prestigious school's coach regarding interest in her.

The school has the academics that my daughter is interested in, but is out of state and quite a distance from us. The tuition and room and board is probably over $50k a year. I have a decent salary and so I don't think that my daughter would get needs based financial assistance. I have no idea even if the coach is really interested whether the financial assistance (if any) would be enough to offset whether it is feasible for us to pursue that school.The school is NCAA - Div III.

I just don't want her to pursue a school that if we had to finance on our would put her in a position of having huge student loans and debt.

We have not been actively pursuing this school because of this...can we be honest and explain that we might be interested but are concerned about the cost of the program? I am just skeptical that they are truly interested in her and not just trying to get her to attend their camp (which is very costly as well).

How do we weed out the "form letters" from those that are actually interested?

She's on the 'berecruited' website and there is one coach that has bookmarked and I know for sure that coach has seen her play and truly has an interest in her, however those that are distant and send out form is not as clear whether to take them serious.

Please advise as to how to proceed and what your thoughts are on speaking honestly about cost concerns, etc.


I believe that the key to successful recruiting on both sides of the isle is honest communication. From a coach's perspective, it can be quite upsetting to have recruited a student athlete and have her choose a school that did not fit the known parameters. For example, we just put in a tremendous amount of time and money with a PSA, only to have her choose a school right next door to her home because she wanted to stay close; which is great, but at no time in the recruiting process did she express any desire or provide information when asked, about wishing to stay close to home. Granted, this may have been a last minute, gut type of decision and the MOST important thing is the PSA make a decision which is comfortable for her, but if I had known of the desire to stay close, we could have reallocated some of our energies towards other PSA's.

I would actually argue that college coaches can be the most guilty of selective communication. It is an equation where we, the college coaches, have the advantage because we have been doing this thing called recruiting a lot longer than the PSA/Family. Just like the PSA's having a certain ranking of their prospective schools, the college programs go a number deep in each position for which they will extend a scholarship. We may be telling three athletes that they are the #1 recruit for the program, we may have offered one and are stalling with one other player to buy time.

Because of the pressure to secure elite athletes, and this is even more applicable to the top DI programs, college recruiting efforts throw out a very wide net. This is the reason 3rd graders are getting letters from Giant State U (which is a the polar opposite of Waxahachie College), southeast programs are recruiting up in the northwest, and coaches are camped at the first weekend of a Qualifier, along with the second weekend of a Qualifier (by the way, when did Qualifiers get so big that they needed to be split into two weekends? I thought the AVCA was panicked about not enough people playing volleyball; sounds like USA Volleyball is doing just fine with the whole promote the sport thing).

In terms of your e-mail, there were actually a few questions embedded:

1. Can you be honest with the DIII coach? You must be, because this is the only way to share and secure effective communication. Remember that DIII is non athletic based scholarships, but each DIII school determines its own structure for awarding other types of scholarships. While you may not qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, you may qualify for that school's need based scholarship; or possibly some type of merit scholarship based upon your daughter's extra curricular activities; what about academics? Each school sets its criteria for an academic scholarship. You must contact (e-mail or telephone) the coach and let them know your situation; don't worry, yours is the most common - Make too much to qualify for need based, but not enough to pay the big ticket of an expensive university. If this coach is worth their Asics, then they will be able to provide the other avenues for scholarships within their school. It sounds as if your daughter has an interest in this school, so take just a bit of time to see what the coach can tell you about the finances.

2. Camp pressure? This is an astute observation. I have noticed more and more college programs using recruiting as a tool to increase their camp numbers. In fact, I have received copied emails from an early commitment to our program of schools using the advertisement of camps as a means to try and communicate/recruit via e-mail and letters with PSA's they are not allowed to contact per NCAA rules. You may be correct, that this recruiting effort is just a glorified fund raiser for their camps; it happens (I should probably do a separate post on this?). I believe your conversation with the coach about costs, will provide the direction you need with regards to the program pushing camps. If the coach does not provide clear information, or just talks his/her way around the question of school cost, then this should be an indication that their recruiting interest is not sincere and possible camp attendance is the motivating factor.

3. Form Letters? Many, many, many programs shotgun recruit; they will mark everyone young, tall and with a sparkly hair bow to send out a Letter and Questionnaire. This usually happens in the 15 to 16 club year (and I am sure will now move to the 14 year soon); coaches are panicked about being 'late' on an athlete and would rather write a player with a limited upside, than take a chance on writing that same player 8 months later as she starts to achieve that same upside. But, because your daughter is in her junior year, I would venture that she would not be part of the shotgun effort, but rather a more selected recruiting process. But, this is where the communication part comes in - You, or her, must contact these 'form letter' schools to see which ones are serious. By serious, they should be in a position to tell you where she stands in their recruiting process, what positions they are trying to commit first, any interest in an unofficial visit, etc. Also, your daughter must know where she would stand with each potential school - For instance, if she can't fathom living in Florida, then she needs to let those Florida schools know she is not a candidate or if she loves the thought of attending college in the mountains, then she needs to express this desire to those mountain type schools.

What I would encourage you to do, is the same thing that I encourage every PSA and Family to do - Contact the college volleyball coach(s) and exchange information. Ask them where your daughter stands in the recruiting process, ask them what positions they are prioritizing, ask them if they have extended any scholarships to other athletes at this time; share with them what your daughter is thinking (better yet, have your daughter express to them what she is thinking - she could be playing for this coach, not you), what does she desire in her college experience.

We the College Volleyball Coaches of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect volleyball team, establish Passing, ensure team Tranquility, provide for better defense......uh, sorry, I got a little side tracked there. Us yahoos who call ourselves college volleyball coaches get PAID to do this stuff - How great is that, we get a salary to be a volleyball coach and a couple of us get a really big salary (I am not yet in that 'us' category); so, ask us these questions and our answers (both what we say and don't say) will tell you everything you need to know about our school, our program and your daughter's potential coach for the next 4 years.

But YOU have to ask - If you don't ASK, you are not doing your job.


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