July 1, 2010

Volleyball Walk-On

Dear Coach,

To expand on the 'walk-on' questions, which by the way were very insightful (thank you), could you please elaborate on the timing within the recruiting process a typical Dl college program would make a decision about a 'walk-on'. Is it after the letters of intent are signed?

Also, do Dl colleges have walk-on try-outs or are the walk-on opportunities offered to those prospects who might have been further down from the top recruiting list? How do most proceed?

Thank you,

This is a good question and I would think each program determines its own walk on protocol. My experience leads me to believe that the higher ranked the Division I Volleyball program and its location within a region of the country which supports women's volleyball, the more players are asking to become walk ons.

I was an assistant coach at a program known for Women's Volleyball and within a part of the country which supports Women's Volleyball, and we had so many kids asking to become walk-ons that it was amazing; and these were very good players who would be easily receiving DI offers from tons of other programs. We actually spent just about as much time trying to determine who we would extend a walk on opportunity to, as we did the players who we were considering for scholarships. This is not the situation at all 300+ Division I schools, but it does apply to a number of programs.

By a typical program, I would generalize this as one which is mid-level in ability, in a mid-level conference and in a part of the country where Women's Volleyball is recognized as a real sport, if not really supported.

To answer your questions, based upon the above generalizations:

1. Timing - In the spring of the senior year of a PSA is when schools would tend to consider their walk on options. Remember that walk-ons now come in two varieties - Recruited and Traditional. The Recruited walk-ons (will be awarded a scholarship at a later date) would be confirmed first, then the Traditional walk-ons would be considered. Usually before the end of the high school academic year, the college programs would be close to, if not finished with selecting their walk-on players.

This is one reason I hesitate to recommend that a VolleyFamily commit to a Traditional or even Recruited walk-on position before late in the spring of their Senior year. There will still be many Division I teams actively looking for players among the senior class in the New Year and well into the Spring - Stuff happens.

2. National Letter of Intent - I would not put too much into the NLI date, as the majority of committed players signed in the early (fall) signing period, and those which committed or secured a scholarship offer after the early date, have made a verbal commitment and are just waiting for the late signing date to roll around. It is not a situation where the college programs are sending out NLI's and waiting to see if they get signed; they know they will be signed before they go out. The process for walk-on consideration usually starts before the late NLI date and will conclude after the NLI date. Of course, some players who feel the college program is the perfect academics/athletics/uniform/library/colors/mascot/location/cafeteria/weather/landscaping will accept a walk-on offer whenever they receive one.

3. NCAA Division I schools do not have pre-enrollment tryouts, this is not allowed. DI programs may have a tryout for current university/college students sometime during the academic year. NCAA Division II schools can have tryouts and prospects are allowed to train with the team on a visit (always an interesting situation having a PSA reach a whole new level of nervousness in volleyball!).

A number of NCAA Division I programs will use their summer camps as a de facto tryout and this is OK per NCAA rules (not really so, but the schools find a way to smoke and mirror the camp so it does not appear as such). This is where a number of PSA's might showcase their skills for a roster opportunity, scholarship or walk-on. I hesitate to recommend a PSA pursue this avenue because NCAA Division I volleyball camps are not cheap and this is an expensive one shot opportunity to be seen/evaluated.

4. How do most proceed? Tough to say because there are any number of college coaches who are rather strange (maybe strange is too tough of a word, let's try unique in their logical processes of selecting players). I would venture that college programs secure their scholarship players then start to hint a bit about walking on to the other players near the top of their recruiting ranks; done via the club coach or by making a 'casual' suggestion to the VolleyFamily.

Of course, there are any number of PSA's which point blank let the coach know they want to walk-on to their program and inquire if they can. In this situation, if the coach has not seen them play in person, or more likely, can't remember them playing (come on, there are 2000 club tourneys and more players than Kisses at Hershey's), then they will ask for a skills tape to get a feel for a PSA's skill sets.

Please be aware that college coaches are under pressure or at least, strong suggestions, to add walk-on players to their roster. The Athletic Directors need every female student athlete possible to help balance the sheer number of football players (and football coaches love their walk-ons, or blocking dummies). This is one of the reasons that the NCAA DI Women's Volleyball travel limit is 15 players, even though the NCAA DI Women's Volleyball only awards 12 scholarships.

In the right circumstances, a walk-on opportunity is great. I just feel better recommending that a player not commit to a walk-on spot early in their senior year, unless it is just blue sky perfect.

1 comment:

  1. I say a walkon opportunity is for a person who is seeking to study more than be seen on the floor during game time or if they don't want to play that sport after college on a professional level. The author of the article stated only consider walk on if all the stars line up (perfect location, weather, Academic program, etc....
    Let's say if the student does not exactly meet the academic qualifications to get into the school, but they can play the sport really well, being a walkon will secure the person a spot at the school. The person will have time to improve their academics....and be an athlete. Not a bad deal. Take lemons and make lemonade!


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