August 22, 2010

Sand Volleyball and Transfer Questions

Hi Coach,

I wrote a few years ago and now have a few questions you might have the answers to.

1. The first question relates to sand volleyball and indoor volleyball. Per the NCAA are they considered completely different sports? If so, how does the four years of eligibility work? can an athlete play two different sports and have four years of eligibility in each or is it four years total regardless of how many sports they play?

2. Depending on your answer to Question I, this question may be moot. Assuming it is four years per sport, let's say the player is starting out as a freshman OH for the indoor team at college A. Ultimately, their major will likely take five years to complete and may require a switch to college B who has a fully developed program in this rather obscure major. College B's coach is known for recruiting very tall players, but college B is about to embark on adding a DI Sand Volleyball program. If they are considered two distinct sports, would the player be eligible to play for a fifth year without red-shirting a year under NCAA regulations?

3. Lastly, when is an NLI considered fulfilled? In other words, if a fall 2010 freshman has signed an NLI, what date in 2011 would it be legal for that player to contact the coach at college B to discuss the possibility of playing in their pending sand program. Will college A expect her to sign another in the spring of 2011 to cover the 2011-12 year? Do programs usually have a yearly signing or is it only for that first year to bind the player to the college?

P.S. You are really doing a lot of people a great service by bringing people hope but dosing it with enough reality that it truly helps families negotiate the world of girls volleyball. Things have really gotten out of hand and there is so much angst and strife for both the player and the parents these days. It is fueled by high performance this and special'itis that and it is really sad to see. In reading the current questions from people, I can just feel the anxiety in some of the questions.

I implore you to impart to these folks that after they follow the steps you outline in terms of recruitment, what ever is going to happen is going to happen. Coaches may over look their kid and that's just the way it is. It doesn't mean the kid is damaged goods, just not right for that particular program. It is actually a blessing to be told no early on because it must be a good fit for the PSA and the school's volleyball program to have success.

Sometime in the middle of the junior year reality hits the fan and kids and their parents learn just how good (or not) they are. Very good life lessons can come out of that time if handled well and you can be integral in supporting that process via your blog.

Hope your season goes well,

Interested Parent

I. P. - Thanks for your possible comments and I do hope that I am able to shed some light on what is a crazy and ever changing creature (college volleyball and college volleyball recruiting). I believe your reflections about the recruiting path(s) is something which can lend some direction to parents which are just entering the process.

On to your questions:

1. The NCAA will consider them completely different sports, even though they will use (initially and probably always for any team outside of the mega conferences) the same players and coaches. They have to be completely different sports because this is the only way that Sand Volleyball can serve its true purpose in the eyes of the NCAA - Equity counts to help off set the number of football players. If you have doubts about the view the NCAA holds of Sand Volleyball, just remember back to that nice picture of the soccer ball on the dirty patch of sand when the release announcing Sand Volleyball was posted by the NCAA on its own web site - Just priceless. I am still stunned that the AVCA (american volleyball cash association) would support such a measure which blatantly uses female student-athletes to circumvent true equity to assist football, until I remembered that the AVCA is just concerned with its own numbers (for membership totals as to increase advertising revenues and membership dues).

I have not heard the specifics of the sand/indoor eligibility relationship, just as I have not heard the potential season for sand volleyball, squad size, competition format, training know, all the details which should have been clearly spelled out before the sport was put forward for a vote with the NCAA Division I membership (which by the way, the majority of the NCAA DI schools voted to over ride, but came up just a couple of percentage points shy of the 60% +/- needed for the formal over ride).

If the NCAA follows rules/protocol with regards to seasons of eligibility, a student-athlete would have 5 years to play 4 seasons (but only 4 seasons in one sport). Many times this happens in Volleyball and basketball where the SA will play Volleyball their first year and not basketball, but then will have a 5th year of school, where they complete their 4th year of eligibility in basketball. Another scenario is that many talented Volleyball players may play one year of basketball after they have exhausted their 4 years of Volleyball (if they are still working on their undergraduate degree).

Of course, there is the hierarchy of NCAA sports, in which Indoor Volleyball (still "Makes Me Very Angry" to have to write Indoor instead of just Volleyball - Italics reference the little green dude on the moon with the big gun pointing towards the earth from those Bugs Bunny cartoons!) will undoubtedly be higher on the Totem Pole than Sand Volleyball. This is why Dual Sport athletes in Volleyball/Basketball must be carried on a Basketball scholarship.

Just to be clear, I very much enjoy playing beach volleyball (back in the day, I played it to make money) and do feel there can be some crossover skill training, but I think that all we are doing is marginalizing a very good sport with a huge ceiling (Indoor Volleyball, #1 sport in the world for women but not even Top 3 in the USA) because the AVCA is trying to make a dollar off of it and the NCAA can double dip female athletes, without proper funding, to assist with their equity counts. I honestly believe this will be a huge mistake for the legitimizing of indoor college volleyball. If anyone has any doubt about the cyclical nature of sand/beach volleyball's popularity, just look at the AVP Pro Beach Tour - They are canceling tournaments last minute because they can't garner sponsors and this is the group which won the Olympic Gold Medal for men and women! Maybe, just maybe, the sport of beach/sand volleyball is nothing more than a lifestyle sport and can only be legitimately supported when people decide they want such a lifestyle.

Professionally speaking, the AVCA has just advocated adding job responsibilities to college volleyball coaches without added pay of any significance. For instance, Georgia State advertised their volleyball position as indoor and sand, and I would be stunned if the salary was increased over the previous coach, specific to the added responsibilities of Sand Volleyball. Now this individual will have to administer all components of an indoor volleyball team and manage a sand volleyball team. Instead of advocating for more staff positions (like Graduate Assistants or Director of Operations), the AVCA is concerned with generating income for itself and 'promoting the sport' (how much more nebulous of a mission statement could an organization produce?) - It is just numbing for me to think about the hypocrisy of NCAA Sand Volleyball and this is coming from someone who played beach volleyball at the highest possible level!

2. First of all, I had a high school senior SAT flashback reading through Question 2. Volleyball, under current NCAA rules, does not mandate a sit out and/or loss of eligibility year when a SA transfers and I don't think Sand Volleyball will either. So, in theory, if an Athletic Department is going to sponsor Sand Volleyball and provide Sand Volleyball specific scholarships, then a SA could transfer from an Indoor to a Sand program, provided they received the proper releases.

3. The National Letter of Intent is considered fulfilled after the SA has completed one year of attendance at the contractual institution (my remembrance of the the NLI rules). The NLI is the legal document binding the Prospective Student Athlete and the host institution together, and I feel it directly benefits the PSA. Can you imagine how many incoming head coaches would nullify scholarships for PSA's if there was not a NLI (not specific to Volleyball, but all sports)?

A SA can approach their coach or contact potential transfer coaches whenever they wish to discuss the option of transferring, but before a potential NCAA school/coach can respond to a SA's inquiry about transferring, the SA must present a Permission to Contact document (the "Release" term so often used, is actually just requested when the 'transferred to' institution must verify academic eligibility at the initial school, as to be legible at the second school and this is called the Release document).

Also, a SA cannot transfer to another NCAA program until she/he/it has fulfilled one academic year in residence (per NCAA rules, which go in conjunction with NLI rules) at the initial school and has satisfactorily completed 24 hours of credit. Lots of rules!

Traditionally, the NLI is only offered and signed the first year of college/university attendance. We will provide an NLI to our JC transfer players, because it is nice for them to say they signed a NLI, but is really used for incoming student athletes. Four year transfer SA's will sign either scholarship papers or acceptance letters (if they are walking on) from schools.

The topic of transferring creates different reactions among college coaches - I have always been philosophical about this subject as a result of having played college volleyball, I understand what a GREAT and SMALL window of opportunity this is, along with knowing how important it is to be comfortable where you are. For instance, if I am not comfortable working for an Athletic Department, then I am out of there. I would rather grant a Permission to Contact letter and assist a player in finding a better place for them, than deny an athlete and create a whole batch of headaches for everyone. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for every college coach and I have heard nightmare stories of what players have had to go through just to be able to transfer.

Thanks again for your nice comments and I hope your feedback can help another family right now.

As for the fast approaching season, if my serve receive holds up and my OH's can hit some good zero's then we will be OK - Not great, but moving in the right direction.

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