September 17, 2010

Recruiting Services Question

Thank you so much for your blog, your advice and mostly your insight as a coach who sees these PSAs day in and day out.
Here's my question. There are a number of "free" websites where players can register. Some are really free, others are free for bare bones info, and not free for "premium" levels. I used only free sites except for one month when I paid the monthly fee just to have access to mass email to coaches.
I wondered how coaches view those sites, if they think they are useful in the recruiting process, and if coaches really do go and surf looking for players. Some of the sites track who was there and how many times someone views your profile. That is sometimes helpful to the athlete, i.e. knowing who looked so they can follow up with an email if the athlete is interested in the program.
I also wondered if it's irritating to coaches to get those "mailers" from the sites. Because we don't see what they look like, I assume they have advertising of some sort and it's probably pretty obvious that the letter came from University Athlete or BeRecruited, etc. Is that a turn off or are these truly viable tools for the athletes to use? Thumbs up or thumbs down from the coaches out there?
I personally used the mass mailer to ask a very general question about the possibility of sand/beach volleyball at 100 colleges. I prepared the letter, added 100 coaches to the addressing and sent it. I did not get even one response which made me wonder if the same thing happens if you're addressing a great athlete vs. a question about their program.
At any rate, I wondered if you could give your opinion of these sites and whether it's worth the time and effort to set up, update often, prepare and post video, and post photos. Do the coaches use these sites and would you encourage PSAs to use them or don't bother?
Thanks again for your great willingness to lead us through the labyrinth of college recruiting.
VB Mom

Thanks for the compliments on the site and I am glad you enjoy reading.

As you indicated in your question with regards to recruiting services or companies, there are numerous options. Some are basic, while others are comprehensive. In addition to those companies that actively promote the PSA's, there are other entities which act as almost an information database or conduit to put PSA's and college coaches in contact with each other.

I will say that I have seen a substantial development in the quality of VolleyServices (my newest term to serve as a catch all for any company or entity which assists or supports the endeavor of PSA's to find a college). When I first got into coaching, we would receive these packets of fliers which included missing information, no physical stats, 5'6" middle blockers when we were a Top 25 team, etc. That initial experience tended to slant my view towards negative of the athlete paid recruiting services.

By and large, coaches will put more weight upon those VolleyServices for which they pay the cost. There a number of VolleyServices that coaches pay a premium to subscribe to and as such, they will always get the attention of the coaches when they send out information. These have the attraction for the coaches of knowing that the focus and service is based upon the college coaches, as opposed to the PSA's - Almost like a real estate agent being a buyer's agent or a seller's agent.

As I referenced above, there are VolleyServices which act as the meeting place for PSA's and coaches - They do not actively contact coaches or promote athletes, but rather provide information to both sides of the aisle. If a college coach is needing an Outside Hitter late in the recruiting process, then he/she/it can go to this VolleyService to search through their database of available PSA's. If a PSA wants to get contact information for selective college volleyball programs, then they can go to this VolleyService to do research.

With the VolleyServices that actively promote the PSA's, I have been impressed with their professional development. It is routine now to have video easily accessible and updated, the information seems current, the format is easily accessed (always key with our intelligence levels!) and contact information is correct. Of course, there are still the mass mail out flier organizations and these make for great paper balls in the never ending game of trash can basketball.

It is my sense that the more elite a college volleyball program, the less they might use a VolleyService. That is not to say Penn State does not look at information or need to access contact data, but PSU has a small group of candidates because of their recruiting talent demands and probably has been tracking Stupendous Sally since she was 12 years old because of their staffing and support. The further down the recruiting food chain one would travel, the more I believe college programs use the VolleyServices. All too many of us are working with one assistant and just enough budget for a couple of recruiting trips - We don't have the ability to film every possible player, or to chase down accurate contact information via the club/high school coach and we can't get to the other side of the state much less country to see a whole new set of players.

In summary, here is my bullet feedback on VolleyServices:

* Postal mail outs are a waste of trees.

* If a family is paying for a VolleyService, then absolutely make sure you provide accurate physical, club/high school and contact information, along with being able to upload/present current video. I have no idea how much these type of pay VolleyServices charge, and I don't want to know, but just make sure the information is correct, the video is current and know who they are contacting.

* Be active in your VolleyService management - For example, if you are a 5'9" OH with a 20" vertical jump, along with average passing skills and the VolleyService is contacting the Top 25 NCAA Division I programs repeatedly, then they are not doing a good job. You should be active in your 'conversation' with them to make sure they are promoting you to the correct levels.

* Everything a VolleyService does, you can do. The question becomes do you have the time, energy, equipment and desire to do it yourself? A VolleyService will not make you better than you are, they will not magically get you a scholarship to Stanford, but they can be a tool to help you with you future - Like all tools, it is up the the person holding it to make it work, not the other way around.

* College coaches will always look at video via an e-mail or link; we may only look for 10 seconds but we will look. With this in mind, good video is better than good words. You can have a bio sheet that says you are next Olympian with your unreal stats, but I will still want to see video - Or you can have a bio sheet that says, "jump high hit ball hard" and I will look.

* It is still your job to interact with coaches, to do research on the potential schools and programs, to follow up with requested information - College coaches do not want to work solely through a VolleyService, they are not your agent or manager (which is illegal per NCAA rules); the VolleyService is the entity which got me to contact you and now it is up to us to figure out if this is your future.

I believe the best thing about the VolleyServices is that they provide another available resource for all of us in the great game of college volleyball.

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