October 1, 2010

College Volleyball Reality(ies)

VolleyFolks - I have received some email questions from VolleyFamilies with regards to the reality of college volleyball. Because these emails have come from parents of current NCAA Student Athletes, I have not been able to answer them. I don't know if it is coincidence, but I received approximately four questions from families expressing concern/anger/sorrow about the current college volleyball situation of their daughter(s).

Because of this happenstance, I wanted to provide a dose of hard to read reality about college volleyball et al:

1) The recruiting process should be viewed by VolleyFamilies as the ABSOLUTE BEST CASE SCENARIO. I won't go far as to say college volleyball coaches lie when they recruit, but we definitely present the perfect, wished for picture. Some college coaches present a real picture, while others present an unreal picture. Why? To get you to come to their schools. Successful recruiting is why we keep our jobs; I know terrible volleyball coaches who are very good recruiters and the ability to keep bringing in talent allows them to get a paycheck every month.

2) Within reason, a coach is going to tell you what you want to hear when you are a recruit. Sometimes what you hear will come true, but some times it will not happen.

3) Most freshman DO NOT start, no matter what a coach promises during the process. Think about the numbers; if you are a top flight recruit, at an established program, that program has been recruiting PSA's just as good or better than you for a number of years. These already on campus players have a 1 to 4 year head start in lifting, intense training, experience and maturity.

Back in the day, I was a Fab 50 recruit and had an outstanding college career, but I did not play much as a freshman because the other players were just older and better.

4) Parents, as much as you want your daughter to be happy and you wish to emotionally protect her, you are not in college, she is. Unless there is a situation of mental/emotional/physical abuse, you must allow your daughter to work through any playing time/happiness issues. They are the NCAA athlete, they must overcome challenges, they must find the motivation to rise to a higher level of ability, they must make the correct choices to support their competitive goals.

I say this because all too often, what Mary is telling Mom is not 100% percent accurate. Parties, boyfriends, alcohol, new social circles, diet changes, etc. can all affect on court ability. Sometimes these off court behaviors are not shared with parents, but they easily affect volleyball performance.

There are always wrinkles or layers in every situation and no place is perfect. Some behaviors of team mates or staff could always be better, but the player must figure this out, not the parents.

5) It has been said a thousand times and I will beat it into the ground yet one more time - PSA's need to pick a school based on the big picture, not exclusively on Volleyball. Simple question to ask a PSA - "Would you go to this school if you did not play volleyball?".

6) If a SA is not content (there is a difference between content and happy - Happy is overused in our society; we can't be happy 100% of the time, that is not the way life is built. But, we should hope to be content; content is peaceful and in a positive frame of mind) then she can always transfer per NCAA rules.

Transferring is actually a simple process: 1) Go to the Athletic Department Compliance Officer and ask for a Permission to Contact release/paper (this is the necessary document per NCAA rules which allows you to contact other NCAA programs about transferring), 2) Find another school, 3) Your second school obtains the Release document from the first school which verifies your NCAA eligibility.

The catch to this easy plan is that when you pursue a transfer you put yourself back into the recruiting craziness and in competition with all those other high school, junior college, international and 4 year university transfer players also looking for a scholarship or roster spot. Also, as a NCAA transfer, you will need to meet NCAA degree progress unit count percentages which vary per institution.

5) NCAA Volleyball is the next level in ability. It is not high school, it is not club volleyball, it is the 2nd highest level of Women's Volleyball played in the United States. College coaches are full time, intensely driven individuals whose overriding focus is winning volleyball matches. I know we, and all college coaches, preach mentoring and developing the character of players, and educating young people and cleaning up your room and folding your clothes and so on and so on, BUT the bottom line is winning because not matter how great the character of our players are, if we don't win matches we will not be employed for too long.

Just because you were the stud in high school or club, does not mean you will be the stud in college. Your college roster is full of players just like you and as I wrote about earlier, they have years of being a NCAA student athlete on you. I know of many elite level players, who spent their careers not getting much playing time, but they got their degree and were a part of something larger than themselves.

6) College prepares you for the future and in theory, should make for a better life, than if you did not attend college. Athletics is an intense, demanding, competitive endeavour which challenges you every day and in many ways. Being able to adapt and overcome these challenges will only make your future better. IBM is not going to give you a raise because you are a good person, you will not always get a promotion because you should, Ford Motor Company will lay you off if it helps their profit margin even though you were a picture perfect employee - This is reality.

If you cannot overcome the challenges and obstacles of NCAA Volleyball, then I hope you have a very large trust fund waiting for you.

Potentially some hard words for VolleyFamilies to read but I just felt compelled to keep things in perspective.

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