October 4, 2010

College Volleyball Recruiting and ACL Recovery

Hi Coach:

Love your blog. It has helped so much and is entertaining too. I tell everyone about you. I found it last January by accident but read often and have been reading your archives lately because my daughters is a Junior and she has decided to try to play in college. I have several questions.

A little history: She has played Club VB since 6th grade and played on her school teams, 5th grade through middle school. She has always been placed on the top teams in Club and had a lot of playing time in many positions. She is also accomplished and talented in another sport which conflicts with Volleyball in our region. Freshman year, she chose to participate in the other sport.

She loves both sports and we have cried many tears over having to choose one over the other. She had a great year in that sport. She made All Conference as a freshman, and her team won conference and sectionals titles and she qualified for state. She was named Rookie of the year on the team. I tell you this so you see that she is a talented athlete. She went on to compete in the Club VB the rest of her Freshman year.

In May 09, she blew out her ACL and damaged the meniscus. Long story short: reconstructive surgery in July, PT through Dec., cleared to play and back in Club VB Jan - March, in April she had a second surgery to clean up meniscus (probably should have been done first time around). She took it somewhat easy over the summer to let the knee heel.

Which brings us to the present. This year she chose VB over the other sport. She has a starting position on the varsity squad of her high school team. She was named a captain as well. She is an OH and plays all the way around.

The first question is when writing unsolicited introductory letters, should they be written on paper and mailed(Recruiting Plan 2007) or is email the way to go these days?

My next questions are about what to put in these letters. Because her road in VB has several twists and turns, if we stick to just volleyball, there is obviously a gap.

Do we include info about freshman year and the other sport? awards, coaches name etc.(further emphasizing her athletic talent.)

Do we mention the injury, surgery and recovery, since it looks like she didn't do much her sophomore year?

Do coaches view injury as damaged goods and tend to stir clear of a player who has had one?

She is 5'9'' . Everyone knows in club, the heights are usually not accurate. Do coaches expect to see the height with or without shoes?

She is struggling a little with her hitting because she has lost 4" on her vertical. With a heavy course load of Honors and AP classes, practice 3 days a week, and evening games two days a week, there is little time to work on strength training and conditioning.

With limited time, in your opinion, what are the 3 - 4 most effective exercises she can be doing to help increase her jump?

Thanks so much - K.B

I appreciate the nice comments on the site and you spreading the word - A pipe dream of mine is to develop this enterprise into a full time situation and go live on a beach somewhere tropical!

****Side item - All my VolleyReaders, please tell 30 sports minded people about this site, so I can move to the yet to be named tropical island. Just think how entertaining and informative this site could be if I did not have to think about my real job!!!!****

But back to reality; yours and mine. ACL injuries are such a heartbreaking situation and for some reason, just plague the sport of women's volleyball. I know studies have been done on the physiology of male versus female athletes and how come female athletes suffer a higher percentage of non-contact ACL injuries (as opposed to a football or hockey player having their legs smashed by a defender); I remember reading something about the angle of the femur going into the knee as a result of females having a slightly wider hip width, which results in some greater pressure point on the knee? Whatever the reason, women's volleyball players sure do suffer a bunch of ACL injuries.

Let me try to address your questions one at a time, with some observations thrown in:

1. I do need to update the Recruiting Plan, as trends change - But, I would actually double dip on the initial contacts - Some programs get HUNDREDS of e-mails a day and your could get 'not noticed' just because of the numbers, and some programs get tons of letters a week and letters can sit for awhile; might as well do both.

If I had to choose just one, I would almost say go with a paper letter because it is a bit old school and may stand out more (again, because of all the emails - Emails have a much shorter attention span from the coaches and often get put into the "get to it later" list). There are times when I am out recruiting or just don't want to deal with the computer, and I will check my email after a few days only to have a hundred emails waiting for me. Good or bad, information at all universities is disseminated via email - This just piles on top of our college volleyball business.

But, and I will sound very contradictory here, the downside of mailed letters is that you can't have an video link like with e-mails. So, again, send out both - Two lines in the water will catch more fish than one.

2. Detailed information is the way to go on the letter/bio, but it does not need to be an epic bio. List that she focused on another sport one year and list her accomplishments. Also, put in the knee surgeries - back in the day this was a negative, but now with how routine fixing the knee has been become, there is really no negativity associated with it; this also shows that her vertical jump is a little down for a reason. Some coaches may be a bit hesitant, or cast a stronger eye, but most coaches know this happens and recovery is usually 100%.

As important as the words are, the video is more important. As I have written before, words will never compare to video. VolleyFamilies tend to stress way too much about the introductory letter/bio; no matter what you write, the video or live video (i.e. coaches watching the player) will always overwhelm the letter. Be way, like way more dude, concerned with the video tape - Since you can edit this video tape, like you can edit a letter, make sure the video tape shows the very best of skills.

Since you are acknowledging a knee surgery, having a video readily available is very important - This will belay any concerns a coach may have with regards to ACL surgery.

3. All coaches know height is an approximate number, so either way works. What you want to stay away from is the 5'11" listing for the player who is really 5'7" - I suggest measuring her in bare feet and then making it clear in her stats that she was measured in bare feet.

4. She needs to build back her strength/power in her legs to increase her vertical. You can do this with just basic lifts - Squats, calf raises, power cleans and pulls, leg curls, leg extensions. Her jump has decreased because the muscles in her legs lost strength during the course of the surgery and recovery. I don't believe it would be a conditioning issue because of her practices/matches (unless she put on weight during her recovery - it happens). Work on big muscle strength of the legs to get the jump back and this is easy to do, and does not take a lot of time.

I suggest that because of her height, her position and her surgeries, that regaining this lost 4 inches of vertical jump is very important. If your daughter was 6'2", then she could get away with the loss better than being 5'9". Not having seen your daughter play, I can't qualify her passing and ball control skills, but small OH's need to have a very good jump to be NCAA volleyball players and 5'9" would be considered a small OH. This is not too suggest that 5'9" is not NCAA (DI/DII/DIII) quality and I have a couple of 5'9" OH's on my DI team, but they jump very well with very good ball control.

By your information, it sounds as if life is rather busy, but I would carve out proper time to engage upon a serious strength and jumping program before the club volleyball recruiting season kicks in. Your daughter is coming of a 16's club season which was focused on rehab and a second surgery - This tends to make the 17's club season even more important. The honest truth is, as a 5'9" OH, the higher she jumps the more attention she will gain from the logo crowd circling the Sport Courts.

If college volleyball is her goal, then the 17's club season is of tremendous importance - It is NOT do or die, like 18 club, but there will be more opportunities for scholarships and roster spots as a Junior than as a Senior. Again, if college volleyball is her goal, then put forth the focused effort to maximize 17's club.

Good Luck!

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