October 24, 2010

College Volleyball Recruiting Mindset

I receive many questions a week and the vast majority of them are related to college volleyball recruiting. Because this is a rather narrow topic, as opposed to something like global warming or New York Fashion week, there is quite often duplicity in content/feedback/observations in the questions.

Experience leads me to suggest it is important to have a certain mindset as a VolleyFamily. Even though the PSA is being recruited, the entire family is often (and should be) involved in the process. With the accelerated time frames of college volleyball recruiting, it is critical that parents are active participants in filtering and evaluating the college options with their daughter (notice I said WITH, not FOR their daughters).

Some suggestions born of being a recruit, recruiting to keep my job, conducting many camps at high schools, this website and too much coffee the day after a match:

- Look at the big picture and don't focus on labels. Early in the recruiting process is when a PSA needs to have wide view of the landscape. What I have found is when players first start to wrap their minds around the goal or idea of playing college volleyball, they have a specific set of schools (which is natural because of location or parental alumni status or ESPN). All too often VolleyFamilies get sucked into the media propaganda and ego stroke of NCAA Division I Volleyball (and athletics), thus closing off very good options for college volleyball. The sooner a PSA lets go of a narrow focus and takes in the wide horizon of possibilities, the better it will be.

- Parents can and must be (because of the early time frame of recruiting) chaperones of the recruiting process and encourage their PSA to keep an open mind to all possibilities. Be supportive of taking an unofficial visit to schools which may not be elite in the eyes of your daughter but are of quality. Looking at other colleges/universities will create impressions, will provide a reference point to compare and contrast the PSA's 'favorite' school. Even if you don't meet the coaches and just walk around a campus or drop in on a match, this will provide information to better evaluate additional schools.

- Unfortunately many DI's are not that great; the cost of running a NCAA Division I athletics department is significant and if a school is also sponsoring a football team, this is even more pronounced. If resources are going to be 're-allocated', they are going to come from Volleyball or Soccer or Softball, they are not going to come from Football or Basketball. Fortunately, many DII's are that great, and DIII's and JC's and NAIA's. Just because the classification or title is not being shown on ESPN or Fox Sports does not mean that these options are not well funded, play in nice facilities and offer a quality education in a wonderful environment (for example, I have recently been to a few JC volleyball playing facilities which blow the doors off of a number of gyms in the DI conference I compete in). Focus on the 'feel' of school and program. I understand that it is a little earthy or new wavy to say, but there is a some truth to that little voice inside your head. Try to remove the advertising from a situation and concentrate on how a school/program feels.

- One of my ABSOLUTE best coaching experiences was at a place I would not have even given the time of day to 10 years ago because it was not a big time DI, it was not the ego stroke, it was off the big time volleyball grid from which I had operated for my career, but it turned out to be a great situation. Conversely, the worst coaching experience I have had was at a place which was full tilt volleyball propaganda, a nationally recognizable name, sought after location and should have been great, but it was just awful. Professionally speaking, it taught me to keep an open mind about future opportunities and not get caught up in the same things which sway VolleyFamilies.

- It is the total experience not just volleyball. I understand everyone wants to be on a top NCAA DI team and win the national championship but that is just not going to happen for the overwhelming majority of PSA's. How many teams have won the NCAA DI national championship the last 18 years? 6 out of 330+ schools. I don't want to quash dreams, but this is another situation where parents need to gently guide their daughter and provide the emotional safety net which only a parent can. Your daughter may be a very good volleyball player, but very good may not secure a spot on a national championship team. Very good can secure a scholarship to a wonderful school, with great coaches and first rate facilities which will never win a national championship or even a conference title, but she will have an empowering collegiate experience.

- Slowing everything down and trying to enjoy the ride is more important than anything else. In many of the emails I receive, I can just feel the stress and anxiety of the family. College volleyball recruiting, combined with the cost and drama of club volleyball is not a relaxing situation but these are precious family moments which must be honored. In a stitch of time, the PSA will be a SA and everyone will wonder where the high school years went. A fatalistic view is that everything will happen the way it is supposed to happen, so why not focus on what is important - Family. Remember your daughter's first day of kindergarten? Remember when she got her first best friend in school? Remember when she first played on a volleyball team? Remember when there were no boys around? You will wake up tomorrow and your little girl will be in college - Don't let this never ending craziness of college volleyball recruiting taint the precious months left before your child takes the next step in her life.

Again, lots of coffee and lots of experience.

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