January 21, 2011

Beware the ONE and DONE of Recruiting

There is an emerging trend within college volleyball recruiting and I will name it The One and Done.

For a few years, those of us on the inside of DI college volleyball knew which programs would not hesitate to "push off" an athlete who does not turn out to be as good as they hoped. It used to be just a couple of programs which garnered this reputation, but unfortunately the programs joining this category are growing and growing quickly.

To be clear, The One and Done is when a college program will scholarship a PSA they feel has great potential but currently is not developed and if that player does not fulfill the ability expectations of the coach, then this player will be cut (either with help finding another school or just outright let go). Some feel that this is the result of power conference teams taking chances on athletes with potential, because they are afraid if they don't take the gamble, this athlete might fulfill their potential with a competitor's program; but, this gamble on potential is now being taken by any number of mid-major programs.

Back in the day, college coaches by and large were reluctant to scholarship players solely on the idea of potential because if we were wrong, then that player sat on scholarship for four years. Now, if a coach is wrong about a PSA, the cost is only one year of a scholarship because they are cut quickly. And, there is always another PSA who shows potential, which can easily slot into this now open scholarship.

The NCAA rule of one year renewable scholarships is being taken literally by way too many college coaches today. "Oh well, I was wrong on the potential of Mary, she sure did not get any better from her junior year in high school to now; let's just release her and use this scholarship spot on another player".

For me, this is an unacceptable protocol for college volleyball programs; it is nothing more than ego by the coaches, with no regard for the student-athlete. I say this because college volleyball coaches do not have real pressure to win other than what is self induced. We just don't make enough money to garner the wrath of athletic directors and influential donors if we are not reaching the post season. For the overwhelming majority of college volleyball programs, if the coach follows the NCAA and school rules, treats the athletes with respect and stays within the budget, while winning a few matches, they will have a job for years. When women's basketball assistant coaches make more than the head volleyball coach, crushing a VolleyFamily is not to secure that million dollar contract extension, it is just the ego fulfillment of winning immediately and often.

But, before we bandwagon onto the evil college volleyball coaches, let's not forget the responsibility that parents and club directors/coaches have to protect the PSA. There has to be that moment of reality, when the club coach/director knows that Marvelous Mary is really not good enough to play at Giant State U. Maybe MM has the potential to get to the GSU level in a few years, maybe after lifting and training for two years at GSU she could find the court, maybe.....but this "maybe" has to be clearly illustrated to the families. Even though it looks great for the club to put a player with GSU, the club director/coach absolutely must put the athlete first.

Mom and Dad have to also be the adults and protect their child. I understand no one wants to limit or put a ceiling upon the goals of an athlete, and all parents rightly believe their child is the greatest creature to inhale oxygen, but Mom and Dad must stay objective. They must see the GSU team in training/competition and project their daughter into the equation. They must be able to determine either that their daughter can succeed at GSU or objectively conclude that this is really a long shot situation. Also, Mom and Dad have to be honest with themselves on the current ability of MM - If she is tall and rangy, but struggles to keep pace with the other players or is noticeably lacking in her skills even though she can jump very high and move with grace, then this should realized.

The parents, and then the club, need to be the fail safe for the PSA's. I can promise you that the discomfort you may create now with your daughter or the college coach, is nothing compared to what your child will go through if the college coach pulls a One and Done. (Please note that this post is geared toward those athletes which are categorized as "potential" players. If your daughter is fortunate as to be clearly among the elite, all around PSA's of her year, then this should just be a passing read by you.) But, if the coaches (both club and college) keep referencing potential or upside or projected impact, then this should spark your protective instincts.

Questions need to be asked, don't just get 'wowed' by the fact a Top 20 team is interested in your daughter, or the dream school of the family is extending an unofficial visit request. The parents absolutely cannot become starry eyed because of some volleyball team's name or accomplishments or reputation

Some Q's:

- How many players have transferred the last 4 years?
- What are your skill development expectations of MM?
- How long of a time frame does MM have to fulfill those expectations?
- If you know of certain players leaving the program, ask for a complete explanation of why Mary left the team?
- Ask the club coach/director to ask the same questions of the college program to see if the answers are the same.

This whole post has been brewing in my brain for a bit because of the distaste I feel towards the increasing number of programs which routinely pull the One and Done on SA's for nothing more than ego. The spark to actually write this post came after having two Moms discussing their daughter's current recruiting status (they did not realize some crazy college volleyball coach was slightly to the side and behind them). While it was interesting to hear the VolleyFamily side of the process, I was saddened to realize that a One and Done could be in the making.

One of the Moms had commented on just visiting Big Time program and how another Bigger Time program had just invited their daughter on an unofficial visit. Being the inquisitive sole that I am, I determined who the PSA was and watched her warm-up and compete. Saddened because after watching, there was really no way this athlete was going to play anytime soon at either program and while she was athletic and had the prototypical build for her position, she was very deficient in her skill sets. I really, really hope to be wrong, but it is easy to see this player being 'released' after a year in college.

Parents have always been critical in the recruiting process; not to make the decision but to provide feedback, to listen for those things which don't sound right and to stay objective about everything. With the growing trend of the One and Done, the parent's responsibility becomes even more central to a successful recruiting and collegiate experience.

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