February 21, 2011

College Volleyball Recruited Walk On


What a great blog! I discovered it a few months back and have been reading many past postings. You touched upon (2-24-2008) a situation that I predict my daughter might find herself in.

First, a little background. She is a junior in HS and a parent's dream: high achiever, a great student (4.0 GPA) and a talented volleyball player (5'9" setter). She made the varsity squad as a freshman and earned league 1st team honors this year. She has had stellar club seasons with a "regional" level club team. This year, she's on, perhaps, a "national" level club team and may attract some recruiting interest in the coming months. As of yet, she has not attracted any attention from any elite Division I volleyball programs and realizes she likely will not, as the accelerated recruiting done by many top programs already have their 2012 (verbal) commitments.

Her college aspirations are mainly academic and go to a top university (likely Division I). For situational purposes, let's aim high and say Stanford University. I am presuming she could earn academic (and need) scholarships at her target institution. She also greatly desires to play volleyball in college and is motivated to compete at the highest level. While academics would be her primary consideration for a college choice, a strong secondary consideration is the volleyball program and her ability to make the team-- even as a walk-on.

Given her scenario, I'm believing her best plan of attack is to pursue academic admission, academic scholarships and then be a walk-on at her institution of choice. Your previous article briefly discussed being a Recruited Walk-On and how if a PSA crosses the "recruited" threshold, the maximum non-athletic financial aid/scholarship becomes capped at the equivalent of a full athletic scholarship. I don't want to be overly optimistic, but it is possible that she could collectively earn scholarships (she is also an ethnic minority) that exceed the value of a full athletic scholarship.
It appears that the crux of the matter is not to exceed ONE correspondence incident between the PSA and the coaching staff to avoid the "recruited" classification. You previously defined that incident as either an email, letter or phone call. Wow, that is a very fine line. Does it matter who initiates the correspondence? What about conversations in person? What about attending a school's summer volleyball camp?

I see the contradictory challenge in the PSA and the program trying to evaluate each other while avoiding the "recruited" classification. On the surface, it seems the solution to this dilemma is to always utilize a 3rd party to act as an intermediary between the PSA and the program.

Despite the tricky waters to navigate, I'm believing this strategy best fits my daughter's situation-- as it stands now. I'd appreciate your thoughts and any strategies on how to deal with this particular scenario. Perhaps you could also note the NCAA rule book section that addresses the "recruited" classification and the aid limitation.

Just for clarification, could you also address this scenario? Suppose a PSA signs a NLI next week and has a full athletic scholarship (at least for the first year). The PSA later earns a $2000 Rotary Club scholarship (for civic achievements). Does the PSA have to decline the Rotary scholarship? How do outside (not from the school) scholarships get utilized by students on a full athletic scholarship?

I truly appreciate your website. CJ

Let me try to briefly answer your questions and provide some feedback.

1. Pursue walk-on concurrently with applications for the schools of her choice. I have noticed a big upswing PSA's requesting walk-on opportunities these last few years with NCAA Division I programs. This could be a result of the propaganda of DI, the increase of PSA's with club qualifications and not an increase in DI programs. If you approach a DI program late in the process with a walk-on request, post acceptance at a school, the player roster could be filled up. It is hard for any DI program to carry over 16 players and a number of the DI teams now have walk-on players which are really scholarship in waiting players.

2. I think you may be worrying too much about the 'recruited' walk on tag. Very few students would ever receive a non-athletic scholarship which totals the cost of attendance for an institution, even under the perfect storm of qualifications and attributes. All the 'recruited' tag does limit the non-athletic aid to that of a full athletic scholarship total and is mainly pertinent to public schools because of public supported scholarship opportunities. It is more important that you/your daughter interact and clearly communicate with potential programs to get a feel for their characteristics. If this means you sacrifice a couple of thousand dollars in tough to achieve financial support, but you can secure a comfortable and empowering situation, then it is a good decision.

3. You can actually go to the ncaa.org website and look under Legislation; they will have a search box. It is not as clear/clean as google, but by typing in recruited walk on, you should be able to find the exact definition.

4. Scholarships which are brought to a college (high school academic awards, Girl Scouts, church, etc) are acceptable as long as they are not related or garnered by athletic ability. For instance, if the high school volleyball booster club awarded a 1,000.00 scholarship to a PSA for her MVP season, this scholarship could not be applied at State U if the PSA was on a full. But, if the scholarship is not based upon athletics, such as Rotary, then the scholarship can be accepted and applied. The thing to remember about the NCAA when it comes to scholarships is they don't want double dipping - whether that is athletic scholarship from inside/outside the school, or stacking academic/athletic within the school to go over a pre-set amount.

5. My last comment is do not focus on the walk-on scenario at this time; it is too early for DI coaches to think about these things for the 2012 class. Also, and more important, it is still rather early in the 2012 recruiting season, especially for setters. OH's always go first, and then MB'; at least she is not a Libero because they seem to be always last in line! By the sounds of your email, she was not on a 16's team which got a lot of college coach's looks because it was regional. As she plays more of a national schedule, then she will be 'viewed' much, much more. There are any number of outstanding academic institutions which are not elite NCAA DI Volleyball schools and recruit on a slower time frame. Let this club season play out, let your daughter be a setter and don't be hesitant to get the word out to potential programs - Use my Recruiting Plan for the Junior Year, especially since she was on a regional team. If she has talent, then she will find a good spot.

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