November 17, 2011

Club Team Selection


My daughter is in 8th grade, 6' tall, and looks to be growing.  We live on the east coast and the Clubs in my area are obviously very interested in having her play for them.  (As an aside, I am extremely surprised by the aggressiveness the clubs have displayed with pursuing a 14 year old).

Last year my daughter played Club on a U14 team, i.e. she played “up”.  Some of the clubs are telling me that it is best to have her play “age appropriate” this year because it is better to be a great player on a U14 as opposed to a very good player on a U15 team.  (Frankly I think she will be great on the U15’s, but I don’t want to be a “blind” or myopic parent ).  The same clubs add that on a U14 team she’ll get more notice from college coaches because they believe she will be a “great” performer.  Not knowing if they are looking out for their own best interest vs my daughters, I’d love to know your thoughts on:

Are college coaches really looking at 8th graders?  I was under the impression the radar screen begins to “blip” in 9th grade, i.e. U15’s.

As long as she can excel at U15’s wouldn’t she get noticed anyway?  I should add, I am not considering having her play U15’s because she will get noticed by college coaches, not that being noticed is a bad thing obviously.  I am considering having her play U15s because she advanced greatly last year, I think that age/level is in line with her skills, plus she loved playing with the girls on the team, i.e. she had fun!

One final question regarding volleyball clubs.  I’ve noticed that the 2 clubs most in pursuit of my daughter, both considered elite clubs in this area, have not had any of their players go to top 25 programs.  95%+ of their alumni attend colleges within 2-3 hours driving distance of this area. 

I am not sure if my daughter is good enough to be recruited by a top 25 team.  Assuming she is good enough, is it safe to assume it is better to join a club that travels to further geographic locations, e.g. Texas, the mid-west, Las Vegas, etc? 

If she is not good enough to be recruited by a top 25 team, does it matter if she plays for a club that travels to Texas, the mid-west, Las Vegas, etc, when most girls attend colleges locally?  I want to use my resources wisely.

Thanks, J.D.

To answer your questions:

1.  Having her play up this year would be OK, if she could physically and skill wise hold her own, but I would have her play her age group as a freshman and not stay up.  The big thing is court time and training of the coach; better to have a good coach and play age, even if competition is weaker than play up with a marginal coach against good competition.  VB players get better in practice as opposed to matches. Court time is good and better to be on the court, than off the court during these growth period for developing skills.

2.  Unfortunately, 8th graders are getting scouted which is not a good thing and professionally very disappointing.  Fortunately, this is a rarer occurrence and is usually by the elite programs watching elite players.  9th grade tends to be the start of the scouting and I really think the smart coaches don't do much critical evaluations until the PSA's are in 10th grade because of the physical development or non-development of PSA's.  We are seeing more and more transferring of college SA's because the recruiting process is way, way too early.

3.  15's will be a faster, more physically developed volleyball age group which reflects this time period in a PSA's physical and skill development.  Freshman are stronger and better than 8th graders in all sports, on average.  Again, if she can be constantly on the court, as opposed to sometimes, and has a good coach, then 15's could work out well for her volleyball development.  View her opportunity thru these avenues before committing her to an age or club - Quality of the coach, quantity of playing time.

4.  Try to view the club travel schedule in terms of what your VolleyPSA's goals are, as opposed to solely on her ability to play for a Top 25 team.  The 'broader' and more national a club schedule, the more opportunity to be seen by a wide range of college programs.  What does your daughter want?  Does she want to stay within a 3 hour drive of home, does she want warm weather, does she want a Top 25 team, what academic interests does she have?  All of these questions should be considered, as you consider her club team for her sophomore and later years.

In closing, I would say the key is to select the club which provides the best opportunity for skill development because recruiting is still in the future.  As you indicate your daughter may not be top 25 material (yet), better to not even worry about the elite level and its ramifications now; she is only in 8th grade.

As your PSA gets into her Sophomore year, this is where you will need to be more aware of the travel schedule of a club and getting into the major national tournaments and National Qualifiers.  Don't stress about the freshman year, as she still has time and many coaches would do nothing more than fire off an intro letter to a freshman (and this is not really recruiting, this is just advertising for the future). 

Enjoy the now and develop the physical skills of your PSA.  Even the freshman year, don't think about recruiting, just smile to yourself as a proud parent when an intro letter arrives to your daughter.  Sophomore year is the time when you need to start confronting the recruiting beast.


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