March 19, 2012

College Volleyball Walk On position

Hi Coach Sonnichsen!  I have emailed you before and you have always been so helpful – so thank you and I hope you won’t get sick of me!  Fortunately, I only have one volleyball player in my household, so after she is settled, you’ll be done with me!  After her, I move on to soccer, soccer and more soccerJ

My daughter is a junior and is the libero for her club team.  She plays on the 2’s team just so that she could be the libero and get playing time.  She has been in contact with some colleges, almost all D3’s, so it is coming along, although slowly.  She had sent a video and an email to a couple of D1 colleges but really didn’t get too many responses back. 

One D1 college did respond, however, saying she had watched her video and thought she was a strong libero.  She said that she was done recruiting for 2013, but my daughter was welcome to come to their camp, jump into some scrimmages and see if she would be interested in walking on.  I am thinking about sending her, just for the experience of it – and without any expectations.  I realize that as a junior, she shouldn’t commit to a walk-on as she has plenty of time.

Truthfully, though, I am not exactly sure what being a walk-on means.  I have done some reading on your website – so I know that she gets no money, she will be a practice player, and her position on the team is tenuous at best – she could easily lose her spot the following year.  But – what is her position in relation to the team?  Does she take part in any team building activities, does she dress for games, travel to away games, is she listed on the website roster?  Or are these things that vary from coach to coach?  If it does vary from team to team, are these questions that we could ask the coach?

My daughter would really have to love the school to be part of a volleyball team where she knew she wouldn’t get to play at all.  But, I don’t think she can make an informed decision without knowing exactly what “walk-on” means.  I would like to respond to this coach, but wanted to get some more information first.

Sorry my email is so long – but huge thank you for all of you help and support!  D.C.

More than happy to help and my email 'door' is always open for you and your PSA's -  Be careful, Volleyball could take over Soccer before you know it!

Some random thoughts before answering your definition and protocols for a walk on:

1.  She should be sending out hundreds of contact emails to a wide range of schools.  If she is in dialogue with D3's and has a D1 'expiring' a walk on offer, then that tells me she has attractive stills.  But, limiting your outreach is limiting her choices.  This is one of the reasons I like NCSA, is their database information and technology allows for 100's of contact efforts at the click of a mouse.

2.  I usually don't like collegiate camps as a recruiting tool, but I think you have the right frame of mind for this one (as long as it is not crazy expensive) - Use it as an educational experience for your daughter.

3.  Glad you are not considering committing to a walk on spot as a Junior; this should be 'considered' even later than this time come 2013.

As for your questions, I will answer in general terms as to be applicable to the general NCAA Division I Volleyball coaching world:

1.  Walk on players are treated just like every scholarship player, with the exception being that the scholarship player may be provided additional opportunities to prove their ability or given the benefit of the doubt if struggling on the court.

2.  She will be mandated to attend all practice, training, conditioning, team building, team meals, team hair braiding, etc as any other player would.

3.    She would suit up for home matches, as the NCAA and most conference rules allow for unlimited players in uniform for home matches (this is why you see 500 players in uniforms for the home football team.)

4.  Travel roster is limited by NCAA rules (15), and then further by school or conference rules (my old conference limited to 12, and the coaches had to scream gender equity to get it to 14, and my old school did not even support that because they wanted to save travel money on 2 players).  So, she would need to demonstrate in practice or previous matches that she is one of the best 12 or 14 or 15 players.  Please note that the scholarship player(s) will usually get the benefit of the doubt in the decision about who gets to travel on a team, but if the travel roster is above 12 (the DI scholarship limit), then a couple of walk ons could travel.

5.  She will be listed on the roster.  She will need to fill out all the normal paperwork, all the medical release forms, all the Sports Information Director sheets, be in all the team photos, etc.

6.  It does vary from team to team, and these are questions you must ask the coach.  Some coaches are very inclusive of walk on players and view them as significant additions to the program, while other coaches are very dismissive of walk on player and view them as nothing more than bodies to shag balls during practice.

Let me remind you that as a DI walk on, she is still eligible for all non-athleteic financial support - Academic, Need, Merit and Non-Institutional scholarships are allowed.  For instance, this past season as a head coach, I had four walk on players and had to leave 2 behind each trip, but each walk on player was on some type of non-athletic aid package ranging from a full scholarship to a quarter scholarship.  

But, please go back and read Point 1 at the should DRASTICALLY increase the outreach efforts to include hundreds+ of NCAA schools - It sounds like this will greatly increase her opportunities.


Thanks for your reply, helpful as always.  She has sent out a ton of emails to colleges in the Midwest – we use NCSA and LOVE it.  They have been an awesome resource for us and I can’t say enough good things about them.  We have been focused on the Midwest as she wants to go out of state, if possible, but she doesn’t want to go super far away.  I am glad for that as I 1) will miss the crap out of her, 2) would like to watch her play sometime, 3) worry about getting to her if there were an emergency and 4) it would be additionally expensive having her so far away.  Weirdly, she has been getting lots of out of the blue emails from colleges in New York.  I don’t know why that is, but I worry that New York is too far away, and sort of a scary place to live.  Did I mention we are from the Midwest!

She will keep plugging along and hopefully something will work out.  Some days we both get discourage, but then she gets a really good email from a coach or we read something on your website (or NCSA) that makes us feel better.  I know patience is the key…..but sometimes when I read those emails that start out, “my 6’4” freshman is being hounded by D1 coaches, it makes me want to cry.

Thanks, again, for everything!  I don’t know if you will be at MEQ in Indianapolis or at the Northern Lights Qualifier in Minneapolis, but if you are, we will look you up! D.C.

Glad to help and keep working the recruiting game.  It just takes time and patience, but I am happy hear you have joined NCSA and you are making sure to talk with your daughter about her desires.

I will be at MEQ's, and would enjoy meeting!


  1. On the average, NY State players are below the Western States on skill level and volleyball IQ... these NY programs want to compete better, so they cast a large net to attract good players...

    for example, 15s from California will be on a par with 18s East Coast home-grown...just my opinion from seeing a LOT of kids as both a coach and referee


Please stay positive or at the minimum present constructive criticism - Negative comments or attacks upon other reader's opinions will not be posted.