Thanks for the compliments on Inside College Volleyball and for the site - It is a nice to be able to help VolleyFamilies in this very important process!
You have asked astute questions and the current protocols of college volleyball recruiting can be in flux. It is not as cut and dry as a few years ago.
Let me try to clarify my rationals while also answering your questions:
Remember that there are two sides to the recruiting equation - The VolleyPSA and the College Volleyball program. All to often, VolleyFamilies can get 'panicked' about this early evaluation and recruitment of 8th/9th graders, and feel they need to also match this accelerated time frame being presented by college coaches.
There is a difference between evaluation and recruiting of PSA's; I don't equate a college program sending a player who is in 8th/9th grade a NCAA allowed introductory letter and questionnaire as 'recruiting' - I tend to look at this as more of the evaluation protocols but it can be classified broadly under the 'recruiting' umbrella.
This reference to the coaches 'recruiting' down to the 8th grade level on the NCSA youtube channel is an acknowledgment of the crazy time frames which many college volleyball programs are now operating under and the need for VolleyParents to start the education process. Education for VolleyFamilies is important to begin early, which is not really recruiting, but rather preparing for recruiting.
All too often I have found that VolleyFamilies get wide-eyed and/or overwhelmed when they may have an early talented daughter who gets aggressively pursued early by collegiate coaches; if parents start the education process earlier, then at what ever time their VolleyPSA does get recruited, they will be in a better position to manage/digest the process.
The club coach is correct in the statement that the 16's/sophomore year has become a big year in the process, but this is most applicable to the DI caliber athlete. NCAA Division I scholarship offers are the common place for this caliber of PSA. NCAA Division II schools will still lean towards Junior and Senior year recruiting because they have to wait until the DI schools select/their PSA's.
I do agree there is a general timeline towards an earlier recruiting cycle, but two points; 1) This early time frame is MOST applicable to the NCAA DI athlete and really the upper DI elite player, 2) there is a secondary recruiting timeline which is coming to the surface recently.
Before I expand upon points 1 and 2, I believe that the recruiting timeline I expressed within my book is still generally applicable because the elite percentage of athletes which fall into this earlier recruiting timeline is relatively small when viewed agains the entire depth of VolleyPSA's; so, yes, the VolleyFamilies which don't have those stud freshman can relax a little bit.
Point 1 - The earlier recruiting timeline (and I mean those VolleyFamilies which get offered scholarships as freshman or early sophomores) is applicable to the elite players within these classes and this number is not really that big. The University of Florida and Central Florida are both upper DI schools but Florida will have a earlier recruiting time frame than Central Florida, and while Jacksonville University is also DI, they will have a much slower recruiting time frame than UF or UCF. And if we throw in Florida Institute of Technology (a NCAA D2 program), their recruiting timeframe will almost seem in slow motion compared to the other listed Florida schools. There is a certain pecking order when it comes to the recruiting hierarchy.
Point 2 - The combination of the very early recruiting time frame and the large number of roster changes within NCAA Division I has created a secondary recruiting protocol which is later than illustrated above. We are seeing more roster changes than at anytime I can remember; too many NCAA coaches are using the One and Done to manage their roster or not even sending out the NLI if the player has not developed as the coach had anticipated when they extended and accepted the verbal scholarship offer when the PSA was a freshman, coaching changes are now validation for making wholesale changes to the current roster and incoming recruiting classes, players change majors or realize what they were told/sold during the recruiting process is not the reality they are now in and wish to transfer. All of these examples have created a secondary or adjusted recruiting process, where NCAA DI and also, DII schools are extending later (Junior and Senior year) scholarships to PSA's and transfers.
I was in Las Vegas for a recent President's Day tournament and the Las Vegas tourney is dominantly a Junior and Senior club level tourney; it has become the go to early spring season club event to find/recruit Senior players. I was stunned at the number of NCAA Division I programs and elite level Division I programs which were aggressively recruiting senior players for scholarships.
The choice of a club for your daughter should depend upon many factors and most important in this choice is the goals your daughter has as a student and an athlete. There are some clubs which do a great job of getting their players into colleges, but don't excel with developing skills. There are some clubs which can reference all the elite programs which they have players but these same clubs can have some jerk coaches.
Unfortunately the world of collegiate athletics is evolving so quickly, that with your daughter going into 7th grade, what I could tell you today could easily be out of date in two years. Right now, encourage fun and focus on her developing skills via her club involvement. With that formula for the next two years, you need to examine the training philosophies of any potential club. For instance, playing is not really a good training environment. A coach who can run a good practice which is focused on skills and not play, should be the direction you go. Volleyball is one of those sports where you make improvements in practice not play. But, too many club teams will use a bunch of their allotted practice time to compete or play games because it is easier to do.
If she enjoys the sport, then she will enjoy developing her skills and you still have a few years to let her develop her academic and athletic particulars. As these areas develop and mature over the next few years, you will be in a more comfortable position to make an educated decision which best fits your daughter's future goals.
Thank you once again for your kind words.
Coach Matt Sonnichsen