June 26, 2012

Questions on Camp, Redshirting and High School Volleyball


You've talked a lot about College camps, but you've never mentioned anything about Club sponsored College coaches camps.  This is a big thing in Texas and Florida where clubs bring 3 to 12 College coaches into their facilities and let them run the club's primary summer camp.

The coaches are assistants and Head coaches, and the schools are mostly DI.  Including some top ten schools

One club touts a College coach on every court.

As most serious volleyball players go to at least one summer camp, these camps combine extra volleyball touches with a taste of College volleyball drills.  They are pretty cool.

Don't really have a question, but you've never mentioned these type of camps.

Take care - S.E.

Good question and I have seen that a number of the larger clubs are offering collegiate coached summer camps.  In my book, Inside College Volleyball, I wrote extensively about volleyball camps, and these pseudo 'collegiate' camps are a newer trend.

I like the philosophy of such a camp, just because it is in a facility the players are used to and they are exposed to a wider range of training ideas than just the club team's.  

My only concern would be the cost of such a camp, because camps don't seem cheap these days and they are 'hiring' collegiate level coaches.

From a recruiting perspective, maybe it does create an opportunity for a late blooming or injury returning PSA to get seen by a college program.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

Hello again Coach Sonnichsen,

Recently, my 2012 grad(DS/Libero) committed to a small D2 university that offered a fantastic academic scholarship. She has been invited by the coach to walk on (enthusiastically invited). There are two DS/Liberos ahead of her (soph and a junior this coming year). He has advised us that she might red shirt her first year. 

This disappointed her as I don't think she understood the good that can come from red shirting as opposed to not playing. I researched your site and found one letter so I wonder if you can perhaps shed a bit more light on the subject and hopefully help her to understand that there is "good" in this news. Also, would this be a typical case of red shirting? She is about to begin (now that club is over) her summer workouts in earnest (she has a volunteer private coach) so she will be ready.

I very much appreciate you and your work - as well as your quick response to my last question! I have forwarded your website to our club and encourage all the younger girls folks to visit.

Thanks Again, Dad

Glad to help.

It can be very disappointing for a player to be informed that they will redshirt - I have had scholarship players who had a starting senior in their position and they were not going to get any court time break out in tears when I told them they were redshirting.  I believe the emotional response from players is they feel they are being told that they are not good enough to play this year.

For college coaches, 5th year seniors (seniors that had redshirted at some point in the career) are like gold; they have so much more experience, and touches, and maturity and hopefully motivation than any other players.  

I would have been disappointed in your daughter's future coach, had he not put forward the possibility of redshirting. Rarely will a program use more than 2 back row specialists, and since both of the other players in her positions are returners, they will have much more experience than your daughter.  The honest truth is, that all things being equal, they should be better because they have been playing at a much higher level than your PSA.

But, that being said, college coaches are going to play the best players.  Your daughter is in a win-win situation.  If she arrives to camp and is better than one of the other Liberos, then she will play but she is not expected to be better (less pressure).  Should the other two Liberos have a higher skill sets, then she can redshirt, use this entire season to get her abilities up and past theirs without using one year of eligibility, and she gets to play in the spring season.  So in actuality, it is just a 3 month redshirt, not a full year.

Again, I am not surprised about this response from the coach and would have been disappointed if he had not put this forward.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

Hi Coach!

I am an incoming freshman (Class of 2016) this year. I was a practice player for my school squad, and played club at a regional level, as that was my first year playing. I am heading into my second year, and am basically using the entire summer to prep for tryouts in August. 

The high school takes 24 girls freshman year, and competition is unbelievably intense sometimes(I hail from the Midwest!). I would say I improved a lot during club, but I'm not up to par with other girls. I was told I was a libero (I'm 5'4) in the school season, but when club came, I was an outside/right side. I saw a lot of bench time, but I worked harder (extra practices x1 or x2 a week), improved a lot (my coach said that was why I didn't play. She said "You have to improve" and simply walked away) and was a terrific positive teammate, even taking over the team when my coaches showed up late to a tournament. I have a huge love and passion for volleyball. It's something I "need". 

So my question is, what do I do to prepare for tryouts? Passes are slight overpasses, hands are okay, my hitting is average, and I have an inconsistent serve. What do coaches look for and how do I stand out?

Also, regarding playing in college (which I shouldn't worry about)...I dream about playing at an academically prominent D3. Of course, education comes first, then volleyball, but I know I could get the best of both worlds there. I'm a really strong student, 4.0, 4 honors classes and sophomore math my first year of HS. My parents aren't as keen on it, and they don't understand. (My dad yelled at me when I told him). 

What are steps I have to take, like with core classes, etc.? It's something I would love to do. Given if I never make the HS team (God Forbid!) would it really matter if I played club all 4 years?

Thanks for your help! I am a big fan of your blog!

-A VolleyGirl

Let me answer your questions as I see them below:

1.  First year of Volleyball as an 8th grader, it is understandable that you did not see a bunch of court time.  You are just beginning the upswing of your skills learning curve; don't read too much into the fact you did not play - I know it stinks, but right now training is better for you than playing.

2.  It is actually good you played all around in Club Volleyball because a weakness of the USA training mentality is that players get slotted into specific positions way too early, especially liberos.  

3.  I encourage you to take that all around ability to the high school tryout - You want to be skilled and comfortable in all the aspects of the game.  Over the summer better your passing, better your hitting, better your blocking, better your defense.  You want to make sure that whatever tryout skills the school puts you through, you are comfortable with them.  As a shorter player, you will not be playing MB in high school, but all other positions could be valid.

4.  I cannot speak for what skill sets your future high school coach may have a tendency to favor, but if you can minimize your weak areas, and accent your strengths, then that will help.  The other basic, basic thing I can emphasize in any tryout situation is work hard and demonstrate positivity at all times.  If you work hard on every single play and are positive, then this will make a big impression upon the coach.

5.  Even though you are going into your freshman year, it is good to have the goal of playing collegiate athletics; I knew I wanted to play in college when I was in 5th grade!  How you prepare yourself is to get better on the court, and keep educating yourself off the court about all the various levels of competition, the types of schools (DIII in your initial attraction), where they are located, their academic strengths, etc.

6.  You can find out more on the core classes by signing up with NCSA , and start with the free site because there is so much NCAA eligibility information on the NCSA site which is complementary for families.  You can also search the NCAA site and the NCAA Eligibility Center site, as they will also post information but it can be a bit of a process to glean it out.

7. Club Volleyball is the dominant vehicle in the collegiate recruiting process - Club is also the best avenue towards improving your skill sets because of their training and competition set up.  If you never made high school volleyball but put together a solid 4 years of club, then you would still be in a position to achieve your collegiate goals.

Last bit of advice - Concentrate on just becoming a better volleyball player right now and enjoy the process of getting better!

Coach Matt Sonnichsen


  1. It appears that the NCAA redshirt rules for volleyball prohibit the player from playing for even one point in a competition or they will be disqualified from a redshirt designation at the end of the season. Does the term "competition" include the pre-season or just the regular season? And, I am assuming the player can compete in the Spring season and not be disqualified from a redshirt. Please confirm your understanding. Thank you.

  2. During the Traditional Season (Fall), once a Student-Athlete plays one point in competition, they have used one year of eligibility and cannot Redshirt. The only exception to this rule, is if a player has a season ending injury which occurs before the half way point of the season and before the SA has played in 30% of the total competitions for the season.

    A Redshirt, either Medical or Eligibility, is only applicable in the Traditional Season, and does not extend into the Non Traditional (Spring) season.


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