August 22, 2012

College Volleyball Walk On to Scholarship

Hi, Coach.  Love your website!  I continue to get tons of good information as we wind down this crazy recruiting process! My daughter is a senior and taking her time in deciding what she wants to do.  I think she is close to making a decision.  

I have a question about partial scholarship offers.  I am familiar with partial scholarships (“we will give you a ½ scholarship for 4 years”).  However, over the past year, my daughter has been offered several partial scholarships from mid-level D1 schools such as 2-2’s and 3-1’s.  We are supposed to pay for 1 or 2 years of her college and she will receive a full scholarship the last 2 or 3 years of her stay there.   The first time a school offered this, I thought they were crazy!  Then over the past few months, she has received a few more of these “deals.” 

My questions are… this common?  What is your opinion of these offers?   Is the school locked in to my daughter or can they change their mind after the first year (or 2 in some cases! ) and say, “Well…we found someone better that is younger.” or “You just haven’t progressed as we had hoped, etc…”  

This would definitely leave a player in a bad situation if the school suddenly decided they didn’t want to pay for the last 2 or 3 years originally agreed upon. 

Thanks for your help!

These type of scholarship offers are becoming more and more common; I touch on these Walk On to Scholarship avenues in my book, Inside College Volleyball.  I think it is a situation where the college coaches are trying to obtain as much talent as possible for each single season, and each single season will be viewed distinctly.  

For many senior players, these package deals may be their best opportunity to play NCAA Division I Volleyball.  What I don't like about these scholarship deals is, that until a player signs her scholarship papers, these scholarship packages are nothing more than words.  The player will be a walk on until they sign scholarship papers (usually late spring for the next academic year), which means they have no guarantee or resource if things should change in the immediate time frame.

The most common 'change' is a change in coaches.  With today's mentality, new head coaches routinely cut scholarship players or newly arriving signed freshman, so the odds of a new coach keeping a walk on who is scheduled to go onto a scholarship (a scholarship the head coach will want to use for their own recruits) is extremely thin.

You referenced the next typical 'change'; the coach finds a better recruit between when your daughter arrives to when she is supposed to go onto a scholarship.  Many coaches are adopting the mentality that verbal commitments are made to be broken, should a better player can be obtained to help this year's squad.

In general, I would be very hesitant on a walk on to a scholarship deal, especially anything over 1 year.  If it is the perfect SCHOOL for your daughter, and she would attend the school even if volleyball was not an option and your family had the financial ability to make this non-scholarship attendance a reality, then a package deal can be an option.  

But, if this is not the case (perfect school, perfect finances), then I would feel more comfortable accepting a DII partial athletic scholarship which allows for the packaging of athletic, academic, merit and need based scholarships, combined with a bit of a safety net because while the athletic scholarship can change as a result of a coach, the academic/merit/need based scholarships are more stable and under a student's control.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

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