August 29, 2012

High School Volleyball and High School Basketball

Hi Coach!

I have been a "regular" reader on your website for a couple of years now. It has been very informative and helpful for us especially being new to the volleyball world. I wrote to you a while back about our 5'11", left-handed, freshman daughter who was trying to decide which sport would be her primary focus. She started off playing basketball in 2nd grade. She is an elite level player and has potential to play at the college level. In 8th grade we encouraged her to try volleyball and she discovered she had a love for it as well. Last year in school ball she was moved up to the JV team and has played club ball for two seasons now. 

She has been told that she has potential to play at the college level in volleyball also. After considering her options, she had decided that volleyball would be the sport she would want to play in college (however, she was still planning to play both sports in high school). At the beginning of the school year (her sophomore year), her school coach told her she would be playing varsity as well as JV this season. Her high school team won state last year and only lost one senior. We were told that she could not be guaranteed how much varsity time she would receive, but that she would be getting significant playing time on the JV team. After the first game, it became apparent that she would only be playing front row on JV (which is the same amount she played last year as a freshman) and little if any of the varsity because she is playing behind another left-handed, right side hitter that is a senior. This has been very tough for her because the JV team is not very good. The setter has great difficulty doing back sets to the right side. (Our daughter only received two sets for the whole game). On the varsity, she was the water girl for the other players and never went in the game. (In club ball, she was a key player and played all the way around). Another concern we have had is that the coach primarily works with 6 or 7 players during the practices and the other players work with the graduate assistant. After talking with the school coach several times, it has become apparent that she wants our daughter for the next two years but plans to play some of the other players this year because they have been playing longer than her. This has been very difficult for our daughter because she is very competitive. After looking at her options, she has decided that she would be better off to workout during offseason basketball and go that direction. This has been a heartbreaking decision for her. She has felt that she has had to give up on her dream of playing college volleyball. Our family hasn't been able to sleep in over a month.

Then we got a call from her national club coach last night. She is starting to get her team together for the season. We explained to her the school situation and that we didn't think our daughter would be able to play club because she will be a starter on the varsity basketball team this year. The club coach said she is willing to work around basketball with us and that she doesn't see that as a problem. Her school basketball coach has said that he will work with us also in order for her to play club. Wow!!! We had all but given up on volleyball and now it looks like she might still be able to play.

My question is how do we approach this situation when sending out letters and emails to potential college coaches. How do we explain that she is not playing school ball? She has never quit at anything before and we don't want them to think that she is a problem in that regard. I remember you addressing a similar situation in a past reply, but I couldn't remember where to locate it.

We would appreciate any helpful advice you have. It's just so unbelievable that these doors have opened up for her! Last night our family had the first good night's sleep in a very long time.

Thanks for listening and we look forward to your words of wisdom.


Glad to help and you actually bring up a few more issues than just the question you posted.

Let me first start with the question:

1.  I would not stress about communicating with college volleyball coaches about your PSA not playing high school volleyball.  You can simply say that as a sophomore, she was not getting on the court because a returning, starting left handed senior was in that position, so she is focusing on her strength and conditioning.  As a lefty opposite player, she is in a rather narrowly defined skill position.

College coaches understand that stuff happens in high school volleyball, and that families will choose to use this time segment to focus on other aspects.  Club is our concern.

But, you did express some other issues during the background in your email which I feel should be addressed:

1.  Club Volleyball is the driving vehicle for college volleyball recruiting; training and the recruiting process.

2.  I believe you are putting way too much weight into the high school volleyball situation.  It is not like the school coach is treating your daughter poorly; there is a senior who is also left handed playing the opposite position (again, a very skill specific position).  A weakness of rally score is that the games move much faster and it is difficult to get playing time for the younger players.  If the senior is better, than the senior will play the vast majority of the time.  By your report, the varsity program is very strong.

3.  Your daughter's high school experience will not dictate her college opportunities.  It concerned me when I read that the family believed collegiate volleyball was not an option because the PSA was on a not skilled JV team.  Club experience dictates collegiate opportunities - I have had many elite level DI players who were on marginal high schools teams; it happens.

4.  Even though your daughter may not be on court with the varsity team, and is on a JV team with a setter not skilled in back setting, the other touches and training opportunities are significant.  Every day in practice, she is getting touches on the ball and each touch is important.  The good players don't rely upon a coach to make them good; they value every touch and use every touch to get better.  For example, she is getting sets in practice, so she needs to work on hitting line to practice using the block, cutting hard angle to take out the setter, she needs to mimic and then surpass the senior lefty hitter.  Each day for a couple of hours she has an opportunity to get better; may not be as perfect as everyone wishes, but it is what you make of it.

As a side note, it used to drive me crazy as a coach when my players would complain about training/matches - First it was that training was not tough enough, then it was that training was too tough; that they did not get enough attention, then it was the staff was singling them out; that we did not do enough drills for skill development, then it was that we did not play enough for game situations, etc, etc, etc.  The reality is that the coach cannot play; the coach's job is to prepare the athletes to compete, and keep them healthy.  But, if the athlete does not accept their own responsibility to make the most of every drill, then it is a losing situation.  Maybe this is a reflection of today's youth, but there is no magic pill which makes every volleyball situation perfect.  The athlete gets what the athlete puts into it.

5.  It is hard to play basketball and club volleyball.  Right now both coaches are saying they can work out it but there will soon come a situation where a choice will be made.  There is an big club tournament and a league basketball game on the same day......where does your daughter play?  I suggest you decide which sport wins the scheduling tie, and tell each coach this protocol, because it will make the future easier to digest.

6.  There is an old saying that you can't serve two masters.  If you daughter wants to play collegiate athletics, then she will soon need to make a choice between volleyball and basketball.  Two reasons; Recruiting and Training.

Recruiting - She should not be missing major recruiting tournaments because these are the in person opportunities which collegiate coaches use to evaluate their recruits; this is in both basketball and volleyball.

Training -  She is competing against every other player in the USA for that collegiate opportunity.  If the other recruits are focusing on one sport and are getting an extra thousand touches and 100 matches/games because of their singular intent, then they will be further ahead in their skills than your daughter.  Again, this is for both basketball and volleyball.  

As a DI athlete, gone are the days of being a two sport player, even as an underclassmen.  In Division II, it is quickly disappearing also.  College coaches don't want to make you good, they want to make you better; you should already arrive to campus as good as possible.  I have written quite often about the changes in DI/DII volleyball mentality, and one of these changes is that coaches are not as focused on developing talent; they want to recruit talent.

This means that your VolleyPSA must decide what level she wants and can play at collegiately.  If she is looking at DIII or lower level DII, then playing both sports in high school and club is great because this is the level for which you can be a dual athlete.

If she wants to push to DI and upper DII, then she needs to focus on one sport year round.

6.  College volleyball coaches are going to be significantly more concerned about your VolleyPSA playing basketball than not playing volleyball.  One word; injuries.  My sense is that there is a much higher probability of injury in basketball because of all the bodies jumping and landing on top of each another (ankles and knees), and that physical contact is encouraged (concussions, etc).

7.  What are you doing with your end of the recruiting equation?  This should be your outreach year as a VolleyPSA.  Are you contacting coaches, have you developed your game plan, have you captured appropriate video?  Don't wait for coaches to find you, you get in front of college volleyball coaches so they have to see you.

Maybe more than your bargained for in your email and I dumped a bunch of opinions onto you.  I am trying to emphasize looking at this from a macro perspective than micro - Tough to do when it is our babies and we want the very best for them!

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

1 comment:

  1. Hi Coach,

    I am not the parent who wrote in but sure gained a lot of insights. For the last 4 years I have been reading your website daily. You have some good stuff here.


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