September 4, 2012

College Volleyball Division I Walk On


My daughter played varsity volleyball as well as club ball in high school. She enjoyed a lot of success and loved the sport. She considered pursuing a scholarship to a D2 college but reconsidered, thinking she should focus on her studies instead of sports. She was accepted to a great university which is an academic powerhouse but certainly not an athletic powerhouse(D1). Typical for a teenager, with only one week before college starts, she decided to email the school's head volleyball coach about the possibility of her walking on. She included her stats in the email. He sent her back a nice email stating he would like to meet with her next week about the possiblility of joining the team.

I'm wondering what this email might possibly mean. He stated the team has been practicing for about two weeks. I don't want her to get her hopes up too much. In your experience, do you think he intends to let her try out? Since she's not under scholarship I realize he has nothing to lose. If by chance he likes her ability and skills (she's been told by all her coaches that she's a natural leader, very coachable, and a true athlete) would she have a chance of playing? She's very excited but in the back of her mind she's afraid she'll end up a ball shagger.

Thanks for any feedback/advice!

I think it is a positive sign.  Remember that walk ons cost nothing more than practice clothes, so if a walk on can bring a positive to the program, that this is perfect for a coach.

She is a couple of weeks behind, not too mention a summer behind as the majority of DI players are either on campus working out/playing or have specific summer routines they follow.  The initial meeting will be to determine if she is a good kid; coaches absolutely fear letting a crazy/high maintenance walk on into the program.  If the coach is comfortable with her personality and resume (abilities, athleticism, experience), then he/she will move forward to her getting into the gym.  

The coach will either have a session where she is doing some solo work, where he can watch, or they will throw her into team practice in a limited scale.  I am sure the coach is not expecting her to be at DI speed right now, but they are looking to see if she can be a positive in practice. That may just be serving balls, or targeting for the setter, or passing free balls so the MB's can get work on court 2.

If your daughter is serious about joining the team, she has to understand her role with a DI program, especially as a freshman walk on.  As harsh as this sounds, she cannot expect to get any match time or even travel (if this was to happen, then it would be like Christmas); her goal is to bring a positive presence and can do attitude to the team.  If they want her to serve for two hours and nothing else, then she needs to do that with a smile on her face.  If the they want her to catch balls from the setter all morning; then that is what she does and does it perfectly.

She needs to understand that the most important thing is getting her foot into the door.  If she goes in with unrealistic expectations, then she will be disappointed.  There are so many benefits to being a student athlete (no distinction between walk on or scholarship), that if she needs to shag all this fall, as to put her self into a position of playing in the spring and traveling in the fall, then shagging balls with a smile on her face is a small price to pay.

What drove me nuts when I was a coach, was freshman walk ons expecting to play, especially freshman Libero/DS's.  I've got Juniors and Seniors which are on full scholarships who have busted their spandex for 3 years and do not get near the court.  They are experienced, they have put in the time, they understand the speed and demands of the game, and they are hungry for the chance to play matches.  These are the players who will get that opportunity, not a freshman walk on.  This can be a tough scenario for the freshman who walk on because they do have talent and many times are the best player in their school/area.  But, now the talent pool on their next team has elevated substantially, and they need to work hard to catch up; it does not happen quickly.

Good luck and keep everything in perspective.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

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