September 17, 2012

Senior Year Preparation for College Volleyball

Hey Coach Sonnichsen,

First of all, thanks for all your help!  My Daughter told me at the end of her freshman year she wanted to play volleyball in college.   Shortly thereafter I found your website and followed your recruiting plans to a T.  By the end of her Sophomore year she had 35 schools actively recruiting her with a good mix of D1, 2, & 3.   After receiving multiple offers, she ended up verbally committing to a D1 program at the beginning of her Junior year and has maintained good communications with the coach.  She will sign her NLI in November. 

My question is:  could you offer some advice to the Class of 2013 commits and what they need to do to prepare themselves to arrive that first day in college camp & impress the coaches?

Gratefully yours,

Big Fan of the Volleyball Coach

Congratulations on your daughter's success within the craziness of college volleyball recruiting - I am glad that and my recruiting plan helped you in the process.  Hopefully you were also able to use the updated recruiting plan, which I feature in my book, Inside College Volleyball.

With any incoming PSA who has signed/committed, collegiate coaches are looking for three things to happen between before arriving to campus - Stay Healthy, Keep Improving, and Arrive in Shape.

In the past, this trifecta of wishes was to ensure a positive freshman experience for the benefit of the team, but now, with the onset of the One and Done, it is to ensure a positive freshman experience for the player.  

With the One and Done, too many VolleyFamilies believe it will never happen to them; because of how much the school wanted them and how nice the coach is and how talented their PSA is, they are immune from the One and Done.  So many VolleyFamilies have written to me to express their frustration/hurt with the One and Done, because of the false impressions they were under about the situation.

Back to the Three Points:

1.  Stay Healthy - This is one thing which drive coaches to drink (well, drink even more); players arriving not perfectly healthy to camp.  Whether it is tendonitis, a sore shoulder, a hurt back, stress fractures, arriving not healthy to your collegiate experience is unacceptable.  Two reasons; 1) A scholarship PSA must understand the value of the scholarship and its value over four/five years is more important than the last couple of club tournaments;  too many PSA's have pushed them selves into injuries, or not allowed injuries to heal because they were worried about Nationals, or AAU's or some High School All-Star match.  2)  Because of Athletic Department's overwhelming concern with keeping all Olympic Sport's budgets/expenditures at a minimum, if a player arrives with a pre-existing condition, this gives the basis for the Athletic Department to refuse to cover medical costs and/or a Medical Scholarship, if said injury gets much worse.  

A PSA has control over their athletic health; stop playing, go to a medical trainer, get rehab, etc.

2.  Keep Improving - College coaches expect a PSA to continue their development during the Senior year and Senior summer leading up to campus arrival.  What we don't want to see is what we saw as a Junior or even as an early club season Senior.  Collegiate volleyball is elite, and no matter how good you are as a Senior in high school, the majority of collegiate players are better.  There is always something to improve upon, and when you are trying to elevate your game to the next level, your weaknesses stand out.  Most often, these improvements are small improvements; hitting line to use the block,  being more comfortable diving/rolling to your left, improving your slide angle attack, using your hands on free balls.  Just focus on those skill sets you know are not your strength (and if your club coach is worth their salt, or if you can watch video with both eyes open, you will figure out what to work on).

3.  Arrive in Shape - This is the one area which is mandated, and arriving out of shape can flush your Freshman year, and with today's collegiate mentality, your scholarship.  The college game is so much faster and more powerful than club; the SA's have been lifting and conditioning and competing against other collegiate level players for 1 to 4 years.  Half of them are not teenagers any more, they are young adults.  Arriving out of shape, either noticeably heavier, or not having acceptable cardio conditioning, is an instant 2 1/2 strikes against you in the coach's eyes.  If you arrive in the best possible shape (and I literally told my new players to arrive in the best physical condition of their athletic lives), then you will acclimate to the speed of the game quicker, you will recover faster from the physical pounding of training, and avoid injuries better because the body can respond to what the mind asks.  Physical conditioning is something which is completely within the control of the player; you don't even need a weight room.  Coaches don't care if you can bench 200 pounds 10 times, if you can't do a set of sprints without losing your breakfast.  

I would close by changing the mentality from Impressing the coaches, to not disappointing the coaches.  They are already impressed; they awarded you a full scholarship to play Division I Volleyball.  What you don't want to do upon arrival, is have them question if that decision was a good one.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

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