September 7, 2012

September 1st - Junior Year Communication


My daughter has just started her Junior year in high school, so interested college coaches were able to email her directly as of September 1st.  My question is how much should she focus her on-going communication efforts towards the coaches that emailed her in the first few days they were able to?   Is outreach from a coach on or close to September an accurate indication of how serious they are - or aren't - towards my daughter?  I know it's a busy time for coaches with the season just starting, so maybe it's not fair to expect emails right away.  

On the other hand, it's a busy time for my daughter with her season just starting and of course her school work, so trying to get her to communicate with the 20 coaches she heard from this weekend instead of a larger group would be great if it's accurate to believe they're the coaches with the most interest in my daughter.  

My advice to her so far is to 1) set up a couple of unofficial visits with the top 2 or 3 schools that she's interested in and that have written since 9/1, 2) respond and engage with the other coaches that have written her, and she what else she can learn about the schools/programs, 3) send out new emails to schools on her personal want list that haven't communicated just in case, but don't spend a lot of time there until or unless she hears back from them.  

Any recommendations?

Thanks for your continuing advice. R.L.

9/1 and the communication doors swing open (at least the front door, as the back door via the clubs is always open!).  This is one of the craziest times of the year for college volleyball coaches because the September 1st date is in the middle of the pre-conference tournament schedule (and Labor Day weekend), and not every collegiate volleyball program has a director of operations, much less a 2nd assistant coach.

I can vividly remember the last days of August, thinking that I had to get going to reach out to the junior age recruits - and, all too often because of practice, travel, expense reports, injury reports, staff meetings and I gotta get a haircut, that 9/1 contact date turned into a 9/8 contact date!  

Give it a solid 10 days before coming to a judgement of a college volleyball program's interest in your PSA.  It is great that a number of programs immediately contacted your daughter, and this is a clear indication of their interest. But, keep that door open for those coaches/programs which are interested, but just have a crazy 'to-do' list this time in September.

With the newer recruiting trend of DI's (even elite DI's) actively recruiting all four years of the high school class, which is a result of the propensity by DI programs to cut players, or for college players to realize what they were sold while a PSA is not the reality of a SA, there will be a bunch of scholarship openings coming to a college volleyball program near you! Even these last two weeks, I have heard from well known DI programs who have said they have a 2013 scholarship open, and are evaluating their options to fill that spot.

I counsel Patience in the Fall (and this applies to all VolleyFamilies who have Junior and Senior PSA's) - Let the fall semester come to a close and the related athletic department matters play themselves out.

1.  Many coaches will move on from this fall's school - Either voluntarily or involuntarily.  You don't want to commit to a program in September, and then that coach leaves in December - Too many VolleyFamilies are finding out that verbal commitments are only verbal with no commitment by the school.

2.  Conference shifts are still settling out - It amazes me all the conference musical chairs we have witnessed these last three years.  Most people that it was done a year or so ago, then the music started again.  Think about the ability to see your PSA play matches away from their home court - Look at Texas A&M; the SEC is a well funded conference, but now Texas parents don't have the financial luxury of seeing an away conference match at Baylor, or Texas or Texas Tech, etc.  

3.  Budgets - The economy is still lagging and Athletic Directors are still beholden to the bottom line budgets. In DI, Football and Basketball are exempt from any reduction, so how is the budget balanced? Via the Olympic Sports. This affects the volleyball because the good support a program may enjoy now, could evaporate after the fall semester bills come due.

I think your advice is good, but I would make sure the unofficial visits are close or financially comfortable because these should be viewed as 'meet and greets'.  I would hold off on 'serious' unofficial visits until after the New Year.  I think #3 is a good one; many times a school will have an opening and will 'remember' your daughter if she reaches out again. 

In closing, open the door for late knocking schools and keep up the communications while being aware that a number of changes in your personal recruiting landscape could occur in December because of things completely out of your control.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen


  1. Our daughter is now a Senior that has verballed to a mid leval D1 with great academics. I concur with Coach about the emails arriving in September not necessarily being a true indicator of interest as it appears that most of them were automatically generated by the tracking software that coaches use (you can tell by the fancy pictures that appear at the top of the email.)

    Our daughter acknowledged all of the emails she received and tentatively ranked them into 3 categories of consideration (yes, no, maybe).... very few no's. Then after High School Season and before club began she researched the "needs list by position" on University Athlete and Prep Volleyball and sent out an introductory email with video, schedule, stats etc. to about 50 schools that had a need for her position. The response to those emails helped her gauge who was really interested in her as a player.

    She ultimately verballed to a school this past July which was one of schools she IDed herself through her research. They watched her in Vegas - followed her through Club Season and invited her for an unoffical visit in April.

    She is thrilled with the school (especially after then going to their summer camp and meeting the other incoming players) - and now is working on keeping up the grades and having fun playing volleyball.

    I would also caution any parent or player not to get too excited about the initial sell job. A few coaches were extremely effusive and led us to believe they would sign her that day if they could - only to drop her for the next prospect that they fell in love with. Not all programs are as honest and direct as we would have liked. Take everything with a grain of salt and don't get too emotionally involved with any program - until your daughter receives an offer directly from the head coach.

    PS - one thing we had not accounted for was budgeting for unofficials in April - both in terms of time off from work and added expense. Depending upon your daughter's level of skill you may be traveling to more than just club tournaments this spring - or next year which can be expensive. The unofficial is really important and see Coach's posts on that topic.

  2. GREAT FEEDBACK from a Parent - Trust me VolleyFolk, I speak the truth!!!


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