February 8, 2013

High Performance Program and College Volleyball Recruiting

I was just reading your post about the High Performance tryouts that are held at National Qualifiers and it raised a couple other questions.  

Assuming that the HP tryouts are geared toward generating revenue for USAV and that coaches aren't likely to be there evaluating talent, what about the HP tournament itself?  If a player makes one of the HP teams (either on the national or regional side) and plays in the HP tournament, do college coaches attend/recruit at that event?  

Or, is it safe to say that if a player has the talent to make a HP team she's probably going to get noticed and that the incremental HP exposure isn't really significant (assuming, of course, she's playing at multiple qualifiers/nationals and actively working a recruiting plan)?  I'd really appreciate your thoughts.  

As you mentioned in your post on HP, the "downside" to a HP tryout isn't much if you're already going to be in town for the qualifier ($65 and a couple hours of time).  The "downside" to actually participating in the HP program is significantly higher and I'm wondering if there's a corresponding "upside."

Thanks, R.P.

I believe the High Performance program serves the function of creating a defined path towards joining the USA National Team.  Instead of just having an invite tryout which consists of collegiate all stars, and all the politics inherent in such an invite, the HP program gives some structure to the process.  As the USA National program also includes age group classifications (U21, U19, etc) which play in international competitions, it is the National Team's responsibility to fill these rosters in a defined process.

A benefit of this system, is it has the potential to generate a lot of revenue for the USA team because of the sheer number of players which come through a tryout.  There are the additional team playing opportunities the HP program offers to volleyball players but, these opportunities are paid for by the player and are not cheap.  I have not seen the financial breakdown of the various camps, tournaments and trips, but I would think that with the fee paid by the players, not much, if any funds are coming out of USA Volleyball.

I want to be careful about how much I 'bash' the HP program.  I know a number of the staff who administer the HP program and the are good people, dedicated to USA Volleyball and working hard to keep our sport relevant.  If the HP program can create a path to the upper National team opportunities, and thus reduce the politics of players selection, then it is a positive.  

My critical comments tend to be focused on when the HP program is marketed as a recruiting positive and the ancillary 'opportunities' of the overall HP system which tend to be very expensive for VolleyFamilies.  Please remember that I am also critical of college volleyball camps which are marketed as recruiting opportunities!

College coaches tend not to attend the HP program tryouts because of the timing and format.  Even though so many HP tryouts are held the night before a National Qualifier and at the same facility, the HP tryouts are lengthy (up to 3 hours) and the volleyball format does not allow for quick evaluations by college coaches.  Remember that the college coaches are arriving the evening before a major tourney, and are looking at 2 to 3 full days in a gym for the weekend.  They really don't want to go in the night before and hang out for another 2+ hours trying to evaluate talent in the tryout (of which the college coaches may not even know exactly which player is wearing which jersey number).

In terms of the various HP teams and camps, I am sure there are some college coaches who attend, but it is not the best use of our recruiting time and budget.  We can get a lot more bang for our buck at large tournaments or specific recruiting combines, which occur earlier in the annual recruiting cycle.  

You are correct in the general observation that if a player is going to make one of the invite HP program teams, then they are already in an elite talent situation and should being receiving lots of recruiting love.

From a recruiting perspective, an upside of the HP program is that if you have tremendous talent, but maybe are from a very small town and/or your club team is not that deep or can't afford to attend the NQ's, then maybe the HP program is your vehicle to exposure. 

 But, remember, the HP program is not geared for creating exposure for collegiate coaches, it is geared to the USA National Team(s) to identify and develop talent.

Coach Matt


  1. My daughter played on a Regional HP team and I was there in Des Moines last year. So I'd like to add a couple of comments.
    As a pure volleyball experience it was great. Well run tournament, fun atmosphere, good matches of all ages and genders everywhere. First time my daughter has ever played in a tournament where boys and girls were playing right next to each other. Her HP team coaches were from local DI and DII colleges so she got to experience college level practices and plays. She got to meet players from around the world and traded her cowboy hat for some New Zealand beads. Playing international rules matches were fast paced and as an outside she never left the court. She had a blast.
    But it's not a recruiting venue. Having played Nationals three weeks before where the coaches were lined up two deep for the big matches, maybe one coach was there at each HP match. The coaches that were there were mostly coaching Regional HP teams.
    Just thought I'd put my two cents in.

  2. I would like to add that in my experience with HP, I haven't really seen college coaches recruiting any of the Tryouts and very few at the championships. My daughter has been through the camps, which are an incredible experience if you can afford it. Players get to stay in dorms with roommates and meet players from different regions, and even countries if they play in the championships. My daughter was not selected for the travel team last year but 2 of her teammates were on different teams, 1 with USA A2 and 1 with the Iowa Select team that won the national HP championship. Feedback from their families was it was one of the best experiences they have had playing international teams and teams from across the country with some of the best players. Camps cost anywhere from $450 for 4 days at a regional camp to upwards of around $1100 for some of the top USA camps, plus travel. It is a significant chunk of money. We declined one of the USA camps ($650 plus travel expense in Colorado) for our regional camp.
    If you can afford the Tryouts before the qualifier, it is a great experience. Players get direction from some great coaches, they see where they stack up against other great players in their age range, get acclimated with the convention center and ready for the next day. Overall it is a fun and positive experience.

    1. Thanks Baxter . That was some helpful information, was debating if we should go to their tryout before Lone Star Classic.

  3. And here's 2 cents more. We have had our daughter attend the HP tryouts a couple of years in thinking that this was going to be a great way to get in front of coaches who coach at the next level. This article is a great piece of information from the type of person we are trying to get in front of. Not to get into the "My daughter is this and my daughter is that", she is an exceptional player and the traditional recruiting path (website, coach contacts, video), along with the travel team and high visibility tournaments we play in, she is getting the exposure we want. For us, our dollars will be spent on continued player improvement (clinics, privates and perhaps a camp or two). Thanks VB Coach for this blog and all of the professional information and wisdom you provide to help us parents make informed decisions.

    SAMVB # 25

  4. AnonymousMay 08, 2013

    Our experience at St. Louis this year -- very poorly run. Top (read: tallest) ten players were clearly given preference in my daughter's age group. She is 5'10", but not 6' or taller. My daughter had about 30 ball touches in 3 hours and the rest of the time she and the other "shorties" were shagging the balls for the tallest girls. She is 14 and has been playing club for four years and was a starter on our Varsity high school team this year as a Freshman (when they won State). I am not a "my kid is awesome" kind of parent. I thought the HP tryouts would be a good experience for her. What a waste of time and money!

  5. AnonymousJuly 29, 2013

    My daughter was on two international HP teams. She had a great experience and made some good friends. If you view it through that lens, as a kind of camp, then you will generally be happy with the result. That said, the selection process is extremely political. I'm not exactly sure how we ended up on the positive side of that equation; we don't really know anyone. But don't be discouraged if you try out and don't make it, or make it but don't play.

    Our daughter was tall and was a reasonably good player. Her first year she got benched...a lot. This was very frustrating for her, us, and even the other parents. It didn't seem justified, and no explanation was given. The other parents though she was benched so coaches other than ours didn't get to see her play. That felt pretty conspiratorial, and we didn't believe a coach would do something like that. But a month later, the coach who benched her, announced his intention to recruit her for his school. So who knows? There could have also been a perfectly logical reason for all of that, so take it with a grain of salt.

    The second year a different coach, and a different girl was benched a lot. It came out (through an overseen text message) that she was benched because she was from a different club than the setter, and the setter was being evaluated at the tourney by a D1 coach from a large school. To put the setter in the best light, they made sure she was setting to hitters from her club; girls she already knew and was comfortable with.

    So when I say it's political, this is what I mean. These are the kinds of things that can happen in HP. Treat it like a camp, have fun, and keep your expectations low.


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