February 28, 2013

NCSA Volleyball Article

Below is a very nice article by a great speaker and writer at NCSA, Charlie Adams.  To read the article on the NCSA site and to learn more about Charlie, please click this link - 


Should You Specialize in Your Sport? – A Former DI Athlete’s Perspective

February 18th, 2013 - by Charlie Adams
Ellen Sawin is a former DI player who finished her four years of volleyball at the University of Evansville just over a year ago. She is from the Chicago suburbs and was a very good high school and club volleyball player. However, volleyball wasn’t her only sport in high school. She recently shared with me her experiences with the recruiting process, playing DI volleyball and how playing collegiate sports impacts the rest of your life. One of the things I found really interesting was her personal opinion on whether you should specialize in your sport or play multiple sports.
“I played volleyball, basketball and badminton in high school,” said Ellen. “Badminton is actually a serious sport in Illinois High School sports. My club coaches wanted me to specialize in volleyball but I still think it helped me playing three sports. It helped with injury prevention because I worked different muscles and wasn’t doing the same thing all the time. I wasn’t swinging at the volleyball every day. A lot of kids burn out because of that. I just wanted to enjoy the whole high school sports experience. If I had been dead set on playing high level DI college volleyball, then I would have switched to a higher club, but I wanted to play at mid level DI.”
Ellen was a six foot tall setter who was very good in high school and club. She starting taking unofficial visits as a 10th grader. Her older sister had played DI at Coastal Carolina so Ellen had gone on her visits with her, and that left an impression on her to start the visits early. She visited a lot of mid level DIs like Miami of Ohio, Drake, Campbell University and the University of Evansville, which is in southern Indiana.

Charlie and Ellen“It was the first time I really felt at home,” Ellen said of her visit to Evansville. “I felt like I fit in with the players and the coaches. Having grown up near Chicago, I wanted to go to a place that was in a good size city. Another factor was being within 5 hours of home. While I would have been fine going far off for college, I knew my parents would want to be able to see me play, so Evansville being 5 hours away gave them that chance. Also, we played matches up towards Chicago so my friends could see me play. I liked the fact that the Missouri Valley Conference was very strong in volleyball and I also wanted a chance to play all four years and Evansville gave me that chance. Had I gone to a high level DI, I probably would have been a reserve for awhile.”
Ellen played in 26 matches and 82 games as a freshman and was the first UE player since 2003 to be named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshmen team.
Over her four years she carried a 3.7 GPA (honors college) in Graphic Design with minors in Communication and Business. She learned how to manage her time, which has paid off since graduation in her professional life. “There were times we would leave campus Thursday at noon and not get back until late Friday. I had to meet with professors to see about taking tests early.”
She said being a college athlete at a place like Evansville is a full time job. “You are a student taking 18 hours,” she said, “and you have a full time job as an athlete. During the season, I would have classes and then practice until 6. There would be training and dinner. I would be lucky if I opened a text book by 8:30 pm.”
Still, she excelled academically. She said she sometimes wondered if the 13 hour bus rides and the hard work were worth it, but when her senior season was over she found that she missed all of it tremendously. “You develop a camaraderie that you can never replace,” she said. “In my wedding one day, there will be my sister and the rest of my bridal party will be college teammates. There are so many memories. We were the first class in school history to beat every conference foe at least once. I will never forget the time we were at the University of Cincinnati and lost in 5 sets with the final going 16-14. They had the nation’s longest home court winning streak and we came so close to ending it! I miss it every single day.”
I do a lot of corporate motivational speaking and regularly hear from company leaders how they like to hire recent college athletes like Ellen who excelled academically and athletically. Ellen said she noticed that when going through interviews after graduating from Evansville.
“Time management is the biggest thing they look for,” she said. “The fact that I could handle 18 hours of college credits a semester and volleyball was very impressive to them. Also, going through the recruiting process in high school prepares you for job interviews after college. You have to talk about yourself in recruiting and you also get experience in talking with superiors.”
For families going through recruiting, she encourages you to be aggressive. She had her information sent to powerhouses such as Penn State. “I knew I wouldn’t play there but their coaches always know coaches at other levels of DI,” she said. “In many cases, if you can’t play for them, they know another college coach that you could play for and they let that coach know about you.”
Recruiting and playing college sports is a different experience for everyone. For Ellen, she wanted a mid level DI (still a full scholarship in volleyball!), within 5 hours of home, in a decent size city. She wanted to have the full high school experience so she did not specialize in her sport. She nailed everything and had a very positive experience.
Charlie Adams
Charlie Adams is the author of 4 books on peak performance including “How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!!” which is due out in April. He delivers motivational keynotes and seminars to companies and regularly hears how company leaders look to hire former college athletes because of their ability to manage time, compete, lead and be team players. Adams was a sports anchor for a quarter of a century, where he developed a strong interest in the recruiting process and often speaks on the subject.

Read more: Should You Specialize in Your Sport? - A Former DI Athlete's Perspective - NCSA Athletic Recruiting Blog http://www.ncsasports.org/blog/2013/02/18/d1-athlete-specialize-sport/#ixzz2LYfv2VUt


  1. Coach is that you or Charlie in the picture?

  2. That is Charlie in the picture!


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