March 28, 2013

Volleyball and Change

Change is inevitable.......We hear this statement often in today's world.  I have ranted in previous posts about change, and my basic argument has been that Change for the sake of change is not a positive.

Of my many criticisms of "them" (this unknown group of volleyball policy wonks), is that the motivation behind implementing changes are without foundation.  I was in a power conference head coach's meeting, back when rally score was being discussed and one well established coach (who is no longer in the collegiate game) said, "well, we have to do something".

As much as I lament Change, I have come to understand that my reality is to react to Change.   Let me clarify; I view 'change' as something significant and beyond the control of volleyball mortals (thus the capital C).  No matter how much I want something to continue a certain way and not change, the ability to keep the status quo is not mine.

For too many years, I wasted time arguing against Change, even when I know I was correct (Change for the sake of change is not good) or I wasted time lamenting a Change which was completely beyond my influence (like an Athletic Director who hired me, taking another position).  In these situations, I had a 'hangover' like mentality, where I would not move on and grasp the new reality which the Change created.

In my position with NCSA Athletic Recruiting, Change is beyond my control.   This is not a negative, because NCSA is a dynamic organization which is on the front side of applying technology and personality.  This constant Change, has allowed me to become comfortable with Change being a positive.  I am learning that looking at Change as an opportunity for positive gain, is a much healthier mindset than what I was operating under as a collegiate head coach.  Opportunity for a positive outcome does not always mean a positive outcome occurs, but it is a healthier mindset for me to operate from.

College Volleyball Recruiting for VolleyFamilies is in a constant state of Change.  This Change comes in three categories - Player, Club and College.

Player -  Your VolleyPSA's skill sets are constantly changing.  Becoming more physically and mentally developed leads to improved skill sets. In addition, because recruiting is a competitive situation between PSA's (VolleyFamilies need to understand that recruiting is a competition because the supply of collegiate level talent has exceeded the demand for collegiate talent), your PSA's skill sets are changing relative to other PSA's skills sets.  This absolute and relative Change, has an affect upon collegiate recruiting.

Club - Gone are the days where the club is static and all the players and coaches within the club are settled.  Club is big business with a lot of money being expended; money creates instability with people.  Club coaches can market themselves to other clubs and increase their compensation. Club directors are active in trying to create a certain image or reputation for the club which involves facilities, coaches, travel, sponsorships, etc.  And parents/players now are comfortable switching clubs to find the best opportunity for their enjoyment and development of youth volleyball.

College - This is the top of the recruiting totem pole, for which everything below is recruiting influenced.  The two biggest Changes within the last number of years for collegiate volleyball are how early many programs are implementing their active recruitment of PSA's, along with the turnover of head coaching positions.   Most recently, the conference realignments have added a wrinkle to the recruiting equation because now families cannot be sure that the conference in which they were interested in attending, because of reputation or geographic location, will be the conference their PSA's spends 4 years competing in!

VolleyFamilies will be more successful (and mentality healthier) by looking at the Change that is or has occurred, and figure out what their best reaction to this Change is.    Sometimes the best reaction is to have no reaction at all, but to let the waters settle.

Player - Each player has a certain athletic gene stamp which will determine their abilities.  Some players will only reach a certain talent level, no matter how much they practice, no matter how much they lift and no matter how focused their mental energies are.  This creates the absolute and relative change, which I spoke of earlier.

As tough as it may be, VolleyFamilies have to manage the Change of relative and absolute talent.  Do not compare your PSA to another PSA in absolute talent (or jealousy or envy or fashion sense); that is the easy and fruitless thing to do.  Rather, focus on your own PSA and what her skill sets will provide for collegiate opportunities.  The relative skills should be a reference point in the recruiting outreach process - if you see all the Big 10 coaches standing on a court watching a 6'3" outside hitter who is unreal good, and your PSA is a 5'10" outside hitter who is solid, well.....don't reach out to Big 10 programs.

Club -  Two ways to look at Change in club volleyball for families; 1) respond to Change in a fashion that creates a positive situation for the family, 2) understand that most often, club changes have no impact upon the collegiate recruiting process.

Stuff happens during the club season - Injuries, SAT tests, upset VolleyFamilies, stressed out club coaches, travel delays and bad hamburgers. All of these can Change a player's practice and playing duties/opportunities.  A VolleyFamily will have very little control over these examples, but they can control how they react.  Always try to figure out the positive, because there will be positives.  For example, if a PSA is an outside hitter but has to play middle because of a Change, focus on the fact that this is a great opportunity to improve blocking skills which can translate into an increase in overall outside hitter abilities.  Don't focus on how playing middle "won't help" getting recruited as an outside hitter.

As I strategically mentioned recruiting in the last sentence, managing Club Change is also realizing that the recruiting process will and should be managed by the VolleyFamily, not exclusively the club coach/director or the actual match play.  

If your PSA is stuck in the middle for a month, make sure you note this situation when you reach out to college coaches, "Mary is a 2014 outside hitter, but for the next month of club season because of injuries, she will be playing in the middle blocker spot.  We have attached a video of her outside hitting skill sets for your review".  College coaches know that stuff happens and we can deal with it, as long as you communicate these Changes to us.

College - Unfortunately for all of my comrade collegiate coaches, we are seeing more Change than ever.  Coaches are taking other positions or getting fired more often in today's collegiate volleyball environment than ever; the job of being a collegiate coach is very unstable because of AD's, lack of real employment contracts and conference realignments/priorities.  This Change will have a great impact upon a VolleyFamilies recruiting because so much of the recruiting process is driven by personality.  

VolleyFamilies have absolutely zero control of what goes on collegiately.  College coaches will get fired or switch jobs with zero recognition of any incoming recruits - The AD does not care about an incoming recruit and the coach wants a paycheck with another school more than he/she/it wants to coach your VolleyPSA.  

The reaction to collegiate Change is your focus.  Even before a Change occurs, VolleyFamilies must go through the recruiting evaluation process (the PSA evaluating potential colleges/universities) knowing there is a very real possibility that the coach who recruited you will not be there your entire collegiate experience.  This is a sobering reality and one which must be taken into consideration at the onset.  Make sure that if the coach left, and a new coach hates any Texans (stranger things have happened), and you happen to be from Texas, that your PSA would be OK being a student at that school (the attributes away from the volleyball program are attractive).

If you are a committed or non committed PSA (remember, that even when you may commit to a program, you  are a PSA until you sign your National Letter of Intent; and then remember, that your NLI, like your scholarship only provides you one year of support), and a college Change happens, you need to have secondary or back up plans.  You were all set to go to State University and had committed, but since the coach vacated (new job or fired), you need to be in a position to re-engage the recruiting process with potential schools because there is less than zero assurances the new coach will want you or that you will want the new coach!

Congratulations if you have made it to the conclusion of this epic post about Volleyball and Change!  Understand what you can control and be in a position to positively react to what you can't control.

1 comment:

  1. In full agreement. The only constant in the world is change. Having gone thru the valleys and mountaintops of PSA skill refinement and varying club affiliations, what is becoming excrutiating clear to us is that we must remain vigilant in reminding our PSA, that the entirety of your college experience should be 100% focused on academics, with volleyball an added benefit. We are pretty sure we will get that schollie but we take nothing for granted Thanks for reminding us.


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