May 17, 2013

College Volleyball Recruiting Questions Answered!

If my daughter is using a paid VolleyService like NCSA, should all communications with coaches come through the site-provided email correspondence, which includes a link to her profile, or once contact has been made one or more times through the site, should the emails start coming from her personal volleyball email account? What is your opinion on the best approach? My daughter is in the “has-to-be-patient” for recruiting libero role.

Thanks, S.R.

I think that if you are using a paid service(like the best recruiting service in the country, NCSA Athletic Recruiting), then stay with that service's email function.  This allows your PSA to keep her private email private, along with the college coach being able to immediately see any updated info or videos of your PSA.  My feeling is that college coaches don't care about the specific email address used, just that the communication is constant.

Hang in there as a Libero family!

Coach Matt

My daughter is a junior and has had interest from D1 schools. She is tall middle with great academics. As the year has progressed it has narrowed down to smaller D1 to the point that we felt we should open the playing field and look at top tier D2. The schools that have shown interest are not within realistic driving distance.  My daughter will be calling a D2 coach tonight.  What are the top 10 questions that she should ask? What is your view on college camps?  My daughter is the oldest of a large family so going to camps outside of the area would put a strain on our budget.  How should we handle camp questions?
I am sure I will have more questions later!  Thanks so much for your assistance.
Volleyball Mom

Apologies for the very late reply to your email - Too busy with my Educational Talks via NCSA during the Qualifier season.  Hopefully my answers will help with future questions, even though I am too late in responding for the coach call you mentioned.

Congratulations on your VolleyPSA gaining the sincere recruiting attention of a number of NCAA programs.  It is a good choice to bring elite D2's into the mix, when you are realistically focused on low DI's.

By your email, having your daughter close enough to go see within a drive is important - So, what is your drive distance?  4 hours or 10?  This will include or exclude a large number of potential programs - I encourage you to make the perimeter as large as possible to make your daughter's opportunities as varied as possible.

Top 10 Questions to ask a DII coach:

1.  How many Volleyball scholarships does your athletic department fund? (the NCAA limit is 8)
2.  What scholarship packages are typically available?  
3.  Where did the program finish in the conference in 2013 and in the Regional rankings?
4.  What is the size of the roster you carry during the year?  
5.  How many staff members are with the program?
6.  What percentage of the players live on campus?  What are the housing rules for Freshman and Sophomores?
7.  Where does the program practice in the off-season and at what typical time?
8.  What academic support is available, via the athletic department, for players?
9.  Do athletes receive early or preferential enrollment for classes?
10.  Is the food any good in the cafeteria?

As for camp, and I have written extensively about camps in my book (New York Times best selling Inside College Volleyball)(BTW, the whole NYT reference is in jest) and on the site - Camps should be viewed within three perspectives:

1.  Training - A college camp can be a solid training opportunity, provided the instruction is cohesive and you have more than a redshirt freshman walk-on coaching the camper.

2.  Vacation - Many campers will want to go to a volleyball camp at Giant State University because the last 5 generations of their family went to Giant State University, so they get to hang out on campus for a few days and get the $300 t-shirt.

3.  Recruiting - Statistically speaking, the odds of a camp being a rewarding recruiting effort is very slim.  You will be paying a lot of money to be 'seen' by one program, who probably has already seen you play in club.  I only support Camps for recruiting if you are sincerely stuck between choosing a couple of schools and a camp could help you decide.  But remember that Camp is not the is play time, camp is recess.  How you see the coaches/players react and interact during camp will not be how they conduct themselves during the pressure of the season.

Also, college camps are expensive, no matter which avenue you choose; I know, I ran them for 15 years and mine were some of the least expensive, but were still expensive.    I think it is better to take that money and go on a number of unofficial visits (gas is expensive now!) or to hire NCSA Athletic Recruiting to maximize your exposure and management efforts (and the NCSA membership lasts a lifetime, as opposed to 3 days).

If a college coach pressures you for camp, you should side step that question by saying you are still putting together your summer family plans.  If the coach persists and says they need you at camp to evaluate you (especially if you know they have seen you play in club), then for me this would be a RED FLAG.

Again, sorry for the late reply and hope my tardy information can help!

Coach Matt

Hello Coach, hope all is well with you.
I've written to you in the past, and you've always steered us in the right direction. Thank you!
I do not recall this in your book, have you written another one regarding the types of questions below, if so, I'd buy it right away!!
I have an important question to ask:  My daughter had a partial scholarship last year as a freshman. She was a valuable player to the team. She managed to beat out a senior for her position, she is a Libero.  This upcoming season my daughter was told she didn't need to worry about that, meaning the amount of the scholarship.  Yet, the coach verbally offered something lower than she expected, she was very disappointed with this.  She needs to talk to him.  What's the best way to negotiate. I assume stick to the facts about what she provides to him and the team.  
And what are the options she has available to offer her VB skills to another school? 
I heard she needs to be released, we are not sure how all of this works, can you please explain.
If you need the percentage of scholarship last year, and the verbal offer, I can provide it.  It may help you respond more concisely. 
Thank you Coach. N.T.

Unfortunately, your family is at a disadvantage when it comes to scholarships - She and you are at the mercy of the coach.  While disappointing the scholarship reoffer was less than anticipated, this amount may have been satisfactory in the eyes of the coach.  The bottom line is Liberos don't get much out of the program bottom line - Hitters get the bucks, not Liberos.

There is limited 'negotiating' space with the scholarship; you only have two choices;

1.  If you are paying for the difference in scholarship versus cost of attendance at the school, then you need to speak with the coach.  Money is an adult matter.  Say how much you need for your SA to stay with the program.

2.  If the coach says no mas - Then you either stay and play or look to transfer.  Remember that if you inform the coach you are looking to transfer, then you have jumped off the diving board and there will be no return to the team (even if you don't find another school).

I caution you to keep ego out the equation - A tough thing about DII/NAIA is that scholarships are almost always partials and up for negotiation/alteration.  Yes she beat out a senior, yes she was a valuable part of the team, but a coach has a bigger picture than one player and scholarship allocation is critical to team success and job security.  Another reality is that finding a talented Libero is not hard; there are way too many talented Liberos than roster spots.  Sure, the coach may not find one as talented as your SA, but if the coach can secure one almost as good for less scholarship money and drama, then that is an easy choice.

Should an increase in scholarship be critical to your family being able to afford to keep your SA in that school, then explain that to the coach.  If this is more of an ego or positive affirmation of her freshman year, then you are not looking at this situation objectively.

If your daughter is a NCAA student-athlete, then she needs to request a Permission to Contact Letter.  After she has this PCL, then she is able to contact other schools within the PCL limitations (most schools will not give a PCL that allows contact with other schools within the conference or region or certain ranking).  

She is re-entering the recruiting ranks, and must be prepared to compete with all the high school PSA's and college SA's that are looking to transfer.  You have to be very aggressive with outreach and videos - You cannot be passive about the situation and understand her current school will be of zero assistance.

She is allowed to go visit potential schools on visits (official and unofficial), but she must also satisfy the unit count necessary to be eligible at her new school.  Be aware that universities/colleges don't accept all of each others units, so she will lose a certain number of class credit when she transfers.  You can only determine this amount, after the potential school reviews her transcript and the athletic department informs you of the transfer unit count.

Again, I caution you to go slow - If this is a financial situation only, then speak honestly with the coach.  If this is an ego situation, then you need to look at the big picture - She is starting, she is on the court, she seems to like the school and team?  Don't let a scholarship or percentage of a scholarship award sour a good experience.

Coach Matt

I have read your recruiting plan in your book.  Great info.  My daughter is a 15 year old freshman strong club and high school varsity starter.  She is a hitter/setter who more than likely is a lower D1 or D2 potential player based on her height of 5`10".  Based on her age, we have not begun any self promotion recruiting yet. 
We were excited but surprised to recently receive a letter with strong interest from a D2 head coach from an attractive school  The coach mentioned that he saw our daughter play at a club tournament. Upon me contacting the coach,  he mentioned that he is very interested in recruiting our daughter for the class of 2016 and would like for us to keep in touch and take an unofficial visit this fall.   Is this very common for a D2 program to recruit this young? From reading your book, I understood that the big D1 programs were the only aggressive schools trying to recruit the young giant (6` plus kids) at 15?  Please share your thoughts on the situation with any advice on follow up with this particular school/coach moving forward?
Should we still sit tight and wait until our daughter is 16 years old to start the recruiting process?  We do not even have a skill video of our daughter done yet. 
One last question, how necessary are recruiting services if we are aggressive in self promotion and are the free services offered  as good as the ones who charge fees?
Thanks for your insights.
Unprepared Volley Parents

Thanks for the compliments on Inside College Volleyball and glad it can be of help to your family.  I am happy to hear that you have not begun any self promotion yet - Good job; it gives me the willies to see the families start the stress that early (BTW - When was the last time anyone has seen the term, 'the willies' written??).

I think the D2 coach took advantage of the fact he had the parent of a talented 15 year old on the phone, and extended an invite. This unofficial invite is not common with young players within the D2 ranks.  I will say that the way too early recruiting cycle has ebbed to many levels outside of the elite D1 programs!

My advice for this D2 coach/program is to put them on the shelf.  I would say the same thing about any program, and since D2 does have a later recruiting cycle, you have plenty of time with this category.

I would start any outreach process until the winter of her 16's year - she still has to finish growing, still has to develop her coordination, and still has to improve.  To do anything just yet, is like planting garden seeds in the dead of winter; just not time yet.

As to your question about recruiting services, I must express that my day job is with NCSA Athletic Recruiting which is how I pay the bills.  The reason I went with NCSA, is they were very professional when I used them as a DI head coach and my experience in the 1 year I have been with them has been extremely positive.

Back to your question - The free sites will give you a lower level of service; this type of site is used to provide an example and baseline education for families in the belief or hope, that families will be impressed enough to move to the paid site.  For example, the NCSA free site is excellent and serves the function of showing the company's focus on education.  The NCSA paid site is outstanding.

I have always said that everything a recruiting service does, a family can do - It is not rocket science.  But, it is time demanding and can create a bunch of stress for VolleyFamilies.  It comes down to a family having the time and the equipment/technology to capture all the current and upcoming NCAA/NAIA/JC eligibility rules, to garner a current email list of every college volleyball program in the country, to have the video capabilities to create espn quality highlight tapes, to have cheat sheets about what to ask/say on a call with a coach, on an official visit, on an unofficial visit, etc.  

Many families can and are very successful with collegiate recruiting without ever having the thought of using a service; either because their daughter has so much talent that college coaches are slobbering over her and the club coaches are wide eyed that Giant State U is talking to them, or the family has the time/technology to do all of the process in house.

What is interesting, is I am hearing of more families using a recruiting service (NCSA) because they want to expand their possibilities without having to spend 20 hours per week doing it, or they are using NCSA to assist them in managing/filtering their many options to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Congrats on your first recruiting letter as a family, and I STRONGLY encourage you to keep things as slow as possible and enjoy the mellowness now before things ramp up!!!

Coach Matt

Hi - my daughter plays for a top club team and all 9 players on the team are getting some level of recruiting action.  It is not uncommon to have 10 scouts around our court . . . . but the million dollar question is what are they looking for during the matches and warm-ups.  My daughter is an OH so specially what are they looking for at the OH position?

Also, I have glanced over a few scouts shoulders and they all have the same program open on their iPads with red hearts, red diamonds, black spades, black clubs and an area for note taking . . . . what is this program and what do the card deck symbols mean?

Thanks from "What are the College Recruiters Doing on their iPads" - BB

So, yours is the court which all the sharks and remoras are swimming about huh? 

For OH's, college coaches are looking at physicality and passing.  How high does the PSA jump, how hard does she hit, how quick are her movements, high many angles and speeds does she use on her attacks, what is her blocking mechanics, and then, how does she pass.  Passing has been devalued in OH's because there are now 178 subs per match, so the majority of players are just 3 rotations - I don't think either of the U of Texas OH's were in the back row this last year.

What you see the college coaches doing on their iPads is evaluating players -  College coaches pay big bucks to get the rosters/contact information for each participating team in a tournament, which includes the flow of the event (games/courts/waves) so coaches can quickly figure out which team/player is playing what court and when.  This program is all point and click, then the coaches will download their evaluations into their computer database when they get back to the offices.

Hope that helps!

Coach Matt


I have a question that may be very useful for families.  I recently went to some spring college scrimmages. I was hoping to see a couple of girls play that did not play in the fall.

Once I got there, I realized very quickly that they would not play because I was told that they had been redshirted.  Is that a correct interpretation of how redshirts are treated in the off-season?? 

Thanks, VolleyDad

It is interesting that the players which were redshirted in the fall, did not play in the spring.  The current redshirt rule says that the actual 'red-shirt' only applies to the fall traditional season (either as an injury redshirt or non-injury redshirt), not the nontraditional spring season. So, the coach was able to play these fall redshirted players but chose not too.

Who knows what the rationale was behind not playing them? Still hurt, in trouble for breaking team rules, coach is getting ready to cut them and did not want them taking time from returning players, etc?

Coach Matt

Good Day Coach Sonnichsen,

Your advice has been fantastic and has helped us with our daughter's getting on a D2 team and having a really wonderful experience this first year. Playing time was almost nil but she got to travel ( as a walk on ) to Hawaii and a few other locations and truly embraced her role (loudest-most enthusiastic cheerleader ) on the team! All is good and we look forward to the upcoming season which leads me to my question...

Regarding NLI's, do players that were initially walk on's or red shirts sign NLI's the second year( meaning procedurally, are letters signed each year or is that just for incoming freshman)? I realize that my daughter will likely not be offered an NLI due to her great academic package but there were multiple walk on's last year that had the same question.

Here is something to pass along to your readers NEVER GIVE UP! If my daughter can get to college and play yours can too!

The coach "resigned" at the end of the season last year and the new coach is very positive and seems to be giving the team just what they need. Very much like going from Jeff VanGundy to Phil Jackson! Well thanks for all your support to the VB community! G.W.

Thank you for the email and the compliments - Glad your SA had a positive first season and especially with the transition to a new coach.

The NLI (National Letter of Intent) is only offered to incoming players (incoming freshman/JC transfers).  As a returning SA, if she is offered an athletic scholarship, this would be in the form of athletic department scholarship papers.  Even NLI players will sign the school's scholarship papers, in addition to the NLI.    In addition, scholarship papers are only provided from the athletic department to athletes who receive athletic scholarships.

Glad to help!

Coach Matt

Coach ~
I just discovered your blog this last week.  The amazing, candid, insightful information on it immediately led me to purchase your book and I can’t wait to read through it with my daughter.
My daughter is high school freshman (class of 2016) who competed this last year on her varsity team that went deep into the state high school tournament (finished 5th) and beat the #1 ranked team in the playoffs.  She played OS for a part of the season as she is a fairly skilled ball striker and has some hops.  However, as the season got more competitive and pressure packed, her 5’7” height and nerves took her out of the front line and she played DS the rest of the season.  I was very proud of her accomplishments as she was 2nd behind the Libero in digs and 3rd in overall kills.  What a great learning experience being just 14 and playing against kids who were 18.
She has been a captain on her club team for the last 3 years.  She also plays OS on that team, but unfortunately is usually the shortest front line player at most of our tournaments.  She had a great success at a nationally recognized tournament (Sports Performance Presidents Day - Chicago) by being recognized on the all tournament team for the 15-Open.  I think both her passing and competitiveness on the front line earned her that recognition.
She would absolutely LOVE to play volleyball at the next level at a large school (not necessarily a Top ranked Vball school, but a large (read fun) school).  I have two questions related to helping her pursue this goal:
1)  Unfortunately, based on circumstances and surrounding personnel, she might not get the opportunity to actually play Libero on any of her teams (Club or HS).  Even though she’s shorter, she does end up with a pretty solid hitting % and her coaches want to keep her playing some front line (plus her club libero is a stud).  How could you recommend we get her experience playing a position that might be her only option in college when her team needs her elsewhere? 
2)  I’ve read your position on attending college camps and I’m glad I did.  Especially for a DS/L, it probably makes no sense for her to attend a camp until between Junior/Senior year.  Right?  In that case, she does love beach as it allows her to get a ton of touches and use her fairly versatile skills (she loves the fact that the 6’3” kids on her club team can’t even play competitively on the beach).  Do you recommend beach as a good training / skill development sport for PSA’s?
Thanks much,
VolleyDad trying to learn the ropes

VolleyDad - Thanks for the compliments on the site and Inside College Volleyball; hope booth help you along the way in your family's recruiting journey.


1.  Don't slot her automatically into the Libero position, as she looks to have skill sets as an OH.  Instead, ask her what position she wants to play?  As I have written about, there are many DII's which have a much better balance and quality of life for a student-athlete than DI.  She can find that bigger school, but also have time to enjoy/experience it.  I have seen a number of shorter OH's with good hops and ball control be very successful at the D2 level.  

If she is set on DI, I would not worry at all about her staying as an OH, because passing OH's do everything a Libero does, but they get the joy of attacking.  Any DI coach worth their salt will see her back row skill sets when she is playing OH - Just let DI sharks know that she is playing OH but would want to Libero in college.

I would rather have a Libero in college who hit in club, just because their knowledge defensively is broader.  There is no need for additional/special training; just have her keep doing what she is doing and then communicate to DI's.

2.  I believe a good training camp at a college is applicable at any time, but I rarely think a college camp for recruiting is ever applicable.  As for beach, this is a huge positive to increase the skill sets of OH's and Liberos.  That is one reason that back in the day the southern California area kids were so supreme, was their double duty indoor and beach.  

Good luck!

Coach Matt

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