June 9, 2014

Understanding and Managing the Recruiting Process


My daughter will be 16 October 16th and she plays high school volleyball and basketball but volleyball is her passion.  She is 5’11” and 155 pounds and very good shape.  She is an outside hitter but a good back row and defensive player also.  She started playing when she was 9 for a club.  She started in 8th grade as a RS and definitely contributed to the team winning the state championship but was not the star of the team.  This past year as a 9th grader she was the leader of the team as Outside Hitter.  She had 450 Kills with a .33 or so kill percentage but also had a good numbers for digs and she is a very good server with something like 163 aces this past year.  

We live in Southeast Alabama and it is not a hot bed of volleyball talent.  Our club until last year had never taken a team to a national tournament except a 12s team by our current High School Coach. My daughter is driven and not by me and I understand that as my dad played thru me for football and I did not really enjoy it. 

She is doing strength training and will start doing agility and speed training along with some other private lesson stuff this summer prior to school season all coordinated by me.  I fortunately can in various ways support her but continue to ask her is she doing this for her and there is no doubt as she as her high school coach says has something special. 

I own and run a business with 50 employees give or take but the most stress in my life comes from wondering am I doing the right things to help her.  No one that I know can tell me anything as no one from this area has ever had an opportunity to play at a higher level especially D1.  I am trying to give her that opportunity if she has the ability.  We have had coaches call about her a little as a 14 and a 15 either because they saw her profile or saw her play.  Generally small colleges except one D1 that I sent her profile to that I sort of have a connection to the assistant coach.

I would appreciate any advice you might have on anything but especially the following subjects:

1. How do you know whether they really want you to come to camp or if you just are on the mailing list for them to make money?

2. Should we play for the better club that will require we drive 1.5 hours each way for practice.  I think she should as if she does not play at that level she will not continue to get better and we also will not get to go to larger tournaments to be seen as time goes on.

3. Should I or she be sending out her profile to coaches.  Should she be calling coaches.  Is it too early.  Her video we are doing should be ready in the next few weeks.

4. Should she concentrate on getting better this summer in lieu of going to camps.  Have someone who was a good hitter from FSU that can work with her this summer.  She is already doing strength and agility training and will continue.

5.  Are we both crazy?  LOL!!!!  I can see myself possibly giving her the opportunity to burn herself but she continues to show no signs of it.  She has a drive in volleyball (and other sports as well as academics) that I have in business.  I see her  being involved in it one way or another the rest of her life.  On the court is one of the places she is truly happy.

Please let me know what you think and any suggestions.

Thank you.


Before I say anything else, I will say this - RELAX...........The mere fact that you have written to me to ask intelligent questions about the recruiting process while your daughter is just a freshman, means you are miles ahead of the average parent of a Prospective Student Athlete.  In Inside College Volleyball, I write about the need for parents to have balance with the recruiting process.

I will respond to your questions, based upon the following information you provided:

- Current Freshman in High School.
- 5'11' OH, touching 9'9" as a 15 year old.
- Weaker volleyball state (both club and high school reputations).

And now to your questions/answers:

1.  At this time segment, camps are just a revenue generation for collegiate programs.  I would think they would love to have her on campus to recruit her, and they would really love for you to pay a camp fee to have her on campus so they can recruit her.  If you have read my site, you know that I am extremely hesitant to use collegiate camps for recruiting - That is an awful lot of money for exposure to one school.  

2.  When picking a club, two areas should be examined (beyond cost/distance) - How good is the training in practice, and what is the playing schedule.  Volleyball is a sport where players get better in practice, not competition.  If the practice training is not good, then they will be limited in their improvement (too many 'big' clubs fool parents into thinking the training is great, when in fact, it is the competitive level which makes the player better (but not nearly as good as a good practice environment).  With travel tournaments, you want to have a balance; playing in 4 National Qualifiers is expensive, time consuming and hard on the players with little additional exposure.  Playing in zero National Qualifiers (or very large non NQ events) is a negative for recruiting because the largest numbers of collegiate coaches attend the NQ's (or very large non NQ events).  Assuming that you can afford the time and money to attend a different club, make your club selection based upon the above points.

3.  Again, if you have read my site, you will know one of my tenets is Freshman Free, Sophomore Slow.  Right now, they only thing you should be doing (other than educating yourself, which you are doing by reading this), is just enjoying the fact your daughter plays volleyball and likes it.  Do not send out videos, do not send out emails, do not call coaches, do not use the club as an intermediary. Freshman Free!  After the HS season has ended next fall, then start to reach out to collegiate coaches with current video (reach out is based upon your family's comfort zones) in preparation for the upcoming club season.  Then, go Sophomore Slow - slowly review all the potential schools/coaches because things have changed drastically in collegiate athletics within the last 10 years.

4.  I would skip camps, unless it is a camp well known to develop skill sets or teach new techniques (which is hard over just a couple of days).  As she is an OH, better for her to play sand/beach/grass/open gym, so she can get plenty of touches in a positive environment.  If there is someone she can get good touches, then that is great - But private lessons are only as good as the person giving them.  I would rather have her play weekend beach/sand doubles tournaments or go to open gym a couple of times a week to play pick up VB, then do 10 camps and 10 weeks of private lessons.

5.  You are not crazy; you are just going too hard, too fast right now - Now is the time to slow everything down and understand that you have plenty of time, and it is better to slow down now because it may not be possible to slow down later.

I see two main 'mistakes' that parents make with the recruiting process - They either wait too long to get involved, which results in panic and feeling that they missed an opportunity. Or, they start way too early in the active outreach/intensity of the recruiting process, which leads to a high level of stress that cannot be sustained for 4 years.  

Educated yourself about the NCAA rules, get comfortable using technology (or maximize your recruiting service, which should have been NCSA Athletic Recruiting), enjoy the process without getting too caught up in everything.  Because of technology, you can gain plenty of recruiting promotion/exposure for your PSA, and if your family works its way through the process, then she will find the best fit for her collegiate future.  

With her height and athleticism, she will have opportunities...they may not be DI top 10, but they will allow her to make the collegiate choice which best fits her (and the family) comfort zone!

Good luck and slow down for the rest of this year...please.

Coach Sonnichsen

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