September 25, 2014

College Volleyball Recruiting - Business and Personal

Dear Coach,

I have a senior daughter who has absolutely gone thru hell during the recruitment process.It started out well as a 15 year old building prospects and laying the groundwork for her later years.

Since her position is libero, she was always realistic in what her prospects were. We never seemed to overestimate anything. The one thing we did not expect was the inability of the coaches or the recruiters to be forthright and honest during the process.

Is it your understanding that they do not like to personally give bad news to a recruit and can only do it thru email?  They seem to give false hope...then 3 days later crush the young recruit.  Have they no decency?  Why can they not be honest...why do they play word games?   Why are they so inconsiderate of recruits,parents and loved ones...all over a game?   What in the world is going on?  Please tell me this is not normal?

I am not talking about just any programs.  I am talking about some of the best institutions in the country.  Are they all game players?

Please I am desperate and need your guidance.  Why is it difficult for them just to say  "I don't need you" please move on.


Devastated Dad

Thank you for your email and I am sorry to hear the challenges and frustration that the college volleyball recruiting process has had upon your family.  

Unfortunately, the examples of what you speak of are very common and I have heard the same refrain from many VolleyFamilies.  To answer your questions:

1)  Email is the easiest and non personal way to tell a recruit/family that they are no longer being recruited by the program, and I am aware of many instances where a family may go on an invited unofficial visit, and then get dismissed a few days later.  Please remember that the Libero position can be the most harsh for VolleyFamilies because there are so many talented liberos that college coaches can easily find a good player.

2)  College volleyball is a business for the coaches (it is not a game because it is their livelihood and this is how they financially survive) but the recruiting segment is personal for families.  This is where the stress and frustration comes from for families.  As nice and sincere and cool and friendly a college coach is, it is still a business for them and that business is winning volleyball matches.  The feelings of the player/family does not come into that equation - it is very simple; what athlete will help me win more matches?

3)  The reason they play word games and give false hope, is they are hedging their bets to make sure that if their #1 recruit says no, then they have #2 lined up and if #2 says no, then they have #3 lined up, etc., etc., etc.  They will not tell #3 and #2 they are no longer being recruited until #1 has committed; and even then, they may string along #2 and #3 just incase there are any openings which may unexpectedly come up.

4)  While a broad statement, this is the new normal for recruiting and it does include the "best institutions" in the country.  Don't confuse a school's academic reputation with a program's standard operating procedure - AD's want coaches to win and as long as they are not breaking NCAA rules, going over budget or violating the law, then AD's are not interested in the experience of the players/recruits/families (don't believe the propaganda of the "student-athlete experience".)

College volleyball recruiting and college volleyball can be a harsh world. It is a business and the business is bringing in the best athletes, as often as possible, so the program can win matches.  Winning matches is how college coaches keep their jobs, get raises and get better paying positions with other schools.  Gone are the days of low key recruiting, and mentoring players and building up talent levels - These are blanket statements and by no means cover every collegiate program, but I have just seen too much to believe that the good ol' days of college volleyball are still here.

Moving forward - You must change your mindset to one of business not personal, to quote the Godfather.  Your PSA should be reaching out to hundreds of schools which fit her AAG (Athletic/Academic/Geographic preferences), and then staying in communication with these schools.  As parents, you must go on every unofficial/official visit, you should have access to emails so you can read between the lines and help guide the communication, and you must understand that the college coach is constantly evaluating whether or not your PSA will make their college team better, and better than another PSA. The second the college coaches determines no, then that coach/program will move on and you should have your #2, #3, #4 lineup and ready to roll.

With my NCSA Volleyball Recruiting Education talks, I tell families that they must "manage the recruiting process or it will manage you".

Good luck and hang tough!

Coach Sonnichsen


  1. Ouch!

    It's like dating...go on as many dates as possible, be nice, and if the one you want starts to hedge or talk with a bunch of marbels in their mouth, or stop answering your calls, time to move on to the next suitor. Every step of the road should have a plan B in place. You should be the one being chased, not the other way around. There is a program that thinks your daughter is just swell. If she decides that this suitor (college) is not the one she wants, then she gets to make a decision on her next step. The power and decisions ultimately resides with you. Operate from that place, and you can rest easy at night. Options are: Play at a lesser program, be a walk on, transfer, play intramural or college club, or don't play at all. Good luck!

  2. Great Advice Coach. We went through the Same thing with our PSA and only because I was helping him review the e-mail did I catch the change in attitude in the coach. Only at that point did we ask was he still being recruited. Coach admitted that he only had a spot as a walk on and that point we removed the school from consideration and picked a school much further away that was recruiting our PSA.


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