Tried finding a similar question on your VERY helpful site but wasn't successful. Might be my searching skills! :)
All important attributes being the same - i.e. great skills training, awesome, experienced coaches, a respectful atmosphere - does choosing to play for a small or mid-sized club instead of a larger, more well-known club have any negative impact on recruiting efforts as a player gets older and enters the important 16s, 17s and 18s years? We have had our daughter at a small club versus a big club for the past few years due to a number of reasons, and have been very happy. As we begin the 16s year, and look forward to the 17s, I am concerned that we will need to try-out for one of the two "big name" clubs in the area next year for 17s. Honestly, this club and several other small clubs lose a proportionately large number of players from 16 to 17, partly due to girls not making high school teams, and partly due to the draw of all the "D1 recruits" highlighted on the bigger club websites. I am already concerned about a talent drain from this club next year. We have a similar schedule as the national teams at these clubs - although their "elite" teams who always play OPEN may have an additional qualifier or two.
Due to our email efforts and highlight videos, my 2017 libero PSA has received indirect (i.e. emails to club coach) interest from a few mid-major D1s and high level D2s already (we had a phone call with one D2), along with regular communication from some really competitive volleyball/academic D3s. I am willing to deal with additional expense and traveling if she tries out for the elite teams and makes it (although it seems it may be tough to break onto a team like that in the 17s?), or to just switch clubs (though with much guilt for leaving a club that has benefited her so much) if it is necessary. I have seen you state numerous times that the coach comes to watch the player, not the team, however, if our club struggles to fill a 17s, gets registered for tourneys a bit later, and the team ends up in a lower play level than they should be in (is happening for a qualifier this year already) will this give a coach the wrong impression? I am already trying to figure out a way to explain this to a few caoches we believe will come watch her at this qualifier when we send an email closer to the tourney date.
I am really struggling with this, because at a small club you can get close with all of the coaches and the director. I love them all and hate to add to their retention problems. However, I feel like I need to be thinking ahead two years and making choices that help her successfully reach the end of the LONG libero road! Any advice?
Good question and one which must be addressed as you move forward in the recruiting process. As you noticed, I do write that college coaches recruit the player, not the club. The challenge is if the club is in a region of the country that does not enjoy a huge supply of volleyball players.
If you are in Dallas or Chicago or Los Angeles, there will be a ready supply of talented players who can make the small clubs still a great option after the big clubs set their rosters. But, if you are in a region of the country where the big clubs set their rosters and drain the talent pool to a degree that the small clubs can only put together a very weak team or no team at all, then you must make a hard decision.
It sounds as if you are very happy with your current club. To this end, you must have early communication with your club about next year. Let them know you want to stay with them, but can't afford to be on a poor club team or not be on a team at all. This is the responsibility of the club to put together a solid group for next year.
There is a difference between a poor team and an average team. An average team will still be a good vehicle for the individual player's recruiting efforts, while a poor team won't. While coaches don't recruit the club, a player will not get better or be properly evaluated if she is training with or competing against players who are significantly below her abilities.
Again, communicate early in the process, like toward the end of this year's club season. Communication is the key to making good choices. As a Libero, your timing is slower which makes early club volleyball not as stressful, but mandates correct choices later in club volleyball.