September 14, 2015

College Volleyball Recruiting and the D$/L

Hi, Coach. 

My daughter is a 5-foot-7 DS/L, Class of '16. She has a preferred walk-on offer from her top school, a Division II program. Thanks to you, she knew what questions to ask the coach in evaluating the offer. (Unsolicited plug: Purchase "Inside College Volleyball.") Another D-2 very high on her list has recently entered the picture with a possible opportunity -- as a preferred walk-on.

She likes the schools, programs, coaches, and players so much at both places that if money were not a factor, she would be close to committing. Unfortunately, money likely will be a factor, and we are working under the possibility that decision time could arrive before recruiting gets back up to full speed during the '16 club season.

As the one who will pay what the scholarship/financial aid packages do not cover, I have three questions:

1. Below the Division I level, what are realistic expectations for a defensive player in regard to the percentage of offers that actually would include athletic money for the freshman year? In practical terms, should we operate under the likelihood that a walk-on with an opportunity for future athletic money might be the best offer she receives?

2. It seems like most of the offers for a DS/L that actually do come with athletic money would have minimal amounts. Is that correct?

3. Don't schools, especially in Division II, that are serious about their athletic programs have to put together good scholarship/aid packages to bring in the athletes their coaches want?

Thank you, Coach, for all your help the past few years. We have leaned on your web site and book throughout the recruiting process.

Best wishes,
Dad of a D$/L

I liked your "D$/L" signature that I had to move it into the post title!!!  

A few items to note before moving to answer your questions - Preferred Walk On means nothing; it is a fancy name for being a walk on.  With Division I, there might be a certain element of prestige, as those programs are 'head count', so can only provide athletic scholarship money to 12 players (whether they are a full or a penny) and they tend to manage their rosters tightly.  But with Division II, those 8 athletic scholarships (if they school is fully funded per DII rules) can be split among any number of players, and are packaged with additional school scholarship support.

The DS/L position is recruited very late, and even as your daughter enters her senior year, there is still plenty of time on the recruiting clock.  A whole ball cart full of college coach recruiting craziness is about to occur in November through February - Many opportunities will present themselves at that time, which are totally unforeseeable now!!!

I would strongly suggest that you do not commit before the new recruiting season begins with club season.  You are not losing anything by waiting to commit because neither of these schools have offered any athletic scholarship money, just a spot on the roster.  And, this may sting, how valid is that roster spot when they don't believe enough in her skills to make the financial investment?  If you don't pay for something, you don't value it as much….

Your answers:

1.  Tough to answer, but I do think some athletic scholarship money could be part of the package; depends on your daughter's talent level and how aggressive you are with the outreach to college coaches.   I absolutely would not operate under the model of future athletic money, because that is the coaching telling you the check is in the mail to get you there.  Operate under the model of being consistent in your outreach to college coaches this late fall and into the winter, and right now, have your daughter continue to improve her skill sets to become an even better player.  Who knows what the winter will bring?  You never know when a coach may need better passing, you don't know if a new coach likes a certain technique, you are unaware of what injuries may occur - Do everything now to ensure the best possible offer tomorrow.

2.  With DII packaging, the objective of the coaches is to shift as much of the scholarship load away from athletics and on to the school's various avenues.  With the DII limit of 8 athletic, the majority of that amount would go towards the attackers with the back row players usually getting a smaller slice of the pie.  While I would love to tell you that a 3/4 athletic is possible, the reality is with DII, a 1/4 would be wonderful.

3.  The packaging of scholarship in the Division II and NAIA categories is always a formula, mainly dependent upon the academic standing of the player and college coaches only input their specific athletic amount.  During the application and admission process, the student-athlete will be told what their scholarship amount package is, and from which avenues it comes from.  The school will not bump up their academic or need based scholarship because volleyball coach really wants the player; the school will just tell the coach to give her more athletic money!

My closing suggestions:

1.  Take and re-take the ACT/SAT tests, as these test will enable much more scholarship money by improving the score, than athletic.  Each couple of points on the ACT could be worth thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

2.  Improve her skill sets; there is always room to get better.  Whether is it fitness, passing, speed, ball control, a player can always improve and being better will make her more attractive as a recruit.

3.  Expand your outreach to beyond Division II.  Reach out to lower NCAA DI programs, because a coach might need exactly what your daughter can bring to the court.  Reach out to the NAIA, as they are very similar to NCAA DII in scholarships and packaging.  What about JC's?  JC programs can have great athletic funding, and you get two years of elite level play, then bounce into a 4 year school?

Keep working the process - Remember that Liberos are last and have to have the most discipline in managing the recruiting outreach and communication process.


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