September 17, 2015

Set or Pass….College Volleyball Recruiting

Hi Coach,  thanks so much for all of your insight. It’s been tremendously helpful.

A little background on our situation. My daughter is a 5’7, 14 year old, all-around player, who can Set, Pass, Serve, and Attack. Her approach is  9’4, and block is 9’0.  We do not expect her to grow much more. She’s entering her freshman year in HS, where she will play OH/ S for the varsity team,( a set of positions she has started at the last two seasons). In Club she was an  OH/S for the first five years, before switching to OH/DS last season. She’s been in the USAV HP program the past 3 years; the first two as an OH on the Select A1 and FSNT, and then after switching to Libero she made the Select Continental Team this year. The last 2 yrs. she’s been invited to the USAV HP Holiday Camps.

She wants to play Division 1 volleyball at a high level, and has received nice letters and questionnaires from about 30 to 40 D1 programs, and one very nice D2 school. Like all of the volleyball parents who visit your website, we’re struggling with what’s the right thing to do for her. According to her, she doesn’t care which position that is, and just wants to play at the highest level possible. Because of this, we’ve been encouraged by our club to turn her into a Libero, but her mother and I are unsure.  Is there room for a 5’7 Setter with her attributes in the D1 ranks, or should we focus her training for the Libero role?   Personally her mother and I would be just as happy watching her play OH/S or OH/DS at a lower level, but she’s the one stepping on the court. J

Thanks in advance,


5'7" setter is going to be a challenge playing at the upper, and especially elite, NCAA Division I level.  Of course, there are a couple out there, but they are the exception.  And they are the exception because they have great setting skills, with high volleyball intelligence and are very athletic.  

BUT, it is important to note, that with the increased substitution count in NCAA Volleyball, a number of programs are running a front to back 6-2 offense, where the setters are substituted out front row for an Opposite attacker.  In these programs, a 5'7" setter would be recruited.  The tough part is trying to determine which programs run a 2 setter offense and which are still with the 1 setter offense.

Caution #1 - Be careful using the mentality that moving to Libero will result in a player achieving a higher level of competition, simply because of the sheer volume of players that are strictly back row.  My belief is the Libero position is the most competitive spot in the recruiting process, and offers the least amount of athletic scholarship money for incoming freshman.  Be aware that the "Libero" position is the catch all position - players who have never been 'tall' have played this position since birth, shorter outsides drop into it, outside who don't have good verticals move into it, outsides with no pow in the cannon slide into it, setters who are shot/bad hands/slow feet/bad hair but good passing/defending, all believe the Libero position is their path to collegiate athletics.

Caution #2 - The "play at the highest level possible" will come at a price…"all magic comes with a price".  Elite NCAA Division I volleyball (and, realistically, the majority of DI volleyball programs) is a business where the bottom line is winning, coaches keeping their jobs, getting raises and the players are disposable parts in that winning equation. Today's DI coach will have little hesitation to cut/replace a player with a better player, no matter the position or year in school.  It is common place for players to be cut from the squad (athletic scholarship or not), if they are not performing at the level desired by the coach.  Also understand, that coaches make evaluation mistakes - They believe a player is at a certain level or will develop into a certain level of play, and when that does not materialize, the coach makes a roster change.  Gone are the old days where a coach will train and develop a player, at least into a solid practice player.  Cut and recruit is easier than train and develop.

And next, we have my daily suggestions:

1.  She is just a freshman and if you have read my blog, or my book (Inside College Volleyball), or listened at one of my recruiting talks (for NCSA Athletic Recruiting), then you should be familiar with Freshman Free - Sophomore Slow.  So, your baby girl is either a freshman or a sophomore?  Take things slow, keep working the process, keep doing your background checks on every possible program which has interacted with your daughter.  Don't be in a hurry and slow play the process.

2.  Determine what position she likes to play the best?  If she really enjoys the setting position, then shift your recruiting focus towards those programs which may currently use a smaller setter and/or employ the front to back 6-2 offense.  This is just a matter of getting on the program's web page and doing some research.  If she enjoys the Libero position, then switch to that spot to focus in on the skill sets germane to that position to maximize ability, and have even more patience with the recruiting process because Liberos are Last.

3.  If your little angle is still stuck on the "highest level possible", then she might be able to do what players did in the good old days of last week, and dual recruit.  That means marketing/promoting at two separate positions, while trying to achieve that 'highest possible level" - This would mandate two separate recruiting efforts, two separate videos and great communication with college programs because a player cannot play the Setter and Libero positions at one time during a match.

The most important factor in this whole equation is your daughter and her goals. Don't let anyone override the feedback (verbal and non-verbal) that you are getting from your daughter; not the club, not other parents, not high school coaches, not HP programs.

Good luck!

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