May 30, 2016

Rising Senior College Volleyball Recruiting

Dear Coach,

My daughter is receiving a lot interest and offers from D3 schools - she is 5'10" setter with a 9'6" approach.  The majority of them are great academic insitutions and will serve her well in the future.  She plays for a top rank HS and her club team is highley ranked nationally.  However, intitially she was focused on the Ivy's because they are D1 and had great academics - very few are recruiting a setter for her year.  As she enters into the summer before her senior year she hasnt received offers from D1 schools other than a couple of walk on positions.  The questions is whether she should wait and see if offers come in or accept an offer from a D3 program.  It seems most D1 schools have already finished their recruiting for her year.  She is great player, however patience is not her strong suit.  

Additonally, I have read your thoughts on walk on position and it seems to be a very confusing process, but I see more and more kids accepting these positions.  Since my daughter was looking at schools that do not offer scholarships. is this something she should pursue? and if so what is the best approach to do so? 

Thanks so much for your help and the service you provide.  


The time segment, from the end of the Junior year club season until the start of the Senior Year club season, is very tough on rising Senior athletes who are still searching for their college.  Each year, I receive a number of emails from rising Senior families which are concerned (and panicked) about what to do - They have been active in the recruiting process, they have had some interactions with desired collegiate programs, they have a some serious interest but not at the collegiate playing level that whey had hoped for.  

What families are not privy to, is the mindset of the college coaches during this time segment.  Many college programs will state that they are done recruiting for the grad year but some are telling a white lie, and some truly think they are done, but not really.

A number of coaches (all divisions/classifications, from NCAA DI to JC) will have a scholarship available, but they hold that scholarship for a number of reasons - To balance out their recruiting classes, to wait until after the start of the fall collegiate season to determine where best to use this scholarship, possibly use it on a collegiate transfer, hold it for a late bloomer club volleyball player, etc.  

And, there are any number of instances where the program has committed its available scholarships, but after the the collegiate season, a scholarship will become open - This happens quite often in today's collegiate world.   Coaches getting fired/taking new jobs, athletes quitting/transferring, players not returning from serious injuries, players flunking out, etc.  These situations generating scholarship opportunities happen more often than families realize.

As I have written before, now is the time segment in which families must have patience and I strongly suggest not "taking" a scholarship/roster spot out of panic.  It can be hard to believe, but this time segment is one of the slowest periods in the recruiting cycle (summer into early fall), because college coaches are trying to recharge their batteries after a long spring of recruiting and conducting their own spring season.  Then they gear up for summer camps and the final, pesky details of the rapidly approaching collegiate season.  

Too many families will grab an opportunity, only to have buyer's remorse come the late fall because of so many school reengaging in the Senior graduating class recruiting process.

My strong advice to families, believing that they are realistic about their daughter's ability (please, please families, be realistic about your daughter's ability, even if that means having a tough conversation with your baby girl), is slow down and wait until the next club season begins before committing anywhere.  When January rolls around, college volleyball programs will be very aggressive with finding available Senior talent.

I can say this, because each year, I get many emails from my coaching friends (from power DI to JC) asking about available Senior players.  Why, because as I illustrated above, these are crazy days in college volleyball recruiting and there are so many changes which affect scholarship opportunities.

During this slow period of recruiting, take advantage of the opportunity to get healthy (rest/rehab after the long club season), and then improve those areas upon which you need to improve.  You have a 5 month window, inclusive of the high school season, to make some big jumps in skills, athletic ability, game management, etc., which will make you a much more attractive recruit to colleges when they come in full tilt next January.

Walk On opportunities - With the ever increasing talent pool of recruits, versus the not growing college volleyball programs, there is an over supply of quality players.  This results in many players pursuing the walk on route.  To be clear, the term "walk on" refers to not receiving any athletic scholarship money, and the college coach not being involved in any scholarship discussions - NCAA Division I programs are the most pursued walk on positions because they only offer 12 scholarships (head count sport, so only 12 heads can be on any amount of athletic scholarship money) but they have zero influence over the awarding of non athletic scholarship monies.

All other classifications of college volleyball will award scholarship packages (athletic, academic, merit and need based) and work closely with admissions/financial aid to generate these package offers.  Even though a recruit may not receive athletic as part of their package, they are receiving scholarships which have been gathered/presented by the college volleyball coach, so I hesitate to call these players "walk ons".

Back to DI, the Walk On route can be precarious.  As a walk on, you are completely at the mercy of the program and if they don't like how you practice, they are not impressed with your skill development, then they will find a better walk on next year and you will no longer be a member of the program.  

A number of families will accept a "Walk On to Scholarship" offer - Walk on in year #1 and/or year #2 and/or year #3, and then you will/may/hopefully receive an athletic scholarship.  Again you are at the mercy of the college coach, because what you have is just a promise, not a legal agreement to receive an athletic scholarship.  If that coach gets fired or takes another job, your walk onto scholarship offer just vacated with the coach.  In addition, since the promise is just verbal, if there is a more important team need, then the team will use your promised scholarship.

I only recommend accepting a DI walk on offer, if the school is the absolute perfect fit and you would still attend if the volleyball program disappeared.  The ego stroke of being a DI player, is rarely worth the financial load the family will assume and spending your career as a practice player.

In closing, I suggest that your daughter focus on improving her skills and physicality, then reengage in the outreach to college programs in November/December to set the table for open scholarships.


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