Finding talent is relatively easy for college volleyball coaches. We are now in the heart of the club volleyball season, with National Qualifiers and Super Regionals every weekend (thank you to the VolleyMom from Michigan for the wonderful compliments this weekend at the Mid-East Qualifier on the website and Inside College Volleyball). The convention centers are full of players and so many of them are good.
The toughest part for college coaches is filtering talent; trying to determine which good player is the best fit for the coach's volleyball program and then convincing that player/family to come to their school.
While the volume of quality players has created more competition for volleyball families to attain that roster spot/scholarship for their daughter, parents still have the responsibility to ensure that their child's future school is the best possible fit.
VolleyMoms and VolleyDads, finding this best possible fit must start with making sure you are engaging with the proper schools and this is a result of having quality conversations as a family. These conversations should start early, 8th grade/Freshman year, and continue until your baby girl starts practice the 1st day of her collegiate career.
What should you be talking about? Well, your friendly College Volleyball Coach has your topics! Remember that this is a continuous conversation, not a one and done talk. Your daughter's and family's preferences and desires will and should change over the course of your Junior High to High school career.
G.A.A.S - May not be the best acronym but it will work for your family!
G - Geography.
From my experience in college volleyball, both as a player and as a long time head coach, the most important consideration families must make is how far from home is everyone comfortable with attending school. Is your family very close and your daughter still wishes to be involved in everyday family life? Then, pick a school very close which allows her to live at home, while being a full time student. Do you want to live a few hours away, so you can come home easily on breaks? Do you want to be an average airline flight away, as to spread your wings a bit? Or, have Mom and Dad had enough of your teenage years and they want you to attend a school on the opposite side of the country?
You must figure out the distance from home you are comfortable with - There is no value in engaging with a coach/program in a region of the country that does not work for the family; that region could be next door or the furthest point away from your house.
A - Athletically.
In college volleyball you can never play up, you can only play down. If you have the ability to play at Nebraska or Texas or UCLA (yes, I have to promote my alma mater!), then you can play at any program/conference/division in the USA.
But, if your volleyball ability is at a mid level NAIA program (which can be a great opportunity), then you will not be able to play NCAA Division I.
Work with your high school coaches, your club coaches, watch college volleyball, get feedback about what your athletic volleyball talent is - If you don't have the talent to play elite DI, then writing the power conference schools is a waste of your time.
A - Academically.
If your player is still in Junior high or a freshman in High school, it may be tough to know exactly what they want to study in college. But, you should have a general idea if they are a right brain or left brain child - Do they like science? Are they into acting? Is math their thing? Are they all over the place with what they like to do away from volleyball?
For instance, if your Lovely Libero is into blowing stuff up in the back yard, then going to a small liberal arts school focused on humanities is not going to be the best fit. As you might imagine, this topic could take a bit longer to flesh out.
S - Socially.
The topic that scares parents the most, including the College Volleyball Coach, is the social nature of college. Socially speaking, what type of collegiate experience is the family desiring? Does your daughter want the big campus experience with football, concerts, festivals, etc? Does she want the small school comfort of knowing her classmates and instructors? Does she want a big school in a big city, a big school in a small city, etc? As much time as our babies will be on the court or managed by the program, they will still have a campus life that involves itself in the local environment.
By talking through G.A.A.S., you will be able to determine what schools/programs are the best fit for your family and which schools/programs you should be pursuing. G.A.A.S. is not meant to reduce your potential schools to just a few, but rather to make your list more realistic thus manageable.
Again, this G.A.A.S. conversation is not a one time talk, but rather a continuous dialogue as a family which reflects your preferences and comfort zone through the recruiting process.
The reality of recruiting is if you don't manage the process, the process will manage you. Don't get caught up in those players which just had the process happen perfectly without trying, as those are the fortunate few. Stay focused on educating yourselves about all the opportunities and challenges which encompass the college volleyball recruiting process. My absolute belief is that those families which put the time into managing the process put their daughter's into the best possible position to enjoy a memorable collegiate career.