My daughter has played club for 4 years. She has played up a few times and is always a starter. We have had multiple coaches (not college) come up and say “I loved watching you play” and you are a workhorse. She appears to be the top player or 2nd top player on her school and the club teams. She will be a freshman and the coach has already named varsity (even before tryouts - she did not make varsity). Is this something to worry about?
There is a world of difference between club and high school volleyball. As I do get a number of questions about high school volleyball from club volleyball families, please let me share some of my observations:
1) You pay for club volleyball and high school volleyball is free (I acknowledge private schools and athletics fees, but I am making an illustrative statement). There should exist a different mind set when you pay for something than when you get it for free. For example, if a referee is not being paid to officiate a match, then the coach should never complain. By the same rationale, club is a pay to play/train scenario and as such, has certain expectations, opportunities and pressures.
2) High school volleyball is its own animal; some HS coaches are great while others have never coached our sport before, some states have a long season while others are slamming everything into 6 weeks, some programs only allow upperclassmen on the varsity while others take a best player approach, some teams are perennial state contenders while others have not had a winning season in forever!
3) College coaches do not put a lot of weight on high school volleyball. We will speak to the contrary to be politically correct, but the reality is club volleyball is 99% of our recruiting and evaluation focus mainly because of the examples I provided above. We understand that there are so many crazy variables with high school volleyball. When I was a DI head coach, my only thoughts related to my recruits and high school volleyball were, 1) Free touches on the ball, 2) Please don't get hurt.
4) Expanding upon #3, we understand that you may have to play a different position in high school than what we are recruiting you for in college; my number 1 setting recruit had to play middle in high school because that is what the team needed. Additionally, we understand that your team may not be very good. You may be a stud, but that does not ensure that the remainder of your high school teammates all play club and are quality players. I have had very good players come from very average teams because their team mates were really club soccer or club softball players, who played high school volleyball.
5) As to your question, I would not stress at all about the coach naming the varsity group before tryouts because there are just too many variables for you to worry about; traditionally does the coach just name juniors/seniors to the varsity, is this a 'reward' for players who have stayed with the program for a number of years, is it a political situation where his/her favorite players get selected, is this a situation where the booster parent players get selected, is this Athletic Director encouraged, etc.
6) Because of your daughter's age, not being named to varsity is a good thing! Playing up all the time sounds good and can illustrate one's advanced physical skills, but there is also a downside. It is hard to learn by making mistakes when when you are constantly playing a year or two up; there is the very real pressure to perform as a justification for playing up and you learn from making mistakes. Also, playing up can stunt a player's leadership development. It is not realistic to expect a player 2 years younger than her team mates to develop leadership skills. I have seen any number of players who played up their entire club careers, now playing with their age group at 18 who are lacking in effective leadership skills.
7) By not making varsity, your freshman can better develop her skill sets and leadership ability. I understand that the competition and her team mates may not be as elite as she wishes or as she enjoys in club. But, it is going to be 'easier' for her to focus on improving weak skill areas playing on an underclassmen team, than with varsity. For instance, let's say she really needs to work on her line attack as to use the block and take out the opposing setter. On varsity, if she hits out of bound or into the net, she will be reprimanded by the coach. On the Freshman team, this will not seem out of the norm.
8) Her college recruiting process will not be affected. In the fall, college coaches are focused on their own season (saving their jobs, getting raises, finding a new job, etc) and save for a few elite or next door college teams, coaches are not concerned with the high school season/players. We are looking for year over year skill development and this development is mostly influenced by club and not high school.
9) Right or wrong, more and more club volleyball players are taking the high school season off. This is the result of the now very long club season, instances of very poor high school coaches/teams, and the desire to have a 'rest' period for the body during the almost year round volleyball calendar. We are not the only sport which does this, as I have been told any number of soccer players only participate in club now.
In a sense, these are the last few days of no stress volleyball for your family. As a freshman, the beasts of recruiting have not come knocking and the pressure to win has not truly emerged. As you progress through high school and into the older age categories of club, you will look back upon this freshman year with fondness!