April 27, 2020

Is the Club Volleyball worth it?

My daughter is a sophomore and is 5’9”. She plays front and back row on her high school team.  As she is attending a small school, she is forced to play front row as she hits hard and has a decent game vertical at about 2’ but her scrappiness is impressive in the back row. 

She has a hudl account and keeps on getting emails from ncsa, which she is hoping that it means colleges are interested but it’s more likely that paid recruiters want our money. She has been offered to play on a travel team but there is so few girls on the team that are college level girls and the cost is over $3000. Are we better to save that money for our daughter’s college or investing it toward her getting a scholarship? 

My daughter also is a softball pitcher and a basketball player and has a perfect gpa. She managed to play varsity as a freshman in all three sports.  She’s also a kind and a terrific team player.  She does love volleyball. 

I don’t know if contacting coaches is a good option. Should she get attend a camp to get some data on her athletic abilities?  Should we spend the money on her playing on a travel team?  Is she tall enough to make a D1 team?  Is her making a D2 or D3 team even worth the cost of travel volleyball?


Thank you for your email and there are a number of questions to work through - Before answering, I will provide some additional context and information.

Club volleyball is looked at as the entry into college volleyball, but that is a little bit like "putting cart in-front of the horse".  Talent determines an athlete's ability to play college volleyball and club volleyball provides the opportunity for athletes to develop their talents.  Because an athlete will receive a significant amount of extra repetitions and hundreds of extra matches versus just playing high school volleyball, club volleyball is the dominant vehicle to increase a player's abilities.

As college athletic scholarships are limited in numbers and/or amounts, it is a competitive situation to obtain an athletic scholarship.  A player's talent will determine the opportunity to receive an athletic scholarship and the amount of such a scholarship.

Traditionally, club volleyball is commonly viewed as the pathway to college volleyball because of all the college coaches which attend club volleyball tournaments to evaluate/scout recruits.  If college coaches can't see an athlete in person, it can be uncomfortable for them to offer roster positions and scholarships to players via video tape.  Club volleyball tournaments allow college coaches to evaluate hundreds of players over the course of 2 to 3 days.  From January to the end of April, there is a large club volleyball tournament every weekend in the more populous states, which allows college coaches to constantly evaluate athletes in person!

NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball has 12 scholarships to award and since women's volleyball in DI is a 'head count' sport and only 12 heads can be on a scholarship, each player gets a full scholarship (provided the program is fully funded with scholarships, which the majority of DI women's teams are) - Obviously, the DI Full Scholarship, especially considering the crazy cost of college these days, is a huge motivation for families to participate in club volleyball.  

Families need to be aware that NCAA DI Women's Volleyball rosters are larger than 12 - Take a look at the roster page on the school's athletic website in the fall season, and you will see Volleyball teams with 16, 18 or 20 players.  This means that all the players outside of the Golden (like Greenwood) Ticket holders, are not receiving an athletic scholarship; they may well be receiving academic and/or merit scholarships, but these are not influenced or controlled by the athletic department.

NCAA Division II and NAIA have 8 scholarships (if the school fully funds the volleyball program) and these type of scholarships are called 'equivalency'.  A coach can take those 8 scholarships and divide them among 20 players, as long as the total amount awarded is equivalent to 8 full scholarships.  In Division II and NAIA volleyball, athletic scholarships are rarely awarded in full amounts, but rather in partial scholarship amounts.  But, unlike NCAA Division I, DII and NAIA schools can stack or package a variety of scholarships together; a player can receive an academic, an athletic, a merit and/or need based scholarships.  Often times, especially if the player has very good academics, the scholarship package at DII/NAIA schools can total out to a Full Scholarship.

NCAA Division III does not offer athletic scholarships.  Doesn't matter how great of a volleyball player, the division rules do not allow the awarding of an athletic scholarship. However, players can receive academic, merit and/or need based scholarships, but they cannot be influenced at all by athletic ability or the athletic department.

Junior College has a variety of athletic scholarship opportunities, depending upon the category of JC.  Junior Colleges have 3 divisions or categories of athletic programs, much like the NCAA.  DI Junior Colleges have full scholarships and the limit is 14 full scholarships if the program is fully funded.  DII gives out partial athletic scholarships, and DIII Junior College is not allowed to provide athletic scholarships.

That should provide some background information to move into your questions - As you have a number of important questions, let me break them out, along with a few other lines from your email which merit comment: 

  • .....she is forced to play front row as she hits hard and has a decent game vertical....
As she is only a sophomore and she is 5'9", it is a good thing that she is playing all the way around.  The most competitive collegiate recruiting position is the Libero/DS/Back Row player because there are so many talented players and not a lot of opportunity.  All to often, the back row players don't receive much of an athletic scholarship, if any at all.  I believe 'good' all around Outside Hitters have more recruiting opportunities, than 'good' back row players.

  • ....but it’s more likely that paid recruiters want our money....
Recruiting Services are businesses and they have well developed systems to encourage families to sign up for their support.  Some families do need a recruiting service and this can be a wise investment to manage the collegiate recruiting process.  

  • She has been offered to play on a travel team but there is so few girls on the team that are college level girls and the cost is over $3000.
Club volleyball is expensive, but it is the protocol to increase ability and to be effectively seen by college coaches.  College coaches don't recruit the club team, we focus on the player were are evaluating.  The majority of time, we don't even know the score of the game much less stay for the entire match.  We don't judge a player by the abilities of her teammates; we judge her interaction with team mates though.

  • Are we better to save that money for our daughter’s college or investing it toward her getting a scholarship?
The current club season has ground to a stop with the COVID 19 pandemic, so we will consider the Junior and Senior year of high school playing club volleyball - If we look at this from a return on investment viewpoint; $3000 per year for the next 2 years of club volleyball, plus related expenses of equipment, travel, meals, etc: say....$8,000.

If an athlete plays for 4 years and graduates in 4 years (we won't consider the possibility of a redshirt year), the per college year investment is $2,000.  To make the math work, a player would want to receive at least a $2,000 per year athletic scholarship.  There is a certain in-college value to playing collegiate sports (academic support, priority scheduling, athletic clothing and equipment, representing something larger than yourself, developing lifelong friendships through a common experience, etc.), not to mention post college life of having athletics on your resume and potential employers rating you higher.

Because of my experience as a collegiate player and as a collegiate coach, I feel that eight thousand dollars is a good investment.

  • ....and has a perfect gpa....
If her ACT/SAT test scores will reflect this great g.p.a., she will be in a good position to garner academic scholarships.  For the majority of non-Division I players, the academic scholarship will be the largest scholarship award and, as long as you keep up the college mandated g.p.a, this academic award will continue until graduation!

  • I don’t know if contacting coaches is a good option.
It is not only a good option, it is the only option to reach your recruiting goals.  As presented above, college volleyball recruiting is competitive - Your 5'9", all around outside hitter daughter, with the great gpa and personality, is competing against thousands of other 5'9" all around outside hitters with great grades and personalities.  Waiting for college coaches to find a player is not a plan, it is a dream.  Because there are so many talented players of average height, it is absolutely necessary for players/families to reach out to college coaches via email with player information and current video.  Even if a player is participating in club volleyball, they still need to reach out to college coaches to convince them to come to court #52 in the Dallas Convention Center during the MLK Classic tournament.

  • Should she get attend a camp to get some data on her athletic abilities?
Camps are generally not designed for recruiting, unless the camp specifically says it is for recruiting and has the itinerary to support such a statement; a college camp where the only coaches are from one school (the host college) is not a recruiting camp.  A better option would be recruiting combines or showcases, where a bunch of college coaches attend and would contact an athlete if interested.  The best, but most expensive option, is club volleyball, in which the team plays in large tournaments and the player/family can easily see how they stack up!

  • Should we spend the money on her playing on a travel team? 
Yes, if she does want to play in college, she needs to have the training and repetitions needed to develop her talent, along with putting herself into the live view of college coaches attending big tournaments.  There are rare occasions that a gifted volleyball athlete can secure a collegiate opportunity by playing only high school volleyball.

  • Is she tall enough to make a D1 team?
Yes, but not at the Power Conference or upper mid major level.  There are plenty of 5'9"-5'10" outside hitters at the mid to lower level NCAA Division I programs.  Her ball control/passing, attacking ability and volleyball intelligence will be more of a deciding factor for these type of DI programs, rather than just her height.

  • Is her making a D2 or D3 team even worth the cost of travel volleyball?
I believe so - Think of DII/NAIA in terms of a combination of scholarships and collegiate experience.  Even a partial D2/NAIA 'partial scholarship' will routinely be more than $2,000 per month.  Again, the packaging of D2/NAIA school scholarships can approach and easily total a full scholarship.

There is much to digest when it comes to today's college volleyball recruiting environment.  Hopefully my answers and background information will provide some direction as your daughter moves forward with her volleyball career!!!

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