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Parents Common Mistakes In The Recruiting Process

by Tom Fakehany

Most parents expect the high school volleyball coach to guide an athlete through the
recruiting process. High school coaches are paid to be full time teachers or administrators, and receive a small supplement for their added coaching responsibilities. Their time is occupied. Yet most perform a marvelous job promoting and guiding athletes, not just at their own school but some at even help those from other schools. Most coaches hate the "marketing" side of recruiting. If they wanted to sell, they'd be in marketing making bundles of money.

Parents must discuss the process with the coach, find out what has to be done and what the coach is willing to do.

What remains?

What can the athlete do?

The parents?

How will the right colleges see the athletes?

Can friends help?

Does a scholarship marketing organization make senses?

Parents Common Mistakes

  Thinking they understand what is happening.

    "Every parent I ever asked about recruiting stood there nodding their head, 'Yes, yes, yes,"' said future hall of fame USC Volleyball coach Pat Powers.  "Recruiting is like someone who buys a new car once in a lifetime from someone who sells cars 50 weeks a year and has been doing it for 15 years. One doesn't know anything, the other knows everything. Who is going to get the best of the deal?" he asks.

    Rather than acting knowledgeable, parents must become knowledgeable, by asking questions, evaluating answers, seeking information and asking more questions.

     Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine was 1997 Rose Bowl MVP for leading the Buckeyes over Arizona State. He grew up 10 minutes away from the ASU campus, attended games as a boy but was not recruited by his favorite school because Jake Plummer was their quarterback of the future. Plummer had a great career, but only because Stanford did not want him.  Then Cardinal coach Bill Walsh, renowned for his ability to develop quarterback talent, chose to recruit Scott Frost from Nebraska instead. But when Frost got to Stanford, Walsh turned him into a defensive safety. Frost transferred to his home state to play quarterback for the Cornhuskers.

    That is the way recruiting works.  When athletes are in high school, no one knows who will be selected and who will be rejected, who will play and who will sit.

   Thinking they can evaluate their child's athletic talent.

Howard Garfinkel, founder of the famous Five Star basketball camp, tells athletes to "seek a college one level below what you think you are and two levels below what your father thinks you are." College coaches talk about parents of high school sophomores wondering if their child can play at our level, then two years later wanting to dictate playing time."

   Everyone who attempts to project the ability of high school athletes to compete in college sports makes mistakes. Penn State's Joe Paterno thought NFL running back Eddie George should play linebacker. North Carolina's Dean Smith rejected NBA star Joe Smith, and Paterno and Smith
are at the top of their respective professions. Imagine how often the regular coaches are wrong!
Still, the best assessment of an athlete's ability will come from people who are very familiar with college play. Few high school coaches, and far fewer parents, have that familiarity. When they do, a love of the athlete still can cloud the evaluation.

   Losing track of the importance of a college education and a college degree.

  "In choosing a college, education should be the first consideration, then athletics second, not the reverse as is so often the case," said legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.  "The college education will be the important part, because it can be of great service throughout life. He or she will be an athlete for only a comparatively short time. A limited few play after college, even though they all think they will.

  "Young people have difficulty thinking about the future," Wooden continued. "Parents can help them, but to do that parents have to separate themselves from the thrill of
being recruited."  "Will my son start early?" was, and is, asked more frequently than "Will my son get a good education?"

    Believing "if a college wants my child, they will find a way to get him/her into school."

   "The academics of the athlete has been taken out of the hands of the college coaches; 100 percent of the responsibility is on the athlete and the parent," said LSU men's and women's track coach Pat Henry.  Athletes have three basic responsibilities before they can receive a scholarship: to pass designated courses with a certain average; achieve a certain score on a standardized test; and report both results to the NCAA Clearinghouse. Parents can help their children by overseeing this process, which begins with calling 1-800-638-3731 and ordering a copy of The NCAA Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete. Read the guide at least twice, discuss it with the high school coach and guidance counselor, then read it a third time.

    Thinking that a letter means a college scholarship.

      "We've got garbage bags full of letters," said the father of a Big Ten recruit. "They mean nothing, burn them. They don't mean a school wants you, they just mean you are on a list." A Texas high school coach adds, "You are not being recruited until someone walks down your sidewalk, sits in
your living room and starts showing you shiny brochures and videotapes."

  Yet every year parents call colleges after the signing period and tell the secretary, "We thought our child was going to receive a scholarship here."  Such stories are sad, but they can be avoided by understanding the process. The reality is that football schools have a mailing list of more than 1,000 names per class, and award 25 scholarships or less; women's volleyball schools have nearly as many names and usually sign two to four athletes a year. A letter is only an introduction, not an offer.

    Expecting the high school coach to guide an athlete through the recruiting process.

  High school coaches are paid to be full time teachers or administrators, and receive a small supplement for their added coaching responsibilities. Their time is taken. Yet many do a marvelous job promoting and guiding athletes, not just their own but even those from other schools. At the
same time, other coaches hate the "selling" side of recruiting. "If I wanted to sell, I'd be in business making a lot of money," they figure.

  Parents must discuss the process with the coach, find out what has to be done and what the coach is willing to do. What remains? What can the athlete do? The parents? How will the right colleges see the athletes? Can friends help? Does a scholarship marketing organization make senses?

Now, is the time for you to investigate all these issues.  Start working with your child when in the 9th grade and follow the above advise and below listed time line.

Time Line

Freshman Year

* Get settled in high school. Concentrate on a solid high school Curriculum.
* Talk to your coaches or Athletic Director about local volleyball club teams.
* Setup a workout schedule allowing comfortable time for academics and sports.
If you think you are interested in attending a college for a sport, send an introduction letter in your freshman year. Send an update at the end of the season, along with your club schedule. Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse (it's _never_ too early, but it can be too late). Prepare your athletic resume.

Sophomore Year

* Continue striving for academic success. Research NCAA academic requirements.
* Make sure that you are "on target" for all core requirements.
* Stay active in Club Volleyball and High School Volleyball.
* Visit your High School career center or counselors office and start investigating colleges and their admission requirements.
* During the summer between the Sophomore and Junior years, prepare your athletic resume.
* Prepare to send out your initial contact letters with resumes. Include high school and club volleyball playing schedules, if available. If schedules are not available, mail a follow-up letter and schedule as soon as they become available, but still send out initial letters.
Update academics with Clearinghouse. Monitor the academic requirements of the universities you want to attend. Send an update letter to the schools you are interested in, send club schedule in the winter. Refineand update your resume. Prepare an skills videotape (10-15 minutes in length with 6-7 minutes of basic skills and the rest of game footage). During the fall season, go to the college matches (if they are local)and talk to some of the players, the coaches, etc...or during the summer before your junior year, make unofficial visits to the colleges.

Junior Year

* Send out athletic resumes now, if you have not already done so.
* Register with the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse.
* Request that ACT/SAT test scores be sent to the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse.
* Keep up with your studies and once again review the NCAA requirements to make sure they have not changed.
* Keep investigating other colleges and send out additional resumes.
* Prepare video tape to be sent when requested.
* Send out update as your season closes. Include your new stats and any special recognition's you may have earned.
* Visit some of the campuses that you are interested in, if you can.
* Try to watch some local college games in you sport, especially if one of the schools you are interested in is playing close by.
* In July, after completion on your Junior year, phone contact with college coaches is permissible. Begin heavy contact with the schools you are interested in, even makinga few phone calls (but remember that coaches cannot call you back until July 1 after you complete your junior year). Update your academic informationwith the Clearinghouse. If your top choices of colleges have not panned out send info to your second and third choices. Send out your club schedule ASAP. If coaches want to make home visits, they will do thisafter Nationals/Davis are finished. Make more unofficial visits to schools that interest you.

Senior Year

* Do not let up on academics
* Review your core requirements with your high school counselor.
* Send out your senior team schedule as soon as possible for high school and club volleyball.
* Keep college coaches posted on any changes or updates to your team schedules.
* Send out last of resumes, if new interest in other schools.
* Find out Letter of Intent dates for Volleyball from NCAA.
* Take advantage of, no more than 5, college paid visits, if offered.
* Ask a lot of questions and weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of the schools you are interested in.
* Study hard and play hard, but remember you are a student athlete and the student comes first.  If you are being seriously recruited by a school, they will invite you to make an official visit (where travel, room and board is paid during one of their home weekends. Continue phone contact with schools.Some schools ask their top recruits to verbally commit to attending during the spring or summer before their senior year. Most school like to be finished recruiting by the end of the volleyball season. The thing to remember is that a committment is not binding until a National Letter of Intent (NLI) and Offer of Financial Aid is signed by the recruit. The first official signing day for VB is typically in early February and extends into August. Recruits may change their mind about a school after they've made a verbal committment, but not after signing the NLI. If they do not attend the school they sign with or transfer before one year is completed, they will lose at least a year of eligibility. Players must also understand that being brought to campus on an official visit does not constitute an offer of a scholarship. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOUR SENIOR YEAR TO MAKE FIRST CONTACT OR REGISTER FOR THE CLEARINGHOUSE.

There are so many minor details for students to know about the recruiting process that thousands will never know. Recruiting classes are typically 200-300 players per year.  Most recruiting is finished by April each year.  Many coaches attending USA Volleyball tournaments in April and later are looking at Juniors and Sophomores, as well as standout Freshman. Coaches still looking at Seniors in the spring may have had some lack of continuity in their  recruiting (maybe a coach left) or had a player transfer out of
school in the spring or may be an NAIA school or lower level NCAA program or some other circumstance.There are lots of questions I'm sure that you have regarding the recruiting process.

 A outstanding place to discuss the recruiting process is on the Youth, Junior USA Volleyball, AAU Volleyball NAGWS Volleyball and Federation Volleyball email list. You can subscribe to it FREE at

** Alex M. Postpischil,  Assistant Coach - University of Maryland, Former Assistant Coach - Creighton University provided help in the writing of this article.