The culmination of recruiting during the club season reaches its pinnacle beginning June 19th, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. College coaches from around the country descend on the Orlando Convention Center and ESPN Wide World of Sports for the AAU Girls Junior National Volleyball Championships, an event that parallels no other.

The beginning of the end of another recruiting season for college coaches that want to finalize their decisions or maybe the beginning of a new recruiting season and scouting players they have never seen before. The search for ‘that diamond in the rough’ or the ‘undersized pin hitter who flies high and under everyone’s radar’ and the ever elusive libero that rises to the occasion and passes nails. Eight days of exciting volleyball action, shuffling between venues, 12-14 hours on concrete floors, countless evaluations of thousands of athletes, incessant networking between recruiting coordinators and club coaches.

Why, you ask? It’s really simple…it’s all about the athletes! I have spent the last six months on the recruiting circuit from Cleveland, Ohio in the bitter cold of January to the mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah in the middle of ski season – a sight to behold (especially if you are traveling through Wyoming as the sun rises), to the lively and volleyball loving city of Louisville, Kentucky for the annual Bluegrass tourney to charming Kansas City, Kansas for the JVA’s World Challenge. The common thread that prevails from conversations with tournament organizers, club personnel, parents and many college coaches is that it is all about the athletes. I have seen the passion in their eyes, the sincerity in their voices and the countless hours in which all of these individuals expend to help these young women become successful and for some pursue the dream of playing collegiate volleyball.

I am astounded by the club coaches and their energy and leadership, building into these athletes not only to win matches and chase championships, but truly teaching life lessons on how to overcome loss, deal with adversity, conflict management and acceptance of differences in others. There are the long hours in the gym teaching, training and elevating their team’s athletic abilities and numerous hours planning practices and traveling to tournaments. For the majority of club coaches, this is not their main occupation and if they were asked how they survive the club season, many would say they persevere because it is all about the athletes!

The sacrifices of parents and siblings is mind-blowing. It is truly a family event with many generations in tow. Recently, I witnessed an entire club team surround a grandmother of an athlete suffering with breast cancer and presented her with their championship trophy. The countless financial and personal sacrifices they make for their children and for the children of others. Generosity, compassion and genuine support of one another. The sport of volleyball can and does bring out the best in others when it’s all about the athletes!

Not many know the man hours put into running a large scale tournament. The multitude of moving parts and months of planning. The organizers sacrificing family time and making sure there is excellence in all they do. The smiles they share when faced with countless unplanned events from health emergencies, officials management to power outages. I see the sheer joy on their faces at the end of the tournament as they hand out trophies and medals because for them – it’s all about the athletes.

I have spent hours talking to college coaches and words cannot describe the incredible individuals out there who have devoted their lives to collegiate volleyball. The intelligence, compassion, selflessness and devotion has truly taken me by surprise. I have forged many new friendships that go beyond the sport. In many conversations with college coaches we spend hours talking about the future of these young women and helping them to become great citizens. How the sport of volleyball can propel them to worlds and experiences they could never imagine. Their passion to educate, illuminate and elevate the student athlete’s self-worth. To these coaches it’s not just an occupation it is their life’s mission and for them it’s all about the athletes!

I board a plane for Orlando, Florida this coming Saturday morning at 5:45am and will spend the following eight days shuttling between venues. I will be representing many athletes and our club to hundreds of college coaches, cheering on hundreds of volleyball players, and talking to scores of parents and club coaches. Each day, I will be in the gym approximately 12-14 hours, knowing that the sun will be shining outside. I know my feet will ache, I may lose my voice but with a smile on my face, I will exit the building knowing I began and ended the day with a singular thought in mind …it’s all about the athletes!

Special thanks to the JVA – their staff rocks and are tireless, to the Munciana leadership and coaches for their endless support, to my travelling Buddies (you know who you are) and to the countless college coaches that have enriched my life this past recruiting season. But, most importantly to the amazing young student-athletes and their parents that I have been blessed to assist in their journey to pursue higher education and an amazing collegiate sport!

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About the Author

Patty Costlow is the Recruiting Coordinator for Munciana Volleyball, a long time JVA member club located in Muncie, Indiana.