Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something or a point of view. It is also something that is fluid and changes based upon life experiences, knowledge, frame of reference, attitude, decision making and interpretation of situations.
Over the past few club seasons, I have had the privilege of traveling across the country to meet with parents and present sessions that were designed to give them and their athletes tools to navigate the ‘Recruiting Journey’. It quickly became evident after talking with hundreds of parents that their ‘perspectives’ on the recruiting process had been skewed by mountains of misinformation due to the unknown expectations of college coaches as well as what their own roles should be in the process.
The most impactful and ‘perspective altering’ portion of these sessions were the ‘College Coaches’ Panels’. The panels consisted of College Coaches from all levels, DI-DIII, NAIA, & NJCAA from all over the country and vast levels of experience to include, Head Coaches, Assistant Coaches, Recruiting Coordinators as well as their lives as former collegiate athletes.
Parents were invited to ask questions of the coaches and find out first hand expectations and practical advice in all areas of recruiting. What better way to learn what is expected than from those who expect it? As I intently watched the attendees unburrow their brows, lighten their demeanor and even begin to be excited about this new found wealth of information and engage in meaningful discussion with the coaches… new perspectives emerged. Their questions became more realistic and a better understanding of their roles in the process clearly defined.
Let’s take a look at some skewed perspectives that are common in today’s recruiting arena best defined as the ‘scene of debate & conflict’. As well, we will look at genuine advice and feedback from college coaches at these sessions that led to empowering and ‘productive perspectives‘.
- The role I have as a parent is to ‘market’ my daughter to college coaches…
Productive Perspective: Your role is to support your daughter in the process. She is a prospective student athlete (PSA) and to guide her in the research of schools that fit her academic goals. Your PSA will market herself by displaying solid athletic skills, being a good teammate and focusing on her academics.
- My athlete is playing club so she can earn a college scholarship (return on the dollars we have invested)...
Productive Perspective: Providing your PSA with the opportunity to play club volleyball is a great gift to your daughter. It will not be a ROI (return on investment) in regards to an athletic scholarship. It will be a ROI that enables them to foster discipline, leadership, overcome adversity, embrace failure to gain success, generate lifetime relationships, learn how to function on a team and become a productive adult. Simply put…a greater ROI than any athletic scholarship can provide.
- We have no idea where our daughter can play at in college so we cast a wide net
Productive Perspective: Casting a wide net is unproductive…formulate a plan based upon long term career goals, level of athleticism (where can she play), seek advice from High school & Club Coaches – be honest with yourself & your daughter. Don’t rush the process! Let her discover who she is as a student athlete and encourage her to reach out to schools based upon her criteria of emphasis of study, campus size, location, level of program and she will be successful.
- As well, our daughter is very busy with school, practice, etc and doesn’t have time to send emails to college coaches, so as parents we take that burden off of them…
Productive Perspective: College coaches want to receive correspondence FROM THE ATHLETE! If your PSA is ‘too busy’ to manage the communication required in recruiting she is NOT ready to begin! It is also a lesson in ‘time management’…she will be busy in college and have to manage many aspects of being a collegiate athlete: communication with advisors, communication with coaches, communications with teachers, communication with teammates…etc.
The following is an actual response from a Division I Head Coach:
“PLEASE let her struggle with finding the time to write a paragraph or two to a college coach. Encourage her to put the PHONE away and sit before a computer – we do not need an essay, we just want the athlete to reach out and ask to talk with us…even if it is bad grammar – we appreciate it more when it comes from the athlete – by the way parents…we know when it is YOU writing the letter”! It doesn’t take a burden off your daughter by writing her letters, it actually heaps an even larger burden onto her…”lack of responsibility”. One more thing…make sure that correspondence includes VIDEO! “
- She only wants to play in Division I and we support that because this is her dream…
Productive Perspective: This is a perspective I encounter often as a Recruiting Coordinator. Playing in Division I does not equal fulfilling all of life’s dreams and desires. YES! It is an awesome level to play in – no doubt! BUT, this is the thing…the majority of high school volleyball players cannot play in Division I.
Let’s look at some facts and figures to support that claim: there are 346 colleges/universities representing Division I, with approximately 1800 schools offering college volleyball through DII, DIII, NAIA, NJCAA which equates to an estimated 27,000 opportunities. The percentage of female athletes that play in DI volleyball is 1.2% based upon the overall number of high school volleyball players (est. 432,000)
The perspective I encourage is to be realistic and factor in three key elements in finding your DREAM SCHOOL!
– Right Academic Fit
– Right Geographic Location
– Right Level of program based upon your athletic ability
If a school fulfills all of those criteria – that is your dream school regardless of division!
- The process is so complex and we have no idea who to call, when to call them, communication with college coaches goes into a deep, dark hole…
Productive Perspective: In the current environment of communication and exposure for volleyball athletes through club tournaments, club recruiting coordinators, club coaches & high school coaches…there is an abundance of options in regards to targeted communication.
Many colleges have assistant coaches that also are responsible for handling recruiting communication. Collegiate volleyball websites are built with easy access to this information and also provide college coaches emails. Clubs are engaging with platforms that provide their athletes the ability to build an athletic & academic profile, upload video and also communication tools that enable them to reach out to college coaches.
With all of this said…remember to focus on a target list based upon ‘REAL’ options for you as a PSA…this is where it all starts and if you are not an athlete that can play in the DI Power 5 conferences, then you will be discouraged when you do spend hours and club seasons reaching out to those programs with no success.
COMMUNICATION does not need to fall into oblivion when you are targeting the right level of program in line with your athletic abilities.
- My daughter doesn’t play on a 1’s or Elite team so how can she possibly be recruited Productive Perspective: I have heard the best perspectives on this from an abundance of college coaches…”if your daughter has the athletic ability, personality & academic focus that we are looking for IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE to us AT ALL what level of team she is on”. It is our job to look for the right fit for our program regardless of the team she makes at her club – The End!”
- We will only consider 4 year scholarships for our daughter…she deserves it
Productive Perspective: I am qualifying the next statement with no malicious intent. No one ‘deserves’ a 4-year athletic scholarship. Receiving an offer from a collegiate program is an honor no matter what the offer entails from a financial perspective. To reiterate out of approximately 443,000 high school female volleyball players, approximately 27,000 play at either a 4 year or 2 year school. Those numbers include athletic & academic scholarships…and a variety of both!
College Coach input on this perspective: “playing collegiate sports can be a catapult into so many life experiences you could never imagine for your daughter…if you eliminate the opportunity based upon scholarship…a great opportunity could be missed. With the unlimited options out there today for PSA’s from a money standpoint…there are REAL options if she does not get a 4-year offer…put more effort into researching community scholarships, grants and ENCOURAGE your daughters to work hard at academics – look at divisions and levels that can offer a combination of athletic & academic money…SPEND MORE TIME focused on…Chasing the opportunity – not the scholarship!
(Please note: the above ‘skewed perspectives’ are not meant to cast a negative shadow on anyone but are shared with the intent to bring to light the actual struggles of parents as they communicated with us during the recruiting sessions and sought advice)
In closing, having been given the opportunity to meet so many wonderful parents who genuinely want to learn and assist their young athletes, as well as the privilege of engaging in productive conversations with college coaches about the recruiting process, I am renewed with the mission of changing ‘skewed perspectives’ into ‘productive perspectives’. I think it is said best in the words of Socrates…”The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on the old but on building the new”.
About the Author
Patty Costlow is the Recruiting Coordinator for Munciana Volleyball, a long time JVA member club located in Muncie, Indiana.