A recent study showed that 26% of parents whose children participate in high school sports hope their child will play professionally. Yet sports like football only see 6.5% of high school athletes move on to play in college. Basketball has less than 4% move on. From there, less than 2% of those college athletes will go on to play professionally. The odds are extremely slim. In 2015, there were 432,000 high school girls participating in high school volleyball. If every NCAA/NAIA school was fully funded, there’d be less than 6,000 athletic scholarships available. We all know that a large portion of our parents/players are hopeful to obtain one of those, but the demand exceeds the supply.

As club directors, we serve as some of the first mentors for families that are new to youth sports. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news and tell families that the odds are stacked against getting an athletic scholarship. However, it’s important to set realistic expectations for your families. I visit club websites, and the first thing I typically see is College Placement and Championships. Yet we wonder why some families feel this should be a given once joining those programs. How can we fix this?

  1. Let the numbers speak for themselves. I never tell a family not to pursue an athletic scholarship. I will tell them the amount of athletes vs. the amount of scholarships. I will tell them that most Division I hitters are touching 9’6″ at minimum, and that number appears to be rising over time. I will tell them about Division I, and the expectations of the athletes (6am weights, individual practices, team practices, rigorous travel schedules, and more – some reports say Division I athletes average 39 hours of academics and 36 hours of athletic activity per week).
  2. Encourage your players to experience college volleyball. You’d be surprised how many have never even watched a collegiate volleyball match, let alone one at all the different levels! Yet many of them already have written off anything other than Division I.

    Living in Chicago, I’m lucky to be able to offer my athletes a variety of levels to watch. In women’s volleyball, we have Northwestern/Loyola (Division I), Lewis (Division II), and Elmhurst (Division III). We also have numerous Junior/NAIA Colleges with strong volleyball programs in the area. For those that aren’t in a volleyball hotbed, matches are being webcasted more frequently each year. The eye test gives people a more realistic perspective of the level of each division!

  3. Focus on opportunity. All the above information does not come with the intention of telling families “You won’t get a scholarship”. The intention is to teach families about options that are realistic. Between Varsity teams, Club teams, and Intramurals, there is ALWAYS an option for high school athletes to stay in the sport should they be interested. The key is giving your players knowledge on how to learn about those options.

Many families are waiting for their children to ‘be seen’, but in 2016, it’s never been easier for the student-athlete to research schools and reach out to coaches. Teach your players how to assess their wants/needs, research schools that meet that criteria, and do’s-and-don’ts with emails and videos to coaches. It empowers the student-athlete to take control of their college search process, regardless of level.

Many parents and players have expectations that are backed with very few facts. By teaching your families about the reality of scholarships as well as all the opportunities they have at all levels, we, the club directors and club coaches, can help them keep their expectations more realistic!

For more information on the volleyball recruiting process click here.

About the Author

Bryan McDermand is the Owner of Progression Volleyball Consulting LLC and works with families one-on-one to help them put their best foot forward in order to maximize the scholarship/grant money the student-athlete may be eligible to receive.