Scholarships: Is It Too Late For Seniors?

By Matt Sonnichsen, Director of Volleyball Relations for NCSA
On my website, I receive many questions this time of the year from panicked parents about the college volleyball recruiting process.  The parents are panicked because they have heard or been told or believe that all the college volleyball scholarships and opportunities, especially for Seniors in high school, are gone.

With technology and the assertive nature of college volleyball coaches, the recruiting process starts earlier than ever before.  This early start results in more Prospective Student Athletes (PSAs) making their verbal commitment to a college/university sooner than before – It is not uncommon for Freshman to commit to a school, and quite common for Sophomores to have made their collegiate choice.

This early start and early commitment cycle can give the impression that by the time some uncommitted PSAs reach their Senior year, they won’t find a college volleyball opportunity (or scholarship). 

Fortunately, this is not the case and I know this because of my 20 years of being a NCAA Division I coach, and my current role as the Director of Volleyball Relations for NCSA Athletic Recruiting.  Either through NCSA or because of my volleyball coaching friendships, I receive constant inquiries about available Senior age athletes – NCAA DI through Junior Colleges are asking.

It is important to know that there are still many, many opportunities available for current high school seniors looking to play volleyball at the college level.

Some helpful notes:

  • Now is one of the “slowest” times of the college volleyball recruiting process, because college coaches are in their prime playing season – They are concerned more about winning matches than recruiting. 
  • The recruiting tempo will increase come later November and into the new year.
  • Most Important – Roster changes occur during the late November to January time frame because of coaching changes, injuries, players quitting or getting cut.  This results in many, many opportunities that were not present in October! 
  • All levels of college volleyball will be actively scholarship recruiting current Seniors for next fall’s collegiate season.  Sure, the NCAA DI top 25 teams may be done, but there are over 1,200 college volleyball programs! 
  • Critical Point – Volleyball families must reach out to the college programs consistently to promote their PSA.  The Senior level recruiting process is fluid with opportunities opening/closing quickly.  PSA’s cannot wait to be “found”, but have to put themselves digitally in front of college coaches.

    For more junior volleyball recruiting education visit

Club Tryout Tips for Athletes and Parents

The anticipation of tryouts is filled with a lot of questions and concerns for players and players. Deciding where to tryout and how many clubs to tryout for is just the start. Below are some tryout tips to act as a guide or check list in hopes of making the process easier so you feel good about your decision.
 How Do We Choose a Club? 
1. Easy Thing First – What are your Choices?
  • Identify your age division
    There are two major club affiliations: USAV and AAU. Both have the same September 1 Birthday Cut-off 
  • What Clubs are in my area? Check your USAV region and AAU District web pages for clubs in your area.  Search for clubs on Google. 
  • Determine how far you are willing to travel. 
2. Do Your Research   
  • Visit the club website, contact the club director, attend a parent meeting, and talk to other parents who have played for the club.
  • What is it going to cost me?  Club volleyball can be very expensive.  There are ways to minimize the expense.  How much travel is expected? Does the club have an in-house program that provides training and limits travel?  Does the club have a fund raising program or fees based on income? Does the team travel as a group to out-of-town tournaments or does a parent need to travel with the athlete?
  • Club Dues and Add On Fees: Find out what is included in your dues and what the payment schedule is.  The typical club expenses: administration, court rental, equipment, coaches’ stipends, uniforms, tournament fees, tournament travel, and coaches’ travel expenses.  If there are costs outside of club dues, find out what they are and how they are assessed.  
  • Practice Schedule:  How often and where do the teams train?  What if I miss practice?
  • Tournament Schedule:What is the typical tournament schedule? What if I am unavailable for a tournament?
  • Coaching Staff: Who are the coaches at my age level and what is their experience?  Does the club have someone who oversees the training plan or does each coach prepare their own training plan?
  • Club Philosophy:  This is probably the hardest nut to crack.  Many clubs promote themselves as “elite” or “premier”, but are they really?  What does that mean to them? Do you need a premier club? What are your athlete’s goals after grade school/after high school?  Find out how long the club has been in existence.  If they truly are premier, they will have a track record in the business. While every club wants to win, how does the club make sure that every athlete is valued?  Look for affiliations like Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) or Junior Volleyball Association (JVA).  These are groups that offer resources and education to clubs who prioritize the health and welfare of the athletes.  
  • How Do I Join?  Most clubs select their member through a tryout process.  Ask how the tryout process is managed.
3.  Common Myths
  • Bigger is better 
  • A #1 team in any club is better than a #2 team in any club
  • More expensive is better
  • A paid coach is better than a volunteer coach
  • A coach who played DI is better than a coach who never played at a high level
  • If I play club volleyball, I will get a scholarship

4.  Questions to Discuss as a Family  

  • What do I want out of my club experience: enjoy the game with friends and/or train to have an opportunity to play in college? 
  • How much time do I have to dedicate to club volleyball: will it interfere with a part-time job, with school, with other club sports or time with friends?
  • How much can we afford: dues, travel, family travel?
  • How important is it that I am on the same team as my friend(s)?

How do We Manage Tryouts?

Once you've done your research on the club(s) in your area, and discussed your options as a family, you are ready for the next step.

Identify the clubs that you have decided fit your needs and match your goals.  Follow the registration process required by the club.  Know what the tryout rules are for your area.

Tryout Day
  • Know before going into a tryout where that club fits into your choice list.  
  • Arrive early properly attired.  If a tryout shirt is not provided, wear something noticeable that will stand out. 
  • Check yourself in (do not let your mom or dad do it for you) 
  • Speak for yourself 
  • Follow directions 
  • Hustle at all times: from station to station, shagging balls, huddle-up. 
  • Have fun – smile, be loud, encourage your teammates 
  • It takes no athletic ability to hustle, work hard and have a great attitude! 

It is a tryout, not a clinic.  It is your job to show the coaches what you can do.  Kids will be moving from court to court.  No matter what, keep working hard and keep having fun.
Before you leave, make sure you know how and when selections are made.  If the club is #1 on your choice list and you get an offer, take it – don’t make the club wait.
If you don’t get an offer from your 1st choice and you haven’t been given an indication of your status, call the club director and ask if there is a depth chart and where you are on that chart.

Junior club volleyball can be the best experience of your life but it is your responsibility to do the research and find the right fit.

Good luck this season!

For more junior volleyball education visit

The Player Coach Teammate Relationship

Coaching. At times it can be like parenting, at other times it is like being best friends, but the key to a successful player and coach relationship is succeeding at the fine line between the two.  
A coach has to know when to a) push a player and b) when to laugh and be supportive.  When the relationship is built in this manner, trust exists; and that leads to a bond, a friendship and a desired level of success.

Kerri Walsh Jennings said, “Adversity, if you allow it to, will fortify you and make you the best you can be”.  

As a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a two time collegiate national champion and a four-time national All-American, she knows the importance of
1.) handling adversity
2.) working hard
3.) and utilizing coaching. 
When you play at an Olympic level for over a decade, a coach being over your shoulder is not always necessary, but the process, friendship & ability Kerri and Misty May shared over the years is something all volleyball players can learn from.

Just as important as coaching are the

a.) relationship

b.) cohesiveness

c.) and understanding you have with your teammate(s).

Understanding positions, placement and predicting behavior before the ball comes over the net are keys to success.  When all these characteristics come together, with a coach who acts as a successful mentor and “manager” of the game, the sky is the limit.  Just as it was May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings.

As a coach, there are times to be tough and there are times to be supportive.  Understand the personality of your players and the times they need motivation and the times they need support, because when you can walk this line, you will be a friend and a mentor, not just “Coach X”.

Here are three tips to help you be a successful coach:
  1. Leadership-  Know when to lead and how to adapt.  Adaptation is the key to success.
  2. Knowledge Obviously this is key.  But more than just knowledge of a game, you have to understand your personality, your players’ personalities and how they work together to reach a goal.
  3. Charisma- Have an appeal and a manner that is always what your players are looking for.  Be a tough coach when necessary, but be a supportive friend when needed.  Walking this line can only bring you and your team closer.  

As a teammate, remember three tips to assist you and your team in succeeding and reaching desired success.
  1. Rather on the court or off, be on the same page.  Understand each others tendencies and needs to where you can predict behavior and act as a cohesive unit on the court or in the sand. 
  2. Hard work- Every athlete should work hard.  Rather you are Misty May or playing the game for the first time, hard work and determination will assist you as a player, but more than anything, help you gain the respect of your peers and lead to them working at the same level. 
  3. Have fun, be determined- As athletes, we all know that the term “it’s just a game”, usually does not hit home.  If it was, what would be the point of practicing hard and having a true drive for competition?  But what is vital, is to understand the need to smile, have fun and still be determined to a point where your team is not just close in a match, but they are a family each day of every week.

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