Manny Johnson: Blog 18 at 2008 HP Youth Holiday Camp

Jan. 21, 2009, 5:25 p.m. (ET)

Day 9 Steve Aird recruiting talk

Between sessions today Steve Aird came in and gave a talk about the recruiting process to the players.  Steve played in the Canadian National team program, he played collegiately at Penn State (after being highly recruited), Steve has coached at a developing program in a BCS conference (Auburn SEC), at league champion trying to elevate their standing from making the tournament to winning matches in the tournament (Cincinnati Big East), and was part of Penn State's staff when they won the first of two consecutive national titles (Big 10).  Steve has seen the recruiting process first hand as both a player and a coach.  His experience with programs at different stages of development has given him insight to all of the tactics coaches use when recruiting. 

Steve opened with a quote; "You don't know what you don't know."  The point of the quote was that if you have serious interest in a school you need to visit.  He also said that players will know if a school is the right fit or not after a visit. 

Some of the factors that play into the decision are geography; how much, how far does the team travel. How far will your family have to travel to see you play, how often will you see the family?  Do you as a player have to work the summer camps?  What days does the school compete? How many classes will you miss during season? What kind of academic support does the program provide? Academics are not just about majors and class size, another very important factor to consider is the academic calendar.  Is the school on a semester or quarter schedule? On a semester schedule school and volleyball start almost simultaneously.  On a quarter schedule training camp and preseason all happen before school starts.  Meaning the players will be on campus with the other fall sport athletes long before the rest of the student body and long before school starts.

Steve warned against some common mistakes made when choosing a school.  Competitiveness of the school is not the end all be all.  Players should choose a school where they would be happy if they stopped playing volleyball.  Players should not choose a school based on the coaching staff because by nature coaching college sports is a transitional occupation.  While it may not be like football and basketball where coaches are hired to be fired, there is still a lot of turnover in coaching.   Steve also said that volleyball is not always going to be fun at the next level; it becomes a job.  While you may not be getting a paycheck to play intercollegiate volleyball, the school has invested the cost of tuition and more.  Steve suggested that the players find something about the school that excites them.  Maybe the player wants a big time football/basketball program, maybe its an academic path, maybe it's an urban/suburban environment, whatever it is the player needs to make sure if volleyball was not part of the collegiate experience she would still have a good time at the school.

Another good nugget of information Steve imparted was how to find out what a program is really like.  Some coaches are all smiles and tell the recruits what they think they want to hear, anything to get a commitment, while others put on a false personality to match what they think players are looking for.  It is important to note that not all coaches use such tactics when recruiting.  One good way for players to see what goes on behind the curtain so to speak is to talk to the underclassmen, and to talk to the back-ups and walk-ons.  How schools treat their walk-ons and non star players can provide a good insight to what the people who run the program are really like.  Steve also suggested that letting schools you are communicating with know when you have made a choice.  It's a classy move that coaches remember and it leaves the door open if things don't work out with the players' first choice.  Steve closed by saying that choosing a college should not be an emotional decision and that what is important for one recruit may not be important for another.  It is a very personal choice that requires a lot of thought about what you want out of a school.