Updated: Jul 22, 2020
I sometimes ask myself this question and wonder if I even understand any of the new recruiting rules. I guess I do understand them, but the application of these new rules has been mediocre at best. For the record I have never been a fan of the new rules. Would I love to see recruiting slow down a little bit? Yes. But the implementation of the current rules 1) doesn't do enough to actually slow down recruiting to the point where it is helpful; 2) it leaves both the PSA (prospective student athlete) and college coaches with significantly LESS information than before and significantly LESS time to make decisions; and 3) no one really seems to be following the rules anyway.
First, the recruiting process hasn't really slowed down. It certainly hasn't slowed down as much as the rules were intended to slow them down. Anybody at the Tour of Texas Finals could see college coaches crowded around the 2023 courts, even the 2024 courts? Coaches certainly aren't putting PSA's on "lists" or "ranking" them when they are watching. Seriously. If college coaches are watching athletes, they are being recruited, period. Did I still receive plenty of emails for freshmen this past volleyball season? Yes, yes I did. Did those athletes get camp invites and 6 different questionnaire's sent to them over the last 5 months? Yes they did. But don't worry...recruiting has slowed down (wink, wink).
Now lets talk about camps and clinics. The "No Camp Pledge" signed by most of the Power 5 conferences last fall was to "let college coaches focus on their current season and current teams"...right. What was ACTUALLY happening was coaches were trying to swoop in and snipe kids that were already committed to other schools! Let's also remember that these were basically unofficial visits, with campus tours and all. Now, this year (with all things crazy with the corona virus) not being able to see the 2022 class and invite 2023 and 2024 athletes to camp, are we really thinking that the Power 5 is going to go an entire year without seeing these athletes face to face? Most likely, you'll see more coaches NOT sign the pledge this year, because it was really never about "focusing on your season".
Second, these new rules decrease the amount of information on both sides. It's safe to say that in many situations coaches are just as clueless about an athletes interest in them as the athlete is in the coach's interest in them. Remember, the ATHLETE is completely allowed to say things like "I would accept your offer if given the opportunity to play at your school!" But many coaches send hundreds of camp invites and questionnaires (all allowed) with very little reply on the athlete side. Which is why I push so hard for a proactive approach on the athletes side, to make sure programs and coaches know you are interested in them. While I wasn't "cornered" at the TOTF by college coaches, I was certainly asked a dozen times if an athlete was interested in them, or where their school was on the athlete's list. Most of the time I am not in a position to answer that question very well.
The other side of this is the campus visit. Official and Unofficial visits are not allowed until an athletes Junior year. While I understand this line of thinking and the reasoning behind it, but what it really does is create situations for almost all athletes where they are absorbing significantly LESS information than they were before. The opportunities to meet with a coach on campus, see a practice, and meet with administration are a HUGE part of the recruiting process. Now we are giving athletes less time and fewer chances to do this. Of course they can visit a school and dorms and all of that on their own time without interacting with the coaching staff, but that misses the point! Those one-on-one interactions between a family and the coaching staff is non-replaceable in the recruiting process. It's how a coach decides whether or not they really like an athlete. Now lets throw this into a timeline. With no visits to campus until August 1 of your junior year, you know that you won't get an official or unofficial visit done prior to HS season starting (most likely). So, depending on whether or not you can get a weekend off to travel during your high school volleyball season and whether or not that program you want to visit will even be at home is extremely difficult. Most athletes end up having to sit a match for missing a Saturday (yes, Saturday) practice. Not a ton of incentive always for that. Once high school season is over, you might be able to squeeze in time to see a home match and interact with the team at a practice, but chances are that college season might be done also. Now we are moved into club season, which can be a great opportunity to make visits. This is the hard part and a HUGE question for college coaches that they were probably never asked...are they willing to wait until March and April to commit that next class? I know for my program and my timeline, we wanted our Junior class done when our seniors were signing. That didn't always happen of course, but I feel that, right now, many college coaches are still thinking that way; but we will have to wait and see how that pans out. But with these new rules we are limiting communication, understanding and now opportunities for athletes.
Now I love all of my college coaching friends. I think they do an unbelievable as coaches, mentors, and guides for young athletes and as I've stated before, they are super-human (Are Coaches Human? Link). I mean absolutely nothing bad by any of this, because I would most likely be in the same boat, but most college coaches don't want to follow the new rules and have every intention of living in the grey with as many things as possible. I will repeat, I do not have an issue with this. But my discussion with all of this is built around "what's the point of the rules to begin with" because I that is what I don't understand. I have received at least a dozen calls from college coaches telling me they are planning on calling an athlete on June 15th; telling me a certain athlete is #1 on their list; sending me an email where they tell me that they are "generally interested" in an athlete...but the word "interested" is in size 35 font! Is that a huge deal in the grand scheme of things? No. Do I really care a ton and am I going to call the moral-police about a coach stretching the boundaries? No. My biggest issue comes when these are the same schools and conferences that were pushing for these rules to begin with! Coaches can and do break the rules and that isn't my issue. My issue is when we pretend like we want certain things out of the rules and then don't actually change anything. That's my struggle.
There are also coaches sending camp invites through snail mail; not a problem. But when you include your programs branded volleyball stickers within the camp invite, you start to push that boundary with me. Sure, you can say that you're sending them in "all" of your snail-mail camp invites. But how many are you sending? 5? You might as well include a t-shirt in the mailer as well; as long as you can fold it into an 8.5x11 envelope. The biggest issue with all of this is that there is a HUGE gap that is miles deep between how conferences are interpreting the new rules. One conference will say a school can differentiate between "interested" and "very interested" another conference will say you can't. The lines between a coach saying "I'm looking forward to talking to....on June 15th" and "I'm planning on talking to ....on June 15th" are razor thin. I've also had coaches tell me they can't ask me questions about athletes in the 2022 class! Certainly that is a rule that is NOT being followed equally across the conferences.
I get it. Coaches are competitive by nature. Instinctually we want to find any advantage we can and exploit it. It's how you win and how you are successful. There needed to be more clearly defined boundaries here as far as communication goes. But when you take away the ability to communicate, coaches are just going to find ways to have those conversations. I'm also not asking for coaches to tip-toe either. Do what you think is right based on the boundaries that you have been given to operate in. That is all you can do! But let's not pretend that these new rules are really doing a majority of the things they were put in place to do. That's all!
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