Live Chat

How ‘Shopping’ and ‘Stalking’ helped one mom and daughter find the right fit and a full ride at the next level!

Parents are hungry for information on how to navigate the recruiting process!

Dunes crowd pictureThe picture here is of Dunes Club Volleyball parent night. Director Rick Ashmore asked me to come in and speak on how their athlete can find the right fit and significant scholarships in college. When I was finished Rick spoke to the parents about the season ahead.

Many of you have a child who plays on a Club or Travel team in their sport. Here are some helpful pointers to make sure you get the most out of that experience no matter what sport you are playing.

I find there to be a significant lack of knowledge about the different levels of college sports out there and where their child projects to play at the next level. At Dunes and many other club/travel teams in various sports there are certain teams (like the Black at Dunes) that have the best/most athletic players. In many cases those athletes will be pursued by D1 programs because of their skills and combination of God given physical ability or size (that 6’3″ volleyball girl that can touch over 10 feet). Where the confusion comes in is for the reserves on that kind of team or those on other levels of club teams.

You need to find out if your child is a mid level D1 fit, a low level D1, high or low level D2, same with D3, high level NAIA or lower, junior college….

A couple of years ago while speaking at the NCSA/AVCA Spring Showcase in New Orleans I had a long conversation with a mother, Beth Anderson, who “got it” when it came to realizing the right fit for her daughter, Emma. Even though Emma played on a Club team that had several girls that were going to sign with high level (Big Ten Conference) D1 programs, they figured out a different level of college athletics was right for her. They became proactive by getting out and finding where the right fit would be. Here was what I wrote in April of 2010 about them:

“We have been taking unofficial visits since early Fall of this, her junior year,” Beth, the mom,said. “We like to call it ‘Shopping!’”

She laughed.

“Emma has been to East Tennessee State, Southern Illinois, Morehead State and Ball State,” she said.

One of my observations was that Emma had spent a lot of work on the Evaluation Process, which is one of my main points when I speak on recruiting. She was on a top team with four players who had committed to Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern. Those are Big Ten schools at the high level of D1. Some kids can get all caught up in that and be bull headed to reach that level, but Emma was looking more at mid level D1 programs.

“She wants a chance to play as a freshman,” her mother added. I liked the way that was put – a ‘chance’ to play as a freshmen. Some kids feel ‘entitled’ to play as freshmen.

“She wants a smaller atmosphere,” said her mother. “Emma doesn’t want to go to college in a big city. She wants to be a Spanish teacher one day, so it has to have Education programs.”

On her recent unofficial visit to East Tennessee State, she had spent the night with players in the dorm. She also spent significant time with the coaches. “Since it was an Unofficial Visit we had paid to get there and everything,” said Beth, “but they were still strict on things like no riding with the girls or coaches while there.”

Emma really liked her unofficial visit to East Tennessee State, which is in Johnson City, TN. Of the four she has visited, it is ten hours from her home in Illinois. The other schools are closer, but at this point ETSU seems like the right fit. She is very open geographically.

She could very well get an offer from them via email sometime this month (they wouldn’t be able to call her until July 1). ETSU is also looking at another recruit at her position, so they may offer her instead. Emma has been smart to look at a lot of schools, so she will have more options as the process plays out.

I asked Beth if her daughter ever burns out. “She can’t burn out,” she said. “She loves the sport so much. She takes a month off in July but other than that is playing.”

Parents often struggle with finding the correct role to play in the recruiting process. How much should they do? Emma has an absolute passion for her sport and playing it in college, so Mom made sure they started the recruiting process early and that they have been proactive.

“She calls me her ‘Recruiting Stalker,’” jokes Beth, laughing out loud. “Seriously, we have a great relationship in all of this. Emma wants it. We have grown closer. It has been very positive.”

Emma’s Mom says if there has been one negative it has been that Emma doesn’t follow up with schools as much as she would like her to. “I encourage her to be assertive,” says Beth. “She says, ‘Mom, if they really want me, they will come after me.’ I tell her it’s not always that way. They need to know you are interested in them too.”

So there you have the story of a talented young lady who is solid academically (3.5 GPA) who has a realistic evaluation of her abilities, knows the kind of school she wants to attend, and has been proactive in recruiting.


Emma ended up signing a full athletic scholarship with D1 Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. As the process carried on after I talked to them her final choices came down to D1 mid level schools University of Illinois- Springfield, Ball State, East Tennessee State, SIU-Carbondale and Lewis University (a D2 near Chicago). She almost signed with Illinois-Springfield but decided on SIU-Edwardsville and a full scholarship that covers her education.

While Ball State was the favorite for awhile, she ended up wanting to stay closer to their Illinois home and another factor was that her sister goes to a University close to her. Another factor was the chance to join a program that was on the rise. Many kids like the challenge of going to a program that has not had much success and getting to be a part of their move towards success. Others like the challenge of going to an established top level college program.

Emma recently finished her sophomore college season by leading SIU-Edwardsville with 8 kills in their season-ending loss to Eastern Illinois in the 2nd round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Remember how they said a chance to play early was important to her? In her freshman season she led the Cougars in kills in her first two collegiate matches with 14 against Kent State and 15 against Western Illinois. She had a very successful freshman season. In her recently completed sophomore season Emma was second on the team in kills with 246. She turned in career best single-match hitting percentage of .476 with 10 kills and no errors against University of Tennessee-Martin.

One way families can figure out where their child best projects at the next level is to spend time studying the rosters of college teams in their sport. For example if you go to the roster area of the SIU-Edwardsville team on their University athletics site you can see that in high school Emma was the Central State Eight Player of the Year as a junior at Lincoln Community High School. She led her team in kills as a junior (376) and as a senior (418) and she was a three-time All-Central State Eight performer. On the club/travel level she was a key member of the national champion Illinois Elite 18 Cardinal Pre.

She was good! She was tall (5′ 11″ in high school and now 6′ in college). She was smart (All Academic team in high school). She is at SIU-Edwardsville playing D1 volleyball with her education paid for by the University.

She also had parents that supported her and at times made sure she was working the recruiting process hard. Most importantly, her mother Beth was not a helicopter parent. That is one that hovers over the whole process. When I spoke at Dunes Club parent night, their director Rick Ashmore said last year three girls lost full ride D1 scholarships because their parents were WAY too involved in recruiting and the college coaches did not want to have to deal with them for four years. In one case a parent had come down to the coach during a Club tournament and demanded to know why their daughter was not playing more! The college coach can simply write a kid off their recruiting list when that happens and go to the next kid.

Charlie Adams

To learn about bringing a speaker to your event, contact Amanda Rawson at

Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who is the author of the peak performance book ‘Stoke the Fire Within.’ His next book, on how to build and keep a winning attitude, is coming out in March of 2013. Adams is a strong supporter of the Athleadership message of the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network and often speaks on the college recruiting process. His son is currently a college athlete and his two daughters are working to one day play their sports at the college level.


About the author
Charlie Adams