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Volleyball Recruiting Advice - 2005 Coach of the Year Jon Wallace

By Chad Zimmerman

Volleyball Magazine’s award as 2005 National Coach of the Year solidified Jon Wallace’s rep as one of the nation’s finest. Besides leading the Santa Clara women’s team to the NCAA playoffs in each of his eight years as head coach, Wallace took the Broncos to the Final Four in 2005. Powered by some of the nation’s top recruiting classes, Santa Clara has averaged more than 20 wins per season during Wallace’s tenure.

Here, the coaching superstar speaks on the recruiting criteria he uses to produce one of the most consistent programs in collegiate volleyball.

How important is academic performance?

JW: Academics are very important at Santa Clara. We look at SAT numbers and GPAs to determine work ethic and desire to get a college degree. I’ll take the kid with a good GPA but low SATs any day of the week, because I feel she’ll give you effort in the classroom. With the opposite—a high SAT but lower GPA—that’s a red flag of a smart athlete who might not put the time and effort into homework, which says she has a poor work ethic.

You recruit for certain positions in certain years. Is that something a player needs to research?

JW: Without a doubt. A school’s [positional needs] are among the first things the athlete needs to research. In certain years, we don’t look for a hitter; instead we look for a middle blocker or setter. Ask the coach, or go online and look at rosters—see who’s graduating and who’s incoming. Communicating with the coach through email or a direct phone call is really the best way to find out, though. 

How do you find potential Bronco volleyball players?

JW: Definitely through club volleyball. I can go to one high school match and see 12 kids play or one club tournament and see 1,000 kids play. Also, clubs usually have a higher level of play; you can compare players against others who are as good or better. Recruiting services that rate student-athletes are also helpful. They list sophomore and junior players who they think are good. We also recruit from USA development squads.

What qualities can really hurt an athlete’s chances?

JW: Attitude is a big thing. You can be your team’s best player, but are you their leader? I look for that for when times are tough in a match. I look at character to find out if she helps her team get better, or just makes herself better. Any time I hear a kid has drinking or drug problems, another red flag goes up. If those are problems in high school, they will be in college, too.

Do you have any advice about Facebook and [twitter]?

JW: We’ve addressed those sites with our team. Whatever an athlete puts up on the web represents not only the individual, but also her team, school and coaches. Consider yourself lucky you are part of a team, but at the same time, consider the sacrifices you need to make as part of a group. You can’t post whatever you want, because it’s a reflection of everyone.

Any final thoughts?

JW: Just get better. There aren’t enough athletes who truly dedicate themselves to getting better on a daily basis—to become the best they can be. If you can do something special, you’ll be seen. I think we lose sight of that, and kids stop training and playing hard. They play for the scholarship instead of winning or having fun. When I see true passion, competitiveness and improvement over a month or two, I see a girl who could be worthy of a scholarship.