Welcome to Interview #33.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 2 Men’s Volleyball Coach of Belmont Abbey College, Sean Manzi.
Coach Sean Manzi is in his first year at Belmont Abbey. Before becoming the coach at Belmont Abbey, Coach Manzi’s resume includes assistant coaching positions at four different Colleges.
Where do you most often find players for your team?
We have a limited budget for recruiting, so we have to use a lot of our discretionary resources. The obvious recruiting websites are used, but I go to as many tournaments as possible. Along with those, I network and talk with club directors, junior college coaches and general emails. I have actually been referred to some PSA’s (Potential Student-Athlete) by a Facebook group I help run – Volleyball Coaches and Trainers.
What would a timeline look like for your recruiting of a typical player? What kind of communication do you send out and when?
We have regulations that we cannot talk to a PSA about joining our program until June 15th prior to their junior year. Upon my interest, I will call them to discuss their involvement in volleyball, school, extra-curricular activities, church, and future plans.
Can you talk about opportunities specific to men’s volleyball? How many men’s volleyball programs are there approximately? Is the sport growing at the high school level? At the college level?
Boy’s/Men’s volleyball is growing at an exponential rate. There are 47 teams at the NCAA DI/II level, 76 at DIII, 32 at NAIA and 12 at junior college. With 167 schools in the United States offering men’s volleyball, there is an opportunity and school for you to play at. One thing I can’t stress enough is recruits doing their homework on the school, the division and level they play at, and the program itself. I have received emails asking for a major we don’t offer and players scoff at their offer asking for more money.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen? If a volleyball player personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
Research is key for the PSA. It doesn’t take more than 3 minutes to find how many NCAA/NAIA/Junior College programs there are in the US/Puerto Rico. It’s easy to send a recruiting film, some stats and a “personalized” letter of intent, but when you take the time to tailor the letter to your potential program, I take more interest. “Dear Coach!” Isn’t a very strong starter for an email…
Upon contact, I ask for film. I ask them to fill out our questionnaire and where they are in the recruiting process. Then we stay in contact, build a rapport and relationship and progress in how well they’d fit in our program, my system, the Belmont Abbey way of life and what they’re looking for in their future.
What is college life like for a D2 athlete? What will day-to-day life look like? Can they be involved in activities outside of sports?
It’s a bit hectic, but none of the players would want to have anything different. Typically, we have practice 10am-noon. Most players will have a class at 8 am and in the afternoon. We travel Fri-Sat and are back Saturday nights. I highly encourage outside activities (intramurals, etc) because that’s part of the college experience. Some coaches believe that they could get injured in these events, but I believe they can get injured doing just about anything, so why not enjoy?
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
We are able to split our scholarships between academic and athletic. A 3.4 and 3.5 GPA is a difference of $1,000 merit, so study hard! Men’s volleyball is only allowed 4.5 scholarships, so we have to be smart about whom we dole out athletic money to.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
Well, they’re typically the one paying, so they have a vested interest in the school their child chooses. When I start talking to a recruit, I ask that their parent be in the call or Skype with them. The main questions asked are about scholarship availability, security on campus and what life is like on campus. I have found that most men’s volleyball recruits do not ask that many questions on their visit, but will email a ton after. The parents will ask a lot and it’s great!
What advice do you have for recruits on how to prepare for their freshmen year in a college volleyball program? What are typical things you wish incoming freshmen realized or knew before they arrived on campus?
Play as much as you can over the summer! When you arrive in the fall, we know exactly who hasn’t worked out and who is ready to compete. The collegiate game of volleyball is a lot faster than the high school world, so prepare for a lot of changes and humbling experiences. They should also know that the gym culture is a lot more intense than that of high school. The older players in my gym are great at pushing the underclassmen to become more competitive and motivated for the upcoming season.
When prospective college athletes see a new coach with the program, what questions should they ask?
Ask where they are in the recruiting process, what the new coach is looking for, what direction they are going in the program, what type of student-athlete they want in their program and their short/long term goals.
What are the short term and long term benefits of being on a collegiate athletic team?
Short term – immediate school spirit, easier socialization, better fitness, academic motivation and support from staff.
Long term – professional opportunities, achievement, balance, and college athlete consistently outperform the general population of GPA.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or men’s volleyball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
Do your homework on the program, the school and the coach. Take as many visits as possible and find a school/program that you would attend without playing collegiate sports. Each program is different, each coaching style is unique and you need to find what fits best for your learning style and utmost happiness. Also, ask lots and lots of questions. Ask your parents for advice and what they thought from an outside perspective.
Next, take a look at What is NCAA Division 2?
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