Welcome to Interview #20.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Volleyball Coach of the University of New Mexico, Jeff Nelson.
Coach Nelson is beginning his ninth season as the University of New Mexico head volleyball coach. Nelson led the Lobos to a 19-12 overall record and a fourth place finish in the Mountain West in the 2014 season which leaves him just three wins shy of his 400th career win.
Coach Nelson’s full bio is at the end of the interview.
What are some ways that recruits can get you to take an interest in them?
Recruits can initiate contact with us through email contact, videos, coaches contact, telephone and even just letting us know when and where they play at an event we will be attending. The quality of the contact always helps and it is more important to hear from the recruit or one of their coaches than hearing from a parent or relative.
How early do athletes need to be noticed to have a chance to play at a Division 1 school? When is it too late?
It is never too late to be noticed to play at a major or mid major Division 1 school. However the opportunities for scholarships will be greatly diminished as time goes by. At the University of New Mexico, we are done with our 2016 scholarships and have commitments for 2017 scholarships, as well. (to give you an example) we do still have some money open, but we also have offers out. In the current state of recruiting young people need to be getting information out as sophomores to have the best opportunities to be seen and land what they are looking for.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the NCAA College recruiting process?
I think the number one biggest mistake is choosing the wrong school. Recruits are asked to make decisions so early now and many are not ready to make such a big life decision. I think that is why we see more transferring now. Recruits need to take time visit schools and make quality decisions that suit their individual needs.
How do you use social media when recruiting? What is your advice to recruits about social media?
Social Media…wow…it just keeps expanding and playing a bigger role in everyone’s lives. My assistants who oversee our recruiting use it much more than I do personally. However, I am continually posting things about our team to our pages and trying to stay up to date and relevant.
In recruiting I really look at foot speed, arm swing, quality of player and experience levels. I really am looking for independent young women that are leaders on their team and are tough on the court. Interactions with coaches need to be positive and I do not want anyone who is not having fun playing!
How are your players able to manage academics and the demands of Division 1 volleyball?
The balance between academics and athletics can be a difficult one. Most schools have great support systems and are really set up to help the student-athletes with all of their needs. At the University of New Mexico we have a student success center that helps us monitor our student athletes. It is a beautiful state of the art building that in very comprehensive. Tutors, counsellors, specialists, study halls, sports psychologists and group activities all are available. We also conduct study and tutor sessions on the road and I personally monitor each student’s grades every week.
What should a recruit look for specifically on a campus visit?
The campus visit here is designed to get a recruit excited about our campus and also meet and spend time with the people they will be here with. Our current team members are very actively involved which allows the recruit the opportunity to ask questions of not only the coaches, but also current team members. Look at interactions of teammates and coaches, quality of events and things happening on campus. Take a very intense look at the quality of the majors you are interested in and prepare good questions for your visit. Ask yourself what you want out of the experience and then does the school meet many of your needs? We have three goals for each of our team members…the first is a degree, second a quality volleyball experience and finally a quality college experience.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
Parents should take an active role in guiding their child through this experience. They can help prepare them for visits by helping prepare quality questions and researching schools with them on line. There is a ton of information on the websites of each University. However, parents also need to turn their child loose a bit to truly experience the visit and the experience. As a coach I want the student answering questions and sharing information with me…not just mom and dad. I want to know them too, but first and foremost the potential student –athlete. Parents should talk to them about what they want and help identify those things with their child. It can be a great experience that brings people closer together.
Dealing with the daily grind of Academics and Athletics prepares young women for the real world. It teaches them to be task oriented and have good time management skills. It also allows them opportunities to be involved in the community and to learn to speak and react well to public situations. I just see a maturation process in college volleyball that is really outstanding in all the young women. I think the opportunities they have and work for provide a great jumping off point from college to lives after college.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or volleyball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
I really think anyone navigating the current recruiting process needs to take the time to learn about programs and universities and not just jump at first interest or highest ranked program. That is not necessarily what will make you happy. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Make good choices and use all of your resources…parents, HS and club coaches, college coaches, athletes, the internet and people within the current University you are looking at.
Jeff Nelson enters his ninth season as the University of New Mexico head volleyball coach. Nelson led the Lobos to a 19-12 overall record and a fourth place finish in the Mountain West in the 2014 season which leaves him just three wins shy of his 400th career win.
In his 20 complete seasons as a head coach at the collegiate level, Nelson has accumulated a 397-234 mark, having spent eight seasons at Texas Tech (1995-2002) and four (2003-06) at the University of San Francisco before coming to New Mexico in 2007.
Next, take a look at 5 Benefits of College Athletics.
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