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#20 Recruiting Corner: Starbucks gift cards and Interview with Coach Matt Sonnichsen

Joshua: Joshua Zimmerman here bringing you another round of “The Recruiting Corner” guys. Thanks for tuning in and I hope this past week has been great.

Listen, a couple housecleaning issues before I go into this week’s episode. All right. Last week we spoke about a $5 Starbucks gift card. Judy introduced it, said the first five people that gave us feedback on either what they’re doing in recruiting, where they’re at in recruiting, or more importantly if you give us feedback on The Recruiting Corner, what you want to see, we’re sending you a $5 Starbucks gift card. All you have to do is look at the blog, write a little description, a little feedback in the comments section of the blog at the very bottom, or if you’re on our YouTube channel, leave a comment. Let us know what’s going on. First five people to do that we will send you a Starbucks gift card. Nobody responded last time, so those gift cards are still available.

Now, let me introduce my friend to my left. This is Mac. Everybody say hello to Mac. And Mac, say hello to everybody. All right guys, Mac is going to be working with me bringing some interviews your way. So we’ve reached out into the writing community. We cover a lot of blogs, and we want start talking to those bloggers. We want those bloggers to share their experiences with you. So that is what I’ve been working on.

Today I’ve got a great interview with Coach Sonnichsen. He runs It’s a great blog. It is volleyball specific. He will talk about it, and we’re going to go ahead and introduce him now.

Matt, how are we doing?

Matt: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it.

Joshua: No problem. So just to briefly introduce Coach Sonnichsen here, guys, he knows his volleyball. He was a two time national champion with UCLA as a player. He was a US national team member. He was a former professional volleyball player over in Europe. He’s coached at seven different colleges, including four stops as a head coach. He’s got a lot going on.

So first question, why did you decide to start the

Matt: Well, you know, college coaches we have a lot of free time on our hands, so I thought it would be something to keep me busy. No, that’s a joke people.

Joshua: That’s definitely not true.

Matt: The reason that I had actually started it is I do a number of volleyball camps each year that I’ve done for many years, to where I’ll go in to high schools and put on a camp specifically for that high school program. I call them my road camps. Without
fail, at these road camps I would get many, many questions about the recruiting process, about the culture in college volleyball.
Many of these coaches, the high school coaches, they were multi-sport coaches. They weren’t in big cities surrounded by big clubs. They were medium sized cities or maybe they had a small club. But I would get a lot of questions. So my thought process, and this was a number of years ago, and I read an article in the US Today newspaper about blogs when they were just coming to be, and I thought well, if I’m getting all these questions during my camp run, maybe there’s a lot of families out there that would like straightforward information, because the feedback that I was getting from these camp and high school coaches was a lot of the information they were giving was secondhand, it was half correct, it was incorrect, and it was really causing a lot more grief.

So the end of this was just to try and reach out, help the volleyball community, and then selfishly I kind of wanted a venue or a platform where I could put out my opinion just about different changes in our sport. I’m very passionate about it. It has created so much worldwide opportunity for me to travel and develop as a person. So in a sense I’m very protective of this sport. So being able to have a venue to [inaudible 4:01] but also setting some good assistance out to families was important to me.

Joshua: Well, the assistance is definitely needed. As we all know, the recruiting process is extremely confusing. So it’s great to see that somebody’s out there really answering the questions, and especially someone of your stature with your history. So I have
a question for you, and we all, because we answer questions all the time, always have our favorites. What is your favorite question that you’ve been asked in the past six years of running the blog?

Matt: Well, you know probably the favorite questions I get just in general are the ones where, and this is going to sound a little selfish, where people express, “Hey, I’ve been reading your blog. It has really helped.” It’s more of the feedback that I get. I’ve had parents say, “There’s no way our daughter would have got a college scholarship unless we followed your advice.” Or families
saying, “You have given us a clarity and really calmed us down because we hear all these other things or you see players committing.” So maybe not so much a specific question, but the feedback where I know that I’ve really positively touched the family to make their next four years more enjoyable or the two or three years that they’re just slogging though the process, that they’ve got a little bit of a touchstone or a base to go back with to manage it. Those email, those comments where I know I’m able to help families is very, very rewarding to me.

Joshua: I can imagine it would be. I know that personally here when we have families that really spend time getting to know us and
really use the advice that we do give them and they are successful, that we feel good inside. It’s something we sort of celebrate throughout the office. So I can definitely appreciate that.

So next question for you: What is your recommendation for when a student athlete writes in and asks you when they should start the volleyball recruiting process?

Matt: Well, because of the change in the culture of volleyball recruiting, that it has become in a very real sense very . . . utthroat is maybe too strong. Professional maybe isn’t the right terminology. But it has become much more demanding once you get
into college. I like to encourage families to start the education process as freshmen. Now, does that mean you’re active in the recruiting process? Most likely not, but there are some freshman families that are. The biggest thing is to get educated early, to get on the front side of the learning curve with all the changes in conference memberships and NCAA rules, and the abomination of club volleyball.

The term that I use quite often on my website,, is “freshman free, sophomore slow.” Your freshman year is kind of a free year. You’re only 14, 15 years old. Your physicality is changing so much that to really go intense into the recruiting outreach there, it’s a little rough because you still have so much growing physically and mentally in volleyball skill-wise to do. So I really say that freshman is free. If you get contacted by a school, fantastic, but don’t reach too much into it. If you’re not comfortable yet reaching out, don’t worry about. But sophomore year, start to slowly take a more active step into the process of reaching out and communicating with schools. You would expect to tighten up some of your desires.

Joshua: That makes perfect sense, and freshman year is what we preach. You have to go into this process eyes wide open. It doesn’t
matter what the sport is. In this case, as he said, freshman year even for volleyball. So keep that in mind guys. Now you mentioned earlier, this will be the last question, we’ll go ahead and wrap it up, that you run summer camps, that you call them volleyball road camps. It is June. We are right smack-dab in the beginning of summer. What is your advice for a student athlete looking at a volleyball camp? Are there things that they should be looking for?

Matt: You bet. Well, the first thing is you should look at my camp.

Joshua: Look at his camps.

Matt: If you go to a specific high school. My camps are focused just on the high school program. So I work pretty intensely with the high school coach to target things for their program. And there, the nice and interesting thing is you have a whole plethora of camps
to choose from, camps by your club coach, camps by college coach, site specific camps like what I do. I mean, there’s just the whole gamut to run at.

The first thing that I encourage families to do is make sure you’re not looking at camps as a recruiting opportunity. Too many families feel, “Well, if I go to state university’s camp, they’re going to discover me and I’m going to get recruited.” No. University camps, one, are very expensive. I used to run them. Sometimes it’s because of greed they’re expensive, and other times it just costs money to run camps on a collegiate campus. But college volleyball programs spend a lot of money in recruiting. Unless you are traveling cross country, odds are they’ve probably been in the same gym where you are, or they’ve probably already evaluated you. So to use it as recruiting I think is a waste of money.

What I suggest that families do is make sure that they’re targeting the camps that fulfill their specific needs. I think there are two [inaudible 9:30] for camps. One is skill specific. Go to a camp where you know you’re going to get good training, where maybe the numbers aren’t huge. A lot of teams, say for instance Giant State University, has a huge camp. Okay. Well, there are only three olleyball coaches at that university that are true full-time coaches. Now hopefully, that school will bring in some JC coaches or other coaches, but most often you may be getting coached or trained by a college kid, which can be a positive, but I tend to look at those type of camps as destination camps. You want to be on state university’s campus. You want to be at the big school arena. You want the T-shirt of the school that says, I really like Texas A&M or Nebraska or UCLA. That’s fantastic, and they can be good camps, but those are more of a destination camp.

I think it’s better maybe to target some smaller camps that are still specific, like a setters camp or an outside headers camp,
something where you can get some specific training in a positive arena by people that have been doing this for a long, long time.

Joshua: You know, everything that Coach Sonnichsen just said is extremely important. Take his advice and put it into your summer
regimen this year. Guys, that’s the show for us today. Coach Sonnichsen, thank you so much for being a part of it. Really appreciate the insight.

Matt: Glad to help.

Joshua: If you have any questions guys, you can always contact us. I’m @JZimmy67. Athnet is of course @Athnet. And you can reach Coach Sonnichsen personally if you visit or his Twitter handle @CollegeVBCoach. Thanks guys.

Matt: You bet. Thank you both.

Joshua: Have a great one.

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