This article discusses the increase in volleyball transfers in NCAA volleyball. It cites numbers saying they went from 95 in 2010 to 267 in 2013. That’s a pretty big increase. I don’t know if it’s yet at the level where there needs to be serious concern (it’s probably about 5% of all Division I players). It does suggest an evolution in the sport at that level which it would be good to understand, though.
One of the main culprits often mentioned with regards to transfer numbers is the shift toward earlier and earlier commitment. How can we expect a 15 year-old to know what they’ll want as a 19 year-old?
In the article, John Cook from the University of Nebraska also suggests that the current generation of athletes is less emotionally connected with their teammates. He says that’s because they interact so much via technology rather than face-to-face. This makes it easier for them to transfer. I’d be curious to know if there’s any research as to whether that’s actually true.
Something else which could be a potential source of rising transfer rates is coaching turnover. As much as players are encouraged to pick a school based on academics and other non-sport considerations, the reality is that the coach matters. Coaching changes, therefore, can alter a player’s level of satisfaction. Further, sometimes new coaches come in and clean house. They want to “bring in their own players”. Or, as in the Hugh McCutcheon case, there can be a cultural change some just don’t want to go along with.
Add into the mix the tendency for the recruiting process to operate as two sides trying to sell themselves. That’s instead of truly looking for a good fit. Coaches pursuing players put their best foot forward. Players in pursuit of schools do the same. That leads, in some cases, to one or both sides not really taking the time to look at things on a deeper level. That’s where the actual satisfaction level once a player is on campus comes into effect.
We can never completely avoid transfers. They’re going to happen for any number of reasons – many of which are case-by-case. What we should do, though, is to look for the broader patterns of commonality and see if there are detrimental underlying factors which need addressing. In some cases there won’t be. In some cases there might. Even for those not involved in US college volleyball, these sorts of things can help increase understanding with regards to player recruitment and retention.