I once received an email from an avid reader of the blog on the subject of professional volleyball. It was a 2-part question and I want to tackle part of it here. Basically, this person coached in Canada and was curious how Canadian players can take their game overseas. Specifically:
“… what can you tell me about possibility of Canadian players playing in Sweden or Europe. What should they expect ? Any details?”
First of all, let me say that when I coached for Svedala I looked at number of Canadian players while we were in the process of trying to secure our three foreigners for the current season. I remember there was at least one who I thought would be a good addition to the squad. She committed somewhere else, though. I believe at least one Canadian female player was in Sweden that year (2015-16). There could have been more on the men’s side.
The professional volleyball player hiring process struck me as being something quite similar in a lot of ways to the college recruiting process. At least from my end it was, anyway. By that I mean I spent a lot of time looking at video and researching players. I tried to assess each one who came to my attention, and to rate them against others in their position. Obviously, there isn’t the academic consideration, but you’re still trying to find a good ability, potential, and personality fit for the squad.
Get an agent
In the professional case, though, the vast majority of the players we hear about come to us via player agents. As much as I’ve heard my fair share of stories about a “get them signed and forget about them” approach which seems to often be the case among agencies, the reality of the situation is that they are probably a requirement.
Think about it from this perspective. There are dozens of countries where someone could potentially go to play volleyball professionally. Unlike the case of college volleyball, they don’t all speak the same language and getting contact information for the coach or manager isn’t always easy. On top of that, clubs have a wide variety of resources and ever changing player needs. These sorts of things are really hard for anyone just coming out of college volleyball to know.
The fact of the matter is that agents and agencies have the knowledge and experience to direct players toward countries and clubs where they are reasonable prospects. That’s how they get paid, so it behooves them to stay up on the “market” from that perspective. They are constantly asking the clubs “What do you need?” and “What can you pay?”. Of course that doesn’t prevent them from trying to push a player for a higher salary, but that’s a whole other subject.
This isn’t to say a player couldn’t represent themselves. To do so, though, they would probably have to be very targeted and do a lot of research. One of my players said she’d been told by others she spoke with on the subject that many players drop their agent after a couple of years because either they’re happy where they are or feel like they’ve developed the knowledge and contacts they need to do things themselves.
In terms of what to expect, that’s a tricky thing to answer – in part because I’m still relatively new to it myself. Also, though, from what I’ve heard conditions and player treatment can vary considerably.
Generally speaking, a player contract will have their accommodation provided by the club, along with at least one set of flights to/from there. Beyond that, it becomes situational. There could be a vehicle provided. Some meals may be part of the deal. A ticket home for the holidays could be on offer, and other things as well.
Then there’s the question of player treatment. Some clubs send players home for one of any number of reasons (performance, club finances, etc.) while in other places that sort of thing doesn’t really happen except in the case of major injury. Some places players get paid on time with no issues, while in other places that can be a dicey thing. Quality of living arrangements can be varied as well.
The Scandinavian countries seem to be a good stepping-stone for those thinking of a professional volleyball career. The clubs are stable and the cultural transition for players from the US and Canada is fairly easy. Of course the trade-off is that the pay scales are lower. For those looking to get a feel for what life as a pro would be like, though, it seems like a reasonable first step.
What I recommend to coaches who have players with overseas aspirations is that they do a few things.
- Research the player agents and agencies so you can point players in the right direction.
- Put players in touch with others with experience playing abroad (and talk with them yourself)
- Develop overseas coaching contacts so you can at least gain your own understanding of the landscape and maybe feed players through directly in some cases.
Hope that helps. I would love to get some comments and insights from others with experience in professional volleyball and the process.
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