By Matt Antonic
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The coaches mingled around Courts 1-9 at the Kansas City Convention Center, watching 150 upperclassmen girls run through drills with a surprising level of intensity. Juniors wore pink. Seniors wore blue. Their shirts were different colors, but they said the same thing: Unsigned.
The girls participating in the drills weren’t in an ordinary skills camp; they were participating in the Triple Crown Unsigned Workout, a chance for upperclassmen girls who have yet to sign with a college program to showcase their skills in front of coaching staffs.
The sold-out event was led by Mike Lingenfelter, the director of Munciana Volleyball. He opened the event with a short speech to the participants. The second he finished speaking, all participants ran to their first drill, and went full speed for the next hour and a half. Players went from drill to drill based on their positions.
“I think it was really good because everyone was really competitive and obviously, if you want to play, you’re here,” senior Jewell Johnson said. “You got to be with new people, and it forced you to talk, and it brings a new energy with people who are all dedicated to playing.”
Johnson, a senior from New Orleans and member of WD Nation, said that she isn’t deterred from finding a school to play at despite being later than what may be typical. “Although I feel like I’m kind of late in the recruiting process, I thought it would still be a good move, because obviously coaches are coming to watch you play, so I think it’s always a great experience to get exposure,” she said.
Georgetown coach Toby Rens was one of over 100 coaches who signed on to watch and scout at the event. Coming with an open mind, Rens was surprised by the level of play.
“We come from the point of view of leave no rock unturned,” he said. “I wanted to see what was turning out, and I was surprised with the talents of some of the kids that are unsigned. They were going hard. It was well run, and you could tell a lot of preparation was put into it.”
Events like this are unique, but due to changing NCAA legislation, could become more common. “I think we are going to see more and more of this because of the new legislation,” Rens said. “We used to be able to have more contact with freshman and sophomores in high school, and offer them scholarships, and now we cannot.”
The new rules stipulate that athletes can contact coaches through a third party, but coaches must wait until the athlete’s junior year before contacting them directly. While it may change the recruiting process, Rens said that might not be a bad thing.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of the student athletes,” Rens said, “and allows them to be kids in high school for a little while longer.”