Here's how important national letters of intent are in the recruiting process: you can't just sign one whenever you want.
The NCAA has specific time periods in place for inking such important agreements. They vary by sport, and there are a lot of sports. So it's easy for recruits to commit to a school but really have no idea when they're supposed to sign their letter of intent to make it official.
Here is a breakdown of when national letters of intent are signed for athletes wanting to earn a scholarship for the 2009-10 school year, according to the NCAA website:
Basketball (regular period): April 15-May 20, 2009
Football (mid-year junior college transfers): Dec. 17, 2008-Jan. 15, 2009
Football (regular period): Feb. 4-April 1, 2009
All Other Sports (early period): Nov. 12-19, 2008
All Other Sports (regular period): April 8-Aug. 1, 2009
The coaches of most sports seemed satisfied with the calendar in place, but there are discussions of implementing an early-signing period for high school football recruits. In recent years, football prospects have committed, decommitted, recommitted, decommitted and committed elsewhere, filling all the time they have to make a decision before February.
One Division I coach told me he uses 25 percent of his recruiting budget "babysitting" recruits, or visiting recruits who have already committed to make sure they don't stray.
Nothing is imminent, though, so the dates in place will be a good forecast of years to come.
Over the weekend I attended the International Federation of Volleyball���s (FIVB) 2007 World League matches in Chicago. Team USA prevailed over Italy both Friday and Saturday evening. I had never observed international volleyball before; it was exciting to watch athletes of that caliber perform.
The World League is an annual tournament created by the FIVB in 1990 to boost international interest and competition in volleyball. Last year, $20 million in prize money was distributed among 16 participating teams and individual, high-performing athletes.
Team USA now has a commanding lead in Pool B, which is comprised of USA, France, Italy and Japan. Should Team USA qualify for the final round of the World League, they will head to Katowice, Poland, in mid-July and attempt to capture their first-ever World League title.
If you have never experienced watching the national volleyball team compete, I would encourage you to do so. They put on a thrilling show and play in venues that allow you to be extremely near the action. The next U.S. appearance on the men���s schedule is September 14, for the NORCECA Championships in various locations across the United States.
The 2007 World League annual volleyball tournament is coming to the United States. Along its three-week world tour, it will be making stops in Green Bay, Portland and Chicago.
Created in 1990, the World League is the longest and richest of all the international events organized by the FIVB. In 2006, $20 million in prize money was distributed among 16 participating teams from five continents.
The World League was created to promote volleyball by establishing a competition that would appeal to audiences all over the world. International competitions involving top volleyball teams (i.e., the Olympic Games, the World Championship) take place in four-year cycles, and were usually confined to a host city or nation. Conversely, the World League was designed to be played on a one-year basis, with a system of rotating cities that allowed every team to host a number of matches in the preliminary round.
Historically, Italy has been the dominant team in the World League, winning the gold eight times -- the most of any country. I became a big volleyball fan in college while following Loyola University���s nationally ranked men���s team, so I���m very excited to be able to check out the U.S. men���s national team compete against Italy, the second-ranked team in the world.
In volleyball, it's important for attackers to recognize a block when on the offensive -- doing so improves a hitter's kill percentage by reducing the chances of swinging into the block. Vision training can help hitters of all levels perfect this skill.
What is vision training? It's a progressive drill that uses color cards to widen the attacker's view of the court, so they see both the block in front of them and the defense behind the block. Follow the practice plan that Karen Milborn, Assistant Volleyball Coach at Northwestern University, provides here in succession to improve skills hitters need to make better decisions in the air.
(Photo provided by Getty Images/taken by Andrew Wong)
Sepak Takraw, which literally translates to Kick Volleyball, is a cross between soccer and volleyball. This fast-growing and popular sport in Asia is called Takraw for short and is played on a badminton doubles-sized court. The Takraw ball is traditionally hand-woven and made of rattan stems or very hard plastic weighing approximately 250 grams.
Two teams compete for higher scores by spiking a ball into the opponent���s court. Each team gets three chances to kick, knee, shoulder or head the ball back to the opposing team. Like in volleyball, there are passes, sets and spikes���but the strokes must be made soccer-style: no hands or arms allowed.
The most prestigious tournament of this sport is the King's Cup World Championships, the most recent of which was held in Bangkok, Thailand. As of 2006, there have been 21 King's Cup tournaments.
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Ian Walton)