Even if you're an underclassman the coach can still send you recruiting questionnaires or recruiting information to indicate that they are interested in you.
One of the most important — and difficult — parts of the recruiting process is projecting the right division level for you based on your athletic talent.
Finding the right division level early on will help you focus on the right schools in your recruiting process, so you don't waste your time pursuing colleges at division levels you aren't suited for.
However, many families struggle to determine where their athlete might fit in a year, two years, three or even four years. Here are four simple ways to help you analyze your best division levels. While there's no one magic solution, you can get a good idea if you try each of these methods.
1. Go watch college volleyball games at each different division level and analyze if you can see yourself playing at that level
Most student-athletes are just a short drive away from watching collegiate volleyball games at many different division levels. When you go, get there early so you can see the flow and dynamic nature of college volleyball, from their warm-ups all the way through the last point. Look at their physical build and skillset. See how demanding the coach is and try to project if you can see yourself playing at this level.
Often, families think that playing on a high-profile club means their athlete is ready to jump onto a D1 volleyball team. But when the girls come in, they are overwhelmed by the pressure and the dynamics. Really watching and analyzing college matches can help you avoid this shock.
2. Drop into a college volleyball practice unannounced In most cases, a coach isn't going to mind if an interested recruit watches a practice.
By checking out a practice, you get the opportunity to see what the everyday environment is like. How hard does the coach push the team? What kinds of drills do they run? How demanding is the practice? This is a great chance to see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into being a college athlete, and it's a good opportunity to tell if you're up to it.
3. Use email to see which coaches are interested—and which aren't
One easy way to figure out your talent level is to have the college coaches tell you, and you can find this out via email. If you're interested in a particular conference — for example, the Pac 12 — email all the coaches in that conference, letting them know you want to compete for their school. Don't forget to use proper emailing techniques when you put together your message and make sure you follow-up if you don't hear back after a week or two. Then, check out how many of those coaches contacted you back. If you haven't received responses from anyone, it's safe to say that you might need to move on to a different conference or a lower division level. If you received some messages prompting you to fill out recruiting questionnaires or they sent over some recruiting information, you might be at the right spot.
Conversely, if you email a bunch of schools and every single one gets back to you might be able to try moving up a division. This isn't an exact science — and it doesn't account for coaches with busy schedules who may not have the time to respond back right away. But as a general rule, a coach will respond to an athlete if they think that recruit could have a positive impact on their team. Even if you're an underclassman, the coach can still send you recruiting questionnaires or recruiting information to indicate that they are interested in you.
4. Consult your club coach about what division levels they think you might be suited for
Your club coach is an important resource in your recruiting process. Not only have they most likely been around volleyball for a long time, they've probably seen many athletes go on to compete in college. They know what a Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA player looks like.
Schedule a quick 30-minute meeting with your coach — bring your parents, too — and ask him or her to be honest about your skill level. Remember: This is business; it's not personal. If he or she says that you might be more of a DIII-level athlete when your dream is to be a DI volleyball player, it's not personal. Ask how you can improve your skillset, and make sure you're still watching collegiate volleyball matches, emailing coaches at different levels and sitting in on practices.