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Recruiting Club Level vs. High School


As the sport has continued to evolve and grow, college programs have evolved, and so did the methods of recruiting.

Current polls tell us that over 85 percent of college coaches recruit at the club level versus high school. There are legitimate reasons for the majority of collegiate recruiting in the sport to be tied to club volleyball.

Of course, when you want an answer to a question, the best idea is to head to the one you need the answers from. Recently, I fired off a survey to a random grouping of college coaches in all divisions. Almost 95 percent responded the same to the 'Why Club Level Recruiting vs High School Level Recruiting?' Let's look at the 'Top 10' based upon input by these college coaches.

  1. Club teams are typically made up of similarly skilled athletes. As well, the athletes compete in their own age classifications, which allow college coaches to evaluate players both athletically and competitively by grad year. Another benefit is the club environment gives them the opportunity to see athletes that may compete against each other at the collegiate level. Overall, a more comprehensive environment for evaluating athletic ability.

  2. Club tournaments allow college coaches to view dozens of athletes in one venue over a short period of time.

  3. Regional and National tournaments allow college coaches to evaluate a variety of athletes they would normally not be aware of via high school play.

  4. For college programs that have limited recruiting budgets being able to attend an event that is at one location gives them the maximum benefit for their dollars.

  5. Club level players typically train and compete at a higher level as well over a longer period of time.

  6. The goal of club training & competition is typically focused on preparing the athlete to play at the next level especially at the open and national levels.

  7. High School volleyball season coincides with the collegiate volleyball season therefore making it more difficult and costly for college coaches to get to high school matches to evaluate one or two players (as skill levels vary greatly on high school teams)

  8. Many players competing at the high school level are asked to play positions that do not coincide with the position they play in club or will play at the collegiate level.

  9. The evolution of high level regional and national tournaments gives college coaches the ability to evaluate athletes from across the country (& internationally), which is not possible at the high school level.

  10. Club tournaments allow college coaches immediate access to club directors, coaches & recruiting coordinators allowing them to obtain current athlete information.

This trend has its roots in the immense popularity of the sport at high levels. Over the past 20-30 years, the sport of volleyball realized an amazing growth of clubs offering young athletes the opportunity to train and compete on a national level against similarly skilled teams. The club arena has been fueled by the high interest of collegiate teams, professional beach players and the opportunity to play on professional teams internationally. Olympic volleyball (both men's & women's), indoor and beach continued to capture the passion of young players and compelled them to seek opportunities to compete at high levels. Many former Olympic, collegiate and beach players were drawn to the club environment, allowing them the opportunity to teach and train the future torch carriers of the sport.

As the sport has continued to evolve and grow, college programs have evolved, and so did the methods of recruiting. In addition many current college coaches are products of the club volleyball environment and their familiarity with the high-level training and competition gives them confidence in the athletes they recruit at this level. Evolution can be defined as a process of continuous change from simple forms to more complex and higher levels...hence the sport of volleyball.

To be crystal clear, this article is not intended to incite a debate between club and high school volleyball because in reality they just operate at different levels in different environments, both focused on the sport of volleyball. Both are partners in the growth of the game and regardless of where college coaches recruit from, we are all in this together and at the end of the day, it's about the sport of volleyball...our love for the game, our love for the competition and most importantly what the sport can offer the young athlete in terms of life skills, education and a productive future.

In closing, I want to share that as a club recruiting coordinator, many college coaches ask me to put them in contact with high school coaches. They do want high school coaches input because they also see the athlete in a different light. Many high school coaches are also teachers and have an unique and important viewpoint on the prospective student-athlete and their off the court behavior, academics and overall high school activity. While college coaches may not be focused on recruiting from high school volleyball matches, they do value the time, effort, commitment and perspective of high school coaches.

The recruiting of high school athletes at either the club or high school level is a privilege and it's a testament to the athlete's hard work, academic achievements and life goals. We are all partners in this process but for any process to be successful, each component plays a different role and function but with the same goal – the success of the prospective student-athlete in a sport we all devote our lives to.

For related reading on the volleyball recruiting process click here. For more education on the volleyball recruiting process click here.

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