College volleyball is highly selective, so it is important to be prepared for the recruiting process. When recruits are reaching out to coaches, they should send a highlight video, especially to coaches in division levels that may be a good fit. Your highlight video should showcase your athletic and mental ability on the court.
Volleyball recruiting is incredibly competitive. 5.7% of women’s high school volleyball players in the United States go on to compete at the college level. Only 1.1% of those high school athletes make the cut to compete for an NCAA Division 1 volleyball program.
To get discovered by college coaches and earn a volleyball scholarship, you need to be firing on all cylinders from day one of your recruiting journey. While NCSA’s Women’s Volleyball Recruiting Guide offers a comprehensive overview, you can also use these seven tips to minimize errors and ace your recruiting process.
Always include your highlight video when reaching out to coaches
It is best practice to include your highlight video in the first email that you send out to a college coach. College coaches need to see highlight videos to determine if it is worth traveling to evaluate you. To best evaluate you as a recruit, college volleyball coaches need to see you in action. Depending on the division level, coaches may not have a large enough budget to travel often to recruits so make sure you are playing at the highest level of competition in the video that you send out.
“In your video, coaches first look at the level of competition to determine if you’re capable of playing at a higher level,” says NCSA Volleyball recruiting Coach Lana Simic.
In general, coaches are looking for athleticism and volleyball technique. If you are a natural athlete, impress coaches with your agility and jumping ability. If your technical skills give you an edge on the court, make sure your highlight video displays your positional awareness and precise placement on sets and serves.
Realistically focus your volleyball recruiting search
At the highest level, volleyball recruiting is all about height and verified stats. In addition to watching as much video as they can get their hands on, college coaches compare recruits based on vertical jump, standing reach, attack jump, approach jump and block jump.
“Jump stats are important since volleyball is becoming a very physical sport,” says Simic, who has two decades of D1 and professional volleyball experience. “An approach jump of 10 feet or more is a must for mid to high-level D1 schools.”
Going to college volleyball matches can help recruits determine if they would possibly be a good fit for a specific division level. If you don’t quite meet the D1 recruiting guidelines at your position of choice, be open to expanding your search to D2, D3, NAIA and junior college levels.
Recruiting starts early—especially for front row players
At the highest level, college volleyball coaches kick off the recruiting process as early as 8th grade. In power conferences like the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, it’s not uncommon for coaches to make verbal offers to talented 8th graders and high school freshman—, especially middle and outside hitters.
“Coaches definitely prioritize recruiting at certain positions over others,” Simic says. “Hitters are a priority over liberos and defensive specialists.”
While the volleyball recruiting battle can be intense, coaches tend to back off once a student-athlete makes a commitment.
Coaches pay attention to your attitude as well as your athletic ability
“Not paying attention in the huddle, giving a teammate a dirty look, reacting poorly to coaching instruction and slacking off are all great ways to make a bad impression with a college coach,” says Sonnichsen, a former D1 volleyball head coach for nearly 15 years.
When coaches come to volleyball tournaments, they are evaluating your athletic performance, as well as and your attitude and body language. They want to see how you react under tough situations. Are you a team player? Can you help keep your team focused under pressure? These are some important characteristics to have on the court. Don’t stress out if you make a mistake. Coaches don’t expect you to be able to start for them right now.
Compete on a high-level volleyball club team
Playing club volleyball can give you a competitive advantage over the other high school girls that don’t play. Since many college-bound volleyball players are considerably better than their high school teammates, joining a club team can give them the chance to compete alongside comparably talented players and boost their development. Club volleyball will keep you active year-round and it gives college coaches more opportunities to personally evaluate your ability to compete in college.
Don’t get too attached to your spot on the court
While many high school volleyball players specialize in a particular role, it’s very common for college coaches to seek out players that are versatile on the court. From middle hitters moving to the right side to setters converting to defensive specialists, you never know where a coach might see your best fit on their team. Many college coaches maintain the philosophy that if you can pass and defend well, you can adapt seamlessly all over the court.
Pay attention to the mental side of your game on the court
Volleyball is full of high-pressure situations. From back-and-forth rallies to intense match points, successful teams have mental resilience and high volleyball IQs. Athletic ability does not impress coaches if you are not making wise decisions when the game is on the line. In your highlight video and in person, college coaches are looking for a player’s court awareness and how smart you are with ball placement on the other side of the net. They are looking for students of the game who demonstrate an ability to take directions from coaches and execute it on the court. Smart volleyball players tend to have great chemistry with their teammates and are often team captains.