Top 7: Recruiting Tips for Every Volleyball Athlete
One of the biggest questions about the recruiting process is when to start. When should we start brainstorming about potential playing opportunities? When do we reach out to coaches? When do we schedule visits to schools? The answer is, now! Although the recruiting process is different for everyone, it is in an athletes best interest to start as early as possible!
Why? There are well over 400,000 club volleyball players in the United States and almost 2,000 colleges that offer a volleyball program. While these numbers seem incredibly high, only around 5.9% of these athletes end up playing volleyball at the collegiate level. With over 400,000 club athletes to take into consideration and only one coach, how do you think these coaches prioritize, or even know where to start? I can assure you that they start with the athletes who are on their radar and who they know are interested in their program. Even if you are young, showing this sort of interest gives the coach a place to start.
How young? In some extreme cases, recruitment can start as early as 7th and 8th grade. Despite that, we generally hear most volleyball players giving a verbal commitment in their junior year or early in their senior year. Regardless, it is never too early to begin generating a list of interest schools and attempting to gain exposure.
Remember, recruiting is all relative. Keep in mind that every university has their own recruiting timeline based upon their athletic department or team budget, their academic requirements and their teams level of play.
Send film: While sending a short film of ‘highlights’ may be beneficial for some, I would recommend giving coaches the option of watching a full match. “But I got aced on that ball! I can’t show that!”…don’t fret. Mistakes happen! Coaches aren’t looking for ‘perfect’ athletes or ‘fully developed’ players, they are looking for kids who have the potential for growth both physically and mentally. Coaches can teach skill, but they can’t teach personality characteristics like energy, work ethic, drive or passion.
Send update emails: Update coaches on your progress both athletically and academically. There is nothing more attractive than a strong athlete who is driven in the classroom as well. There is no need to brag about every single accomplishment you have ever received, but an occasional email with previous tournament finishes, personal awards, GPA reports, and future tournament dates is a great way to keep coaches interested in your progress.
Call occasionally: There is nothing wrong with a little cold call here and there…even if you are just leaving a voice message. It is a great way to let the coach learn a little more about your personality and interest in their program. If you aren’t able to get ahold of coaches, leave a specific message about what time you will call again or about what tournament you will be in next.
Introduce yourself: There is nothing more impressive than an athlete walking up to a coach and introducing her/himself.
*I understand how nervous you may be to initiate contact (you…not your parents). However, stepping out of your comfort zone and initiating contact on your own is a great indication of independence, confidence and drive.
Go After Your Dreams
This is my favorite! Just let it rip and go after your dreams. If you have a dream to play at a particular university than you should do everything in your power to pursue that dream. Whether you are a top recruit in the country or a back-up libero for your team, it is all the same. Don’t underestimate the power of strong personality characteristics like leadership and passion. These characteristics go far beyond physical skill.
Now, we might not all be given the opportunity to receive a full athletic scholarship at the school of our dreams, but we can try. At the very least we can be shooting for an opportunity to bypass admissions as a walk-on.
What is the worst that could happen? The worst-case scenario is a coach doesn’t respond or he/she kindly denies your request. The best-case scenario is that you get a chance to prove yourself and end up ‘wowing’ the pants off that coach.
I understand that it is uncomfortable to reach out to coaches with the potential of failure or hearing “no”, but you will never know what you could have had until you try.
Be Persistent (Respectfully)
Don’t be discouraged if you call but don’t hear back. Understand that there are very strict rules in what coaches can and can’t do when pursuing a prospective student-athlete. A lot of these rules are dependent upon the athletes age, so I recommend that all of you get familiar with these particular NCAA regulations.
If your dream school doesn’t seem to acknowledge your existence or doesn’t necessarily have room on their roster for your position, stay persistent and continue to show interest. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no need to pester or waste your time, but be conscious of the fact that things DO change. It is not uncommon to have a player get hurt, transfer, fail out or quit. So, respectfully continue to show your interest by understanding the team’s current situation and staying up to date on the team’s progress throughout the season.
While persistence is great, let’s be cautious about the word persistent because there is a fine line between persistence showing ambition and persistence to a point of annoyance. We don’t need to be sending email updates or reaching out to coaches every day.
Keep Your Options Open
Although it is important to shoot for the stars and go after our dreams, it is equally important to be realistic and to keep all of our options open. As volleyball players, we are forced to think about or even make pretty big life decisions early in our careers. How are we supposed to know which college is best for us when we are only 14, 15 or 16 years old!? We might not…which is why it is important to do our research and to not close a door on an opportunity that we haven’t analyzed or experienced.
Do your homework! Weigh out the pros and cons of each university or program. Identify what it is in a school that you want. Go and visit as many schools as possible. Experience the lifestyle. Put yourself in as many situations as possible so that when you do make a decision, you can be fully confident that the school you are choosing is going to fit your personal needs and goals.
Recruiting is about creating and maintaining relationships. But, how do you develop relationships with coaches who may not even be able to call you back?
- Do your own marketing
- Introduce yourself at tournaments
- Go to games and support their team
- Do research about their current team and ask questions
- Schedule visits
- Show your true self
Remember, the volleyball community is very tight and coaches talk. If you have made a strong impression on one coach, you will be recommended to another.
Show Your Personality
We are all beautiful in our own way and we all possess attractive personality characteristics that can help benefit a team. Show coaches what makes you special and unique. Are you a leader? Are you loud, quirky, tranquil or aggressive? Are you a talented piano player, community service leader or horseback rider? What are your dreams and aspirations? Who are your heroes? Coaches love personality and look to recruit different types of players and personalities with the objective of balance. As hard as it may be to show your true colors with the fear of being judged, I promise you that coaches would rather see who you truly are.
Be Conscious of Social Media
With the prevalence of social media in today’s society, we need to be very careful about what we post and what we say on all forms of social media. It may be unfair to judge an athletes character by their presence on these social media outlets, but that is the unfortunate reality of today’s society…we are judged by the things we post.
The pictures we post say a lot about our character or about the characters we desire to be. So, posting a photo of a skimpy outfit that you were wearing to a party on Friday night doesn’t necessarily portray the best version of yourself.
While pictures speak a thousand words, the actual things we say speak a lot about our character as well. Be conscious of the tone in which you ‘speak’ and the topics in which you speak about. Are you being negative, rude or sassy? Are you using profane language? Are you constantly rambling about drama or controversial topics in our current society? Although we all have the right to voice our opinions, we never know how strongly our potential coaches or teammates feel about a certain topic. So, when in doubt…don’t post. Error on the cautious side.