USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Volleyball recruiting is incredibly competitive. Out of 447,000 women’s high school volleyball players in the United States, just 5.7% go on to play at the college level. And 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 unforced errors and ace your recruiting process.
Always include your highlight video when reaching out to coaches
To evaluate you as a recruit, college volleyball coaches need to see you in action. In general, coaches are looking for athleticism and volleyball technique. If you are a natural athlete, impress coaches with your agility and leaping ability. Include footage of booming blocks, smashing spikes and diving digs. 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. Keep in mind that coaches evaluate the level of competition as well as your skill.
“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.
“The video does not need to be fancy or perfect,” adds NCSA Director of Volleyball Relations Matt Sonnichsen. “It can be practice, warm-ups or edited game tape—just make it current and easy to watch.”
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. If you don’t quite meet the D1 recruiting guidelines at your position of choice, be open to expanding your search.
“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.”
Recruiting starts early—especially for hitters
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 fierce, coaches tend to back off once a student-athlete makes a commitment.
“Unlike football and basketball, the large majority of volleyball coaches will not go after a kid who has already committed to a school,” says Simic.
Read more: How to get recruited for college volleyball
Coaches pay attention to your attitude as well as your 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.
Keep in mind that college volleyball coaches will attend quite a few of your club tournaments. These tournaments are held in large facilities and allow coaches to see 100+ courts in one weekend. While you shouldn’t get distracted by the presence of coaches in the gym, they will be evaluating your attitude, athleticism and coachability. 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
Since both the high school and college volleyball seasons are in the fall, college coaches typically don’t have much time to attend matches and scout recruits. But during the off-season, coaches spend many hours attending camps and club tournaments around the country. In fact, 91% of NCAA women’s volleyball players competed on a club team in high school. 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.
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 coaches to try them at another position in college. 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. Many college coaches maintain the philosophy that if you can pass and defend well, you can transition seamlessly all over the court.
Pay attention to the mental side of your game
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. Ideal height and a jaw-dropping jump goes out the window if you make mindless errors with the game on the line. In your highlight video and in person, college coaches pay close attention to your consistency and smarts on the court. They are looking for students of the game who demonstrate an ability to take instruction from coaches and execute it on the court. Smart volleyball players tend to have great chemistry with their teammates and often make great team captains.