Tips for Navigating the College Volleyball Recruiting Process

Club play is where a lot of scouting takes place
Ping Chou
Club play is where a lot of scouting takes place

At a volleyball recruiting seminar held in conjunction with the Girl’s AAU National Championships in Orlando, Fla., at the end of June, a teenage girl asked a panel of college coaches a heart-felt question: “Is it true,” began the teen, “that you can’t get a Division I scholarship unless you can touch 10 feet?”

It was a good question, and the short answer is: not necessarily. For more tips read below as we look at 10 commonly asked questions that emerged from the one-hour seminar, which was geared toward educating players and their parents about the recruiting process.

1) You Don’t Have to Play DI to Have a Good College Experience

This point was driven home, surprisingly perhaps, by Wise of Division I Florida. “Although Division I gets most of the publicity, there are terrific programs, coaches and opportunities at every level,” said Wise, whose son, Matt, played basketball at Division III Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. “I don’t want you to think that your daughter can only excel and can only have a great career if she plays Division I. That’s not true. There are scholarships and national championships at every level, and I encourage you to think outside the box.”

2) Make it Personal

“Don’t send out a mass email to 300 colleges and think you are going to get a great response,” Mott said. “Make an effort to get to know the school you are interested in. Find out about the team and the school.”

3) Do your Homework

Gallop said it’s a turnoff when a prospect says she wants to study a particular major that her school does not even offer. “Do your research,” Gallop said. “That will let a coach know you are serious.”

4) Recruiting Services are Not Really Needed

“I don’t want to take money out of people’s pockets,” Hohenshelt said. “I think some recruiting services do a terrific job marketing your kids. But I also think your kids can do a terrific job marketing themselves…It’s not hard to go online, put together a video and email it to a coach. Whether it’s from a recruiting service or from a kid, I read all the emails. I look at everything.”

5) The Bigger the Program, the Earlier They Start Recruiting

When Wise was asked if she looks at sophomores, she said: “I look at sophomores…and freshmen …and eighth-graders...and younger. We’ve gotten pretty good at projecting talent.”

Meanwhile, the Division II, NAIA and Division III coaches on the panel said they don’t start recruiting players until they are juniors or seniors. By that time, most of the top Division I colleges have signed their junior and senior classes and are working on the next group.

6) It’s All About the Club

Gallop said flatly that she does not scout high school games. Part of the reason for that is that high school games conflict with her college season, but another factor is that club tournaments offer the chance to see a prospect play against tougher competition. Club scouting is also a budget-saver since so many players are available at one setting. All the coaches on the panel said it’s still important to play high school volleyball. In addition, Hohenshelt said Penn State has an assistant coach whose main job is to call club team coaches and find out about players through him or her.

Catanach said selecting the right club team is crucial. “Find a club where you can play,” he said. “Don’t pick a club that is top-notch, but you sit on the bench and hit only during warm-ups.”

7) Ace the Academics

“Keep studying hard to get in position to receive the most academic aid possible,” Schmidt said.

Added Wise: “Choose a college that will be a good fit academically, socially and athletically. Don’t just think about volleyball.” Hohenshelt also weighed in on the role of academics in college selection: “God forbid, if you injure your knee and are never able to play another game, are you still happy at that school? If you can answer yes, then you are at the right school.”

8) An Effective Video Helps

Knowing what to include in a video to be sent to a prospective college coach can be a tough call for the uninitiated. But Wise offered some tips. “Anything is better than nothing,” he said. “Definitely show us something in the first 30 seconds to grab our attention. “I like to see skills stuff at the start, followed by some highlights from games and then one unedited set against a good team. Don’t show us a tape of her doing well against a bad team because that doesn’t do anything for us…I like to see how the player responds when she fails.”

9) The Scholarships Are Out There

Kathy DeBoer, the executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, was also at the seminar. She called volleyball “the most popular sport for women in the world.”

DeBoer said $200 million is available annually to young women who are “smart enough and skilled enough” to play the sport in college. That figure, which combines scholarship and financial aid, could be boosted by another $50 million in the next 10 years once sand volleyball takes off. (“Sand” is the word the NCAA is using to describe beach volleyball at the college level".

10) Skill Matters More Than Size

As mentioned above, the answer to the teen’s question at the start of this story is, in a word, no. While size and leaping ability are certainly assets, coaches look at the total package. Wise and Hohenshelt both said they’ve had players that couldn’t touch 10 feet. Said Wise: “If you can play, you can play.”

Originally published in September/October 2011

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