Have you sat on the sidelines at a collegiate beach volleyball match, itching to get in the game? Do you dream of competing on a college team? If you’re interested in competing on a college beach volleyball team, then it’s important to learn how to get recruited. We’re not going to sugar coat it: There are a lot of steps involved and boxes to check. However, when done right, the college recruiting process can be incredibly rewarding.
We’ve outlined the major steps involved in the recruiting process and the general order in which they happen. However, every recruiting journey is a little different—from athlete to athlete, and even between each of the different schools on your target list. Use this guide to understand all the different milestones you need to hit and get a better overall understanding of how to get recruited for beach volleyball.
NCSA recruiting coach Lana Simic has 20 years of experience playing collegiate and professional beach volleyball, as well as coaching at the college and club levels. She explains that when the recruiting process starts really depends on the division level. Division 1 schools are going to start recruiting athletes earlier than D2, D3 and NAIA schools.
Typically, D1 coaches start recruiting sophomores in high school. Coach Simic explains that there aren’t as many scholarship opportunities in beach volleyball as there are for many other NCAA sports—like indoor volleyball—so D1 coaches need to lock down recruits early before they commit to another program.
For D2, D3 and NAIA programs, Coach Simic says that they typically start recruiting early in an athlete’s junior year of high school. However, she adds that, for the girls on the club team she coaches, she always advises they start the recruiting process their sophomore year and look to commit junior year or early senior year to secure their spot.
In most cases, the recruiting process starts with some research and level setting. In order to reach your goals, you need to figure out exactly what they are and what’s realistic for you as a beach volleyball player. Here are two questions to ask yourself to kick off your recruiting process:
Am I ready for the demands of being a college beach volleyball player? Regardless of division level, playing college sports is a major time commitment. Before you start to take the next steps in your recruiting process, you need to be certain that you’re prepared to take your game to the next level, and you’re ready to manage the demanding schedule of a collegiate student-athlete.
Am I good enough to play college beach volleyball? College recruiting for beach volleyball is incredibly competitive. Coach Simic explains that nearly all D1 beach volleyball players have played at least four years of high-level club beach volleyball. And the other division levels require at least a few years of dedicated club beach volleyball experience. If you are a talented indoor volleyball player looking to switch to beach volleyball, you will need experience training outdoors and competing against seasoned beach volleyball athletes for at least an entire summer.
“Some clubs have indoor beach facilities, but it’s not the same as the kids in Florida, Texas and California who are playing all year round,” Coach Simic emphasizes. “There’s no option any more to play club beach in the summer and get recruited by D1 schools. When it comes to Division 1 schools, they will look for players who are full-time beach athletes.” Coach Simic has helped us put together a list of recruiting guidelines for beach volleyball athletes. Review these recruiting guidelines to help you understand the best division level for your skillset and experience.
Once you’ve determined the division levels your skill set and experience are best suited for, it’s time to hunker down and start putting together your list of schools. Researching schools gives you the opportunity to determine what you’re looking for in a college or university. Do you want a big school in a small town? Are you comfortable attending a school that’s in a different state or even different region from your home town? How important is class size to you?
As you’re putting together your list, organize it into the following categories. Because beach volleyball is a newer NCSA sport, there are fewer schools that offer it, making it tougher to find 20 colleges to add to your list. However, because beach volleyball is an incredibly competitive collegiate sport, the best path forward is to create as many opportunities for yourself as possible, which means starting out with more—rather than fewer—schools on your list:
Putting together your list of schools is a crucial step at the beginning of your recruiting process. However, as you start communicating with coaches and learning more about each school on your list, some might bump up a few spots, and others might drop off entirely. Keep checking back in with your list of schools and keep it as updated as possible.
Insider tip: The number of schools offering beach volleyball is continuing to increase from year to year. If a school you’re interested in isn’t offering beach volleyball right now, that doesn’t mean it won’t be adding a beach volleyball program by the time you’re ready to graduate from high school. Check out our list of schools looking to add beach volleyball in the next few years, and consider adding them to your list. Sometimes the best way to be a top player in a program is to join the team when it’s just getting started.
A great highlight video can be the difference maker in your recruiting! As a general rule, beach volleyball coaches want to see game footage over practice footage in your highlight video. They want to know how you handle working around a block, a long rally, being out of system and more. In short, they don’t want to just see your athleticism—they want to see how you react in a game setting. If you can’t get game footage just yet, you can shoot a skills video. Just make sure that you get game footage as soon as possible.
In your highlight video, coaches want to see a little bit of everything: passing, setting, attacking, serving and out system/long rallies. There are specific skills to include for defense and blocking, so make sure you review our beach volleyball video guidelines as you’re shooting and editing your highlight film. Make sure your film is no longer than 3-4 minutes, and you start with your best plays to really showcase your strengths as a player.
At this point, it’s time to start reaching out to college coaches. Coach Simic says that the biggest mistake she sees beach volleyball players make in the recruiting process is waiting for college coaches to contact them rather than taking the initiative. “There are so many players who want to play beach volleyball,” she says, “but there’s not as many opportunities.” She adds that athletes can’t just assume that being at the right camp or tournament is all they need to do to get recruited. College-bound beach volleyball athletes have to put in the time and work to get recruited by college coaches.
The easiest way to initiate communication with a college coach is by sending an introductory email. Start off the email by explaining why you’re interested in that program. Then, include a few key stats—athletic and/or academic—as well as your club experience, highlight video and contact information. The coach may not respond to that email, so the follow-up process is extremely important. A great next step is to call the coach. If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail, and make sure you tell them when to expect a call from you next. From there, continue to follow up with coaches at regular intervals.
Insider tip: Don’t forget that you can direct message coaches through social media. This can be a great way to get a faster response time.
Attending showcases, tournaments and camps can be a great way to show off your skills in front of college beach volleyball coaches. For beach volleyball, there really aren’t massive tournaments throughout the year where you can compete in front of hundreds of coaches in one weekend like there is for indoor volleyball. Instead, there are smaller club tournaments, showcases and some college camps. Most of these events will be held in one of the top states for beach volleyball: Texas, California or Florida.
Coach Simic says that the club she coaches at in Florida had a showcase in January, and 15 D1 and D2 coaches attended to scout out top athletes. Coach Simic’s club invited other club teams, including teams from out of state. However, they had to be very selective about who came to the event, as the coaches only wanted to see the very top athletes.
Finding the right events to attend really comes down to being part of the right beach volleyball club. Most events are held by club teams, so you really need to do your research and ask the right questions before joining a club team.
Once you’ve started the recruiting process, there’s a lot of maintenance work that you must do in order to keep your recruiting moving forward. When learning how to get recruited for beach volleyball, a lot of families ask how much time they should be devoting to the recruiting process each week. That number is really going to depend on where you’re at in your recruiting journey. At the beginning of the process, you’ll need to spend a few hours a week researching schools, sending introductory emails and making sure your highlight film is complete. After that, you might go a couple of weeks without any recruiting activity.
As you manage your recruiting, you’re going to have peaks and valleys. When you’re in the middle of establishing your NCAA and/or NAIA eligibility, you’re going to be putting in more hours. However, if coaches are in the middle of their season, there might not be a whole lot going on. Here are a few key deadlines to look out for:
For most athletes, the goal of the beach volleyball recruiting process is to get a scholarship offer. Because beach volleyball is deemed an equivalency sport by the NCAA, coaches are not required to give out full-ride scholarships. They can break up their scholarship money however they want, usually giving the most to the top five pairs on their roster. This might mean that you get a small offer as an incoming freshman, but as you work your way up in the program, you might qualify to receive more scholarship money as a junior or senior. Learn more about the different types of offers in our College Recruiting Guide.
Most families want to know recruiting tips for negotiating a better scholarship offer. The best bargaining tool you have: Offers from other schools. Coaches do not want to lose recruits to other institutions—especially rival schools. Ideally, you want to have serious recruiting interest from five schools to negotiate your best offer. And always negotiate based on your Expected Family Contribution, or how much money your family will be paying out of pocket after everything’s factored in.
Congratulations—you’re almost there! To formalize your scholarship offer and make it legally binding, you need to sign with the school. About 650 NCAA DI and DII schools use the National Letter of Intent (NLI), and NAIA schools have their own version of the NLI to sign. The NLI is a legally binding document, so double—and triple—check you know what you’re agreeing to before putting pen to paper. By signing this document, you’re agreeing to compete at the school for one year, and the school is promising to provide you with the agreed upon scholarship for that one year.
And your recruiting journey is over! Don’t forget to celebrate this important moment as you look ahead to the next chapter of your life.
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.