“Am I good enough to play on a college beach volleyball team?” Many athletes ask themselves this question as they go through the recruiting process. The tough reality is that a very small percent of high school athletes do go on to compete in college sports, and an even smaller percentage yet play at the D1 level. Understanding the basic body type requirements, skill level and experience college coaches are looking for at each division level can help you target the right schools for you.
With the help of former beach volleyball coach Lana Simic, who has 20 years of experience playing collegiate and professional beach volleyball, as well as coaching at the college and club levels, we put together a set of beach volleyball recruiting guidelines to help you gauge the right division level for you. The guidelines represent what the typical athlete looks like at each division level, as well as the experience level expected of them.
If you look at these guidelines and think, “I know a couple 5’8” D1 athletes—these can’t be right!” bear in mind that these beach volleyball recruiting guidelines don’t take into account your agility, explosiveness or knowledge of the game. Coach Simic explains, “If I see someone who is 5’8” to 6’0”, it is possible for them to play in college, but their skill and knowledge of the game has to be insane,” explains Coach Simic. “If I’m a 5’8” hitter at a D1 school, my skill and knowledge of the game has to be better than a 6’0” hitter.”
It’s also important to consider how much playing time you want to see in college. If you barely meet the requirements for a D1 school, you might be a great practice player. But you have to be comfortable with sitting the bench during most—or all—of your team’s matches. “If you are 5’6” and you don’t mind not playing, then you can probably be a D1 athlete. Or, you can go to a smaller school and be an apex player,” Coach Simic says.
The players at the D1 level are extremely physical and strong. “Go watch a D1 game and see where these players are at compared to you,” Coach Simic recommends. Overall, playing at the D1 level requires a 12-month commitment to beach volleyball, including weight training, playing beach volleyball both in and beyond the official season, travel and more. Experience competing on a club and high school beach volleyball team is crucial! Playing indoors isn’t the same as gaining experience on a highly competitive beach team.
At the D1 level, many athletes specialize as either blockers or defenders. Below are the basic requirements for each of those positions. Not all D1 schools are fully funded, so scholarship opportunities will depend on the specific school.
Experience competing in a high league and/or club beach time is still critical for lower-level D1 programs:
The average characteristics of a mid-lower tier beach athletes are below. Most candidates specialize as a blocker or defender and some split block at this level.
Typical D1 roster
Coach Simic has analyzed various Division 1 rosters to show the average body types of the athletes at this level, as well as the average number of athletes on a team. This is to give you a better picture of what athletes look like at this level and to see how you compare.
There are a lot of similarities between the D1 beach volleyball recruiting guidelines and the D2 guidelines. Multiple years of club and national tournament experience is required. Scholarship opportunities will depend on if the school’s beach volleyball program is fully funded. At the D2 level, some athletes specialize as a blocker or defender, and you’ll see more split blockers than at D1 schools.
Typical D2 roster
Coach Simic has analyzed various Division 2 rosters to show the average body types of the athletes at this level, as well as the average number of athletes on a team. This is to give you a better picture of what athletes look like at this level and to see how you compare.
Division 3 beach volleyball colleges are athletically and academically competitive. Though they don’t provide athletic scholarships, they have numerous ways to help student-athletes find financial aid, such as merit, academic and need-based scholarships. Many of the top academic schools in the country are Division 3 schools.
Typical D3 / NAIA roster
Coach Simic has analyzed various Division 3 and NAIA rosters to show the average body types of the athletes at this level, as well as the average number of athletes on a team. This is to give you a better picture of what athletes look like at this level and to see how you compare.
Similar to D1 and D2 teams, NAIA beach volleyball has scholarships available based on equivalencies, which means that NAIA coaches aren’t required to give out full-ride scholarships. Instead, they can distribute their scholarship dollars however they want, giving more to top athletes and less to lower-level recruits. Scholarship opportunities are based on how well funded the program is.
Club and high school experience is still important, but not as crucial as it is at the D1 and D2 levels. Overall, coaches are looking for participation at national tournaments, such as USAV JBT, JVA, AAU, AVP, NVL, BVCA and other organizations.