Women’s volleyball is an incredibly fast-growing sport—in 2017, there were 444,779 high school volleyball players. Only 5.9% of those athletes will go on to compete on a college volleyball team, and a mere 1.2% will play for a Division 1 school. Needless to say, getting recruited to play in college is extremely competitive, and it’s imperative that athletes understand how to successfully navigate the volleyball recruiting process if they want to make it to the next level.
NCSA provides an in-depth look at the volleyball recruiting process, including insider tips from former collegiate volleyball coaches and players. We help families gauge the right division levels to target, create a recruiting video that will capture coaches’ attention and understand the NCAA volleyball recruiting rules. If it’s your athlete’s goal to compete on a college volleyball team, this detailed information will help your family ace the volleyball recruiting process. Read our new article on college volleyball.
The NCAA is responsible for enforcing its volleyball recruiting rules, which mandate when and how coaches can proactively contact athletes. At the Division 1 and Division 2 levels, most communication is permissible starting June 15 after an athlete’s sophomore year in high school. On the other hand, college coaches at the Division 3 and NAIA levels do not have limits on phone calls and electronic communications.
One of the most difficult aspects of the volleyball recruiting process is determining which division level an athlete should target based on her athletic talent. The good news: There are some key stats that college coaches look for when evaluating volleyball recruits. For example, at the Division 1 level, the average height of an outside hitter is 6’0”, with 53% of D1 outside hitters at 6’0” or taller. Only 13% are 5’9” or shorter. Additionally, coaches expect D1 outside hitters to have, on average, an 118-inch approach jump. Furthermore, D1 coaches want athletes to have experience competing on an open-level club team, the most competitive club division.
While these are just averages, they paint a fairly clear picture of what a D1 recruit looks like for that position. Based on college roster data and a survey of college volleyball coaches, we’ve compiled a series of guidelines that illustrate the average qualifications volleyball recruits should fulfill at each position for every division level. For families who aren’t sure which division level their athlete should focus on, these guidelines provide a great baseline to get them on the right track.
For most families, one of the biggest draws to competing on a college volleyball team is the allure of getting a volleyball scholarship. And over 1,300 schools at the Division 1, Division 2, NAIA and junior college levels could offer volleyball scholarships, depending on how well-funded their program is. Though Division 3 schools don’t provide athletic scholarships, they do help connect athletes with other forms of financial aid that can pay for a portion—or all—of the cost of tuition.
At the Division 1 level, volleyball is considered a headcount sport, which means that every scholarship is a full ride to the school. D1 teams are allowed to provide a maximum of 12 full-ride scholarships to talented volleyball recruits. At the other division levels, coaches can divide up their scholarship dollars however they want, usually giving the most money to athletes who have the potential to make an immediate, positive impact on the success of the team.
There’s increasing pressure for volleyball recruits to start the volleyball recruiting process earlier and earlier. According to our survey of college coaches, D1 coaches begin searching for talent the earliest of the division levels, with the majority starting when prospects are in 9th grade. For coaches in power conferences (think: the Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC), coaches scout out talented 8th graders, as well as freshmen in high school. D2 and D3 coaches reported that they begin evaluating recruits in 10th grade, and the majority of junior college coaches kick off their evaluations in 11th grade.
Because of this trend toward early recruiting, there’s a lot of pressure on volleyball recruits to become experts in the volleyball recruiting process at a young age. This means young athletes and their families need to understand how to:
We clearly define each step of the volleyball recruiting process, explaining what families need to do and what to expect from college coaches.
A volleyball recruiting video is a compilation of an athlete’s best plays to showcase her volleyball skillset. While only 3–5 minutes in length, volleyball recruiting videos have to pack a punch, as college coaches use recruiting videos to determine if they will reach out to a volleyball recruit—or move on to the next athlete. In fact, most coaches say that they can tell within the first 25 seconds of a recruiting video if they are interested in that athlete or not.
Creating a volleyball recruiting video is both an art and a science. Based on the athlete’s position and strengths, there’s a certain set of skills that she must include in her video. How those skills are put together and what games the volleyball recruit decides to showcase are really up to families and club and high school coaches. We provide a list of skills coaches look for at each position, and key tips for how to capture the footage your family needs to create your athlete’s best recruiting video.
In addition to NCSA, there are several volleyball recruiting websites to help families work through their volleyball recruiting questions. The Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) is a leader in the club volleyball world, hosting and sanctioning tournaments and providing resources to clubs and players alike. Similarly, USA Volleyball has plenty of resources, camps, tournaments and club connections to help families with volleyball recruiting, whatever their needs are.
The College Volleyball Coach is an excellent website specifically about the volleyball recruiting process and is run by Matt Sonnichsen, who has more than 15 years of experience coaching Division 1 volleyball teams. While not strictly a volleyball website, Informed Athlete is a great resource for families who have NCAA compliance questions. It is managed and written by Rick Allen, who has more than 25 years of experience as an NCAA rules expert, including serving as the director of compliance at two major D1 schools.
There are a few major club tournaments that volleyball recruits must attend if they want to get recruited by volleyball coaches. National Qualifier tournaments take place almost every weekend in March and April. These tournaments decide which teams get a bid for the Junior National Championships, and they attract the most talented club teams. College coaches know that when they attend these events, there will be hundreds of elite volleyball recruits to evaluate, all in one place.
Volleyball recruits should also try to participate in multi-day tournaments at the beginning of the year. The biggest tournaments usually take place over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and President’s Day weekend. At this point in the year, the college volleyball season has concluded, and college coaches are really ramping up their recruiting efforts. They typically haven’t spent much of their recruiting budgets at this point, and they are very interested in scouting out new talent.
Get the scoop on the top volleyball colleges in each division and review a full list of colleges that offer women’s volleyball
With more than 1,800 college volleyball teams across the U.S., it can be overwhelming to start the college search process. To provide families with a good starting point, we’ve compiled a list of all the schools that have a women’s volleyball program at each division level. We also analyzed top college volleyball ranking websites to compile a list of the best volleyball colleges at each division level.
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.