The College Volleyball Recruiting Process: How to Get Recruited
Impact of Coronavirus on College Volleyball Recruiting: The NCAA recruiting rules are now different for each division level. NCAA D1 has suspended all in-person recruiting through April 15, 2021. As of September 1, 2020, NCAA D2 and D3 have resumed the regular recruiting rules. Stay on top of the latest news involving the extra year of eligibility for college athletes and how it impacts recruiting. See our full coronavirus resources section.
Volleyball is one of the fastest growing high school sports for women. In fact, the NFHS 2016–2017 participation survey found that a record-breaking 444,779 high school women participated in volleyball, and that number is still on the rise. With this increase in women’s volleyball players comes a highly competitive college recruiting landscape. Only 5.8% of high school volleyball players compete in college, and a mere 1% play at the D1 level.
For families wondering how to get recruited for volleyball, it’s important to acknowledge just how competitive volleyball recruiting is. With the rapid increase in volleyball participation and the growth of elite volleyball club teams, there are thousands of talented volleyball players seeking college scholarships. In this article, we provide families with a deep dive into how the college volleyball recruiting process really works, based on 10 years of experience in the college recruiting space and insider tips from former Division 1 volleyball coaches. Read all you need to know women's volleyball camps.
Yes, there are thousands of volleyball scholarships available for talented student-athletes at the NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 levels, as well as at NAIA institutions and many junior colleges. NCAA Division 3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but they do provide other forms of financial aid based on academics, merit or need. Can I get recruited for college volleyball?
Here’s a quick overview of all the steps involved in the recruiting process. While some of these might shift around based on each family’s unique recruiting journey, these are the major checkpoints along the way:
- Discuss as a family if college sports are right for your athlete and determine if your family is ready to start the recruiting process.
- Determine what division levels to target, based on athletic and academic goals, as well as social and cultural fit.
- Research schools and create a target list of 20–30 colleges and universities to reach out to.
- Create at least one volleyball recruiting video that can be sent to coaches of interest.
- Contact coaches at targeted schools and respond to all coach communications.
- Attend tournaments, camps and combines that will help get more exposure to college coaches and give them an opportunity to watch you compete in person.
- Go visit college campuses and meet with coaches in person.
- Complete NCAA and/or NAIA academic eligibility requirements and send the appropriate documentation to those organizations.
- Start receiving offers and determining how much financial aid is needed to attend each school that offered a roster spot.
- Choose the favorite university and commit! Work with the coach on scholarship details and if they have a National Letter of Intent (or an equivalent) that needs to be signed.
We surveyed the volleyball coaches in our network to determine when they start the recruiting process. 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), there’s a lot of pressure to start recruiting as early as possible, with coaches scouting 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.
Athletes should use these dates as a guide post for when they need to have their initial recruiting work done. By the time coaches are evaluating talent, recruits should have a good grasp on the division levels they want to target, a list of schools they are interested in and a highlight video that shows off their best qualities as a volleyball recruit. They should also be reaching out to coaches, so they are on the coach’s radar when they start the recruiting process.
The first few steps of the volleyball recruiting process are all about setting realistic expectations about the athlete’s commitment to playing in college and the upcoming recruiting process. To get started, athletes should ask themselves the following questions—and be as honest as possible about the answers:
- Am I ready for the demands of being a college volleyball player? Being a college volleyball player—no matter the division level—takes up a lot of time and effort. Many athletes say it’s like having a full-time job and then some. There will be early practices, training sessions, games and traveling on top of classes and homework. Athletes need to be ready for this level of commitment before diving into the recruiting process.
- Am I good enough to play college volleyball? Answering this question requires athletes to critically analyze their current skillset and athleticism, as well as project how much they’ll be able to improve by the time they are a freshman in college. This is a great time for athletes to loop in their current coach to discuss their goals of playing college volleyball, so they can have an honest conversation about the recruit’s skill level. Athletes can also get evaluated by a third-party service like NCSA.
- What division level(s) am I qualified to play at? There are hundreds of opportunities for volleyball players at the Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and junior college levels. Athletes should talk to their current coach, a qualified third-party like NCSA and college coaches themselves to understand what division levels they might be qualified to compete at. Families should also go out and watch collegiate volleyball matches at every division level, projecting if it's realistic that their athlete will be at that level in the next few years.
- Am I on a club team that will get me exposure to the coaches I’m interested in? We’re not going to sugar coat it: College coaches primarily recruit club volleyball players. There are a couple reasons for this: Club players have more volleyball experience, as they compete in the sport almost year-round. They’ve also been exposed to top competition and generally have a higher level of training than high school-only players. Furthermore, they play at large tournaments that attract college coaches from across the country. Especially for recruits looking to compete at D1 or high-level D2 programs, a few years of club experience is essential. However, before families sign up with the closest volleyball club, they should take the time to do some research to ensure that the club goes to tournaments and showcases that are attended by coaches the recruit is actually interested in.
One of the best volleyball recruiting tips that we can give: do research and cast a wide net when looking at schools! Ideally, families should start out by contacting a lot of college coaches—around 20–30—and then pare down the list over time. Here’s how we recommend organizing a target list.
- 5-10 safety schools: These are schools athletes know they’ll be able to play at and for which they qualify academically. Athletes need to get in touch with these coaches early on so the coach knows they’re genuinely interested. Many athletes find that programs they never considered originally ended up being their best college fit.
- 10-20 target schools: This is where recruits can put the schools that are their best match athletically, academically and socially. In other words, these are the schools that a recruit really wants to focus on in their recruiting.
- 5-10 reach schools: These schools might be out of a family’s price range or they might be very competitive academically or athletically. Athletes should add them to their list as a great goal to strive for.
Volleyball recruiting tip: Always include a mix of division levels in a target list. Student-athletes might be surprised which division level is right for them, and it maximizes their opportunity to get a college volleyball scholarship. Check out this list of questions athletes should ask themselves to help find their best college match.
Most college coaches use a recruiting video (also called a highlight video) to evaluate athletes who they haven’t had a chance to see in person yet. And in many cases, an athlete’s recruiting video is an athlete’s first impression on the coach. In other words, recruits need to spend the time and energy to create a video that really shows off their best attributes as a volleyball player.
Volleyball players need to create two different types of videos: one that shows the athlete doing repetitions of passing, blocking, attacking and defense (depending on the recruit’s position) plus a video of a full game. Coaches will typically review the video showing off the athlete’s skills first to get a good idea of the recruit’s technique and fundamentals. Then, if they liked what they saw, they will watch the full game film.
The skills video should be no more than 3–5 minutes long—it’s truly a quick snapshot meant to capture the coach’s attention. The full game film will be longer, but families should shorten it by removing dead time (side changes, time outs, substitutions, etc.). Visit our volleyball recruiting video page to get a rundown of all the skills your athlete needs to include in their videos based on their position.
Volleyball recruiting tip: Many families create one or two high-quality videos and then stop. Instead, families should make a recruiting video after every major tournament so they always have new footage to share with college coaches. Ideally, recruits should send a new recruiting video to coaches of interest every three to four months.
Understanding how to get recruited for volleyball really hinges on knowing how to create a robust coach communications plan. Athletes must proactively communicate with coaches to make sure they are on their recruiting list. With thousands of talented recruits across the country, volleyball recruits just can’t wait around for coaches to find them. For more information, visit the Contacting College Coaches page.
- Send an introductory email to the college coach, including your recruiting video and key stats, like vertical jump, height and club team name.
- Follow up with a call to the coach, mentioning the introductory email.
- Respond to all correspondence from coaches, including recruiting letters, emails, social media direct messages and more.
- Continue to follow up with the coaches, sending them updated stats and new highlight videos, inviting them to watch you compete or congratulating them on a recent win.
Attending the right volleyball tournaments is one of the best ways to get interest from college coaches. There are a few multi-day tournaments that recruits need to be participating in:
- USA Volleyball National Qualifiers: National qualifier season usually starts in March, with two or three national qualifier tournaments held each weekend. And they are huge events, with more than 900 teams competing over a three-day weekend. In most cases, athletes will attend the qualifiers that their club team will be competing at. Individual athletes can sign up to join a team for a national qualifier as long as there is space. There are different divisions for each age group, based on the level of competition. These tournaments typically attract hundreds of college coaches, as they know that they’ll be able to watch many high-level recruits all in one place. To find National Qualifiers, check out the USA Volleyball website.
- Non-national qualifier tournaments: The MLK weekend and President’s Day weekend multi-day tournaments are popular tournaments for college coaches to attend. The earlier club season tournaments that take place in January, February and March tend to draw the most college coaches. At this point in the year, coaches are very focused on their recruiting needs, and they usually still have money left in their recruiting budgets. As the club season progresses the urgency of recruiting fades, even for the later National Qualifiers. Budgets start to run out, the college coaches are also engaged in their spring season, and they may have already secured their needed commitments. To find multi-day tournaments, visit the Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) website, where they list their sanctioned, multi-day tournaments.
College volleyball camps are also an option for recruits who have specific schools they want to target. However, those camps are generally more geared toward athletes who already have recruiting interest from that particular school. For a more in-depth advice on how to pick the right volleyball tournament, visit our Volleyball Events page.
Volleyball recruiting tip: Athletes should make sure they are attending tournaments in the region where they want to go to college. Most coaches aren’t going to travel too far beyond their region to attend volleyball tournaments. For example, if an athlete is targeting high-academic institutions in the northeast, they should consider attending a tournament in that area.
Oftentimes, we see families get stuck in a holding pattern in their recruiting, which leaves them wondering if they are on the right track and questioning if they really know how to get recruited for volleyball. This is typically a sign that they’re in the “managing” phase of the recruiting process. There are plenty of ways families can keep their recruiting moving forward when they reach this point:
- Create additional recruiting videos with new game footage. Sending coaches a new recruiting video is a great way for athletes to stay on a coach’s radar. Athletes should create a new recruiting video after each major tournament and send it out to coaches, with a few key stats about how the recruit performed in that tournament.
- Continue to be proactive in communicating with college volleyball coaches. In the maintenance period of the recruiting process, recruits can reach out to coaches every three or four months. Not sure what to say? Here are 25 reasons to update a college coach.
- Update your NCSA profile. Add new athletic or stats, a new video and an updated transcript or personal statement. When coaches search for an athlete’s profile, they’ll see an accurate snapshot of the student-athlete.
- Go on unofficial and official college visits. The only way to really know if a school is the right fit is to visit the campus. Athletes should make sure they schedule a time to meet with the coach, check out the training facilities, see the library, tour the freshman dorms and ultimately ask themselves, “Can I see myself living here for four years?”
- Continue to update your target list of schools. Throughout the recruiting process, schools on a target list will inevitably drop off, move up or down on, or even stay right where they are. Recruits should check back in with their list of schools every quarter to make sure they’re prioritizing their recruiting appropriately.
- Take the ACT and SAT. For NCAA and NAIA academic eligibility, standardized test scores are extremely important. We recommend taking the ACT or SAT the fall of junior year, so athletes have time to retake the test in the spring if they need to boost their score.
- Stay on top of your academic eligibility. Athletes need to make sure they are on track to achieve the grades, test scores and core courses they need to be academically eligible.
- Double check the deadlines. Families need to make sure they meet the deadlines for the following: NCAA Amateurism Certificate, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), college applications, NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Center registration, final transcripts and proof of graduation.
For most athletes, the goal of the volleyball recruiting process is to get a scholarship offer. NCAA D1 volleyball is deemed a headcount sport, which means that every scholarship given must be a full ride. Anyone on the team who isn’t on scholarship, must be a walk-on, or a non-scholarship athlete. For every other division level, including NAIA, coaches can break up their scholarship money however they want, usually giving the most to the top athletes or specific positions. Learn more about the different types of offers in our College Recruiting Guide.
Most families want to know tips for negotiating a better scholarship offer. The best bargaining tool an athlete has: offers from other schools. Coaches do not want to lose recruits to other institutions—especially rival schools. Ideally, athletes want to have serious recruiting interest from five schools to negotiate the best offer. Always negotiate based on Expected Family Contribution, or how much money your family will be paying out of pocket after everything’s factored in. To learn more about scholarship negotiation, visit our College Recruiting Guide.
To formalize a scholarship offer and make it legally binding, the athlete needs to sign with the school. About 650 NCAA DI and DII schools use the National Letter of Intent (NLI), and NAIA and NJCAA schools have their own version of the NLI to sign. The NLI is a legally binding document, so families should double—and triple—check they know what they’re agreeing to before putting pen to paper. By signing this document, an athlete agrees to compete at the school for one year, and the school is promising to provide the recruit with the agreed upon scholarship for that one year.
And now the recruiting journey is over! Don’t forget to celebrate this important moment before looking ahead to the next chapter of your life.