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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.