by Jeff Smith
Playing volleyball collegiately takes tremendous effort, diligence and commitment. Only six percent of all high school volleyball players end up playing volleyball in college. Landing a spot on a team is extremely competitive, and the recruiting process can be very daunting. You may find yourself competing with countless other student-athletes who are just as hungry, or even hungrier, for a place on a team as you are.
But, if you're willing to do whatever it takes to play at the next level, you can definitely make it happen. Here are five tips to give you a leg up on the competition and find a college that's a good fit for you.
1. Assemble your college list
Doing due research online and asking an objective volleyball person to give an accurate assessment of your potential, create a list of prospective colleges you'd realistically like to play for. The list should include at least 15 to 20 schools that come from a range of different collegiate divisions (Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA, junior colleges). Base your selections on your desires for a college, taking into account not only volleyball but academics, geographic location, size and style that suit your temperament, personality and volleyball skills.
2. Contact coaches
After generating your list of colleges, gather contact information and start reaching out to coaches by email, letter and/or phone. Tell them why you're interested and demonstrate to them not only your volleyball skills, experience and accomplishments (videos, recommendations from past and current coaches, stats) but also your passion and persistence; if you don't hear back from a recruiter, politely but persistently keep contacting them on a weekly basis until they return your message.
3. Go to schools and talk to coaches and players
As you begin connecting with college coaches, your next step is to schedule unofficial visits so you can tour the campuses. Make sure on these visits to talk to as many different key stakeholders as possible -- meet the coaching staff, ask questions of current players and communicate with students and professors in the field of study that will be your major. Ask to connect with former players, too, so you can email, message or call them with questions about the school, coaches and program. They'll likely be your best and most unbiased source of information on the team culture, coaching staff and program dynamics.
4. Thrive in academics and extracurricular activities
Nearly every college coach wants players who excel academically. Balancing a volleyball commitment with academics is challenging, and coaches don't want players on their team who are a constant threat to land on academic probation or become ineligible.
A robust extracurricular resume will also impress many coaches. Volunteer your time in school clubs, church programs and community functions to demonstrate you are a well-rounded individual who can properly manage your time and who thinks of others and not just yourself.
5. Pour yourself into constantly growing as a player
The competition for college roster spots is fierce. Other players who want the same college roster spot that you do are working two, three, four or five days a week to improve and strengthen their game. Make sure you're doing the same thing. Get stronger and quicker, refine your skills and develop your volleyball IQ and understanding of your position and of the game.
Never let your game stagnate. Push yourself at practices and tournaments. Seek out opportunities to keep developing your skills in clinics, camps, leagues and private lessons. Take a few weeks off between seasons, then plunge head-first back into the development process. Give it all you've got so that, when your senior year comes and goes, you can look back and say with confidence that you did everything possible to make your dream a reality.
Jeff Smith is Serve City's girls club director.