Over the past few months, several college coaches have contacted H2 Saint Louis Volleyball Club about players. As a result of those conversations, we have put together some important tips that will help you in the recruitment process:

1) All scholarships are not created equal:

Colleges don’t have unlimited budgets. Very few of them offer a traditional full ride scholarship. The vast majority of them will often offer what we call an “Institutional Scholarship” which is a combination of a partial scholarship and a financial aid package. An “Institutional Scholarship” may be the only way a coach get can get you (or your daughter) into that school. These are very similar to the traditional full ride scholarships. If the school looks like a good fit and they offer one of these “Institutional Scholarships”, consider them the same way you would consider a traditional full ride scholarship.  Additionally it is important to note that even a full ride scholarship does not mean that it is “all expenses paid.” There will still be costs involved with college. Tuition only scholarships do not cover the cost of books, housing or food. If you consider the cost of an apartment and food each month, a college that is offering an “institutional scholarship” and still asks you to pay $4,000 a year is still better than going to somewhere and paying full price.

2) You are never alone, so be on your best behavior:

When you are playing in a tournament, on the road in front of a crowd, it is imperative that you be on your best behavior. Coaches don’t always come to see if you are a good player. If you are playing in the Open Division for example, they already know you are a good player. They are coming to see if you are a good teammate and have a winning attitude. Coaches are not interested in those who slap their legs, frown or show negative emotion when they make a mistake. They want the players that remain positive and always encourage and work with their teammates (even when they are on the sidelines).

3) Take advantage of every situation:

Each team has a couple of players that will draw lots of college attention. When coaches come to watch those players, what else do they see? They see you as well! Even though they did not initially come to watch you, if you play well, you could end up impressing that coach and they could have an interest in you later.

4) Never assume:

Don’t read into a situation. A coach may come to your match, watch for a couple of minutes and walk away. Don’t assume they are not interested. They may have already made up their mind and are pressed to see another player. They may come back later or they may have seen what they need to see. Most coaches will evaluate your athletic abilities on video you send or they request. When they come to watch you, they may just want to see how you interact with your teammates. You never know what they are thinking so don’t assume. And don’t take it personally if a coach looks at you and doesn’t say anything.  Most coaches (all, in fact, but junior college coaches) are not permitted to speak to an athlete until the competition is over, which means that your team has finished play in the entire tournament.  (For a qualifier, that means once you’re out of it on the final day.)  The coach can talk to your H2 coach, who will likely pass it along to you, but the college coach can’t talk to you directly.  That’s the rule.  On the other hand, a junior college coach can talk to you anytime your team is not playing.

5) Make decisions based on what is best for you:

Make sure that your decision is not based on staying close to home or what your boyfriend wants or any other reason other than what is best for you. This is one of the most important decisions in your life and you need to do what is right for you and no one else. Your parents want what is best for you. As for the boyfriend, if the relationship is solid, it won’t be affected whether or not you are in St. Louis and they are in Madison, Wisconsin. Don’t let a boyfriend run your life; what happens if you break up? You will be living his life and not yours.

Remember, there are thousands of other players nationwide competing with you for college scholarships. The H2 Saint Louis coaches are building relationships and learning what coaches are looking for and we will do our best to pass that information on to you. You need to listen to your coaches and take heed. If you are interested in playing volleyball in college, it takes a lot of hard work and the coaches of H2 will be right beside you every step of the way!

6) Lights!  Camera!  Volleyball!

Create a skills video as soon as you hit 17.  Your H2 coach can help you with this.  And add some game footage.  Burn this onto a DVD that you can send to coaches.  Or put them on youtube and you can supply the link, which makes it even easier for the college coach to watch you play.  Your club coach can give you tips in what to include in your skills video (Free Tip #1: Smile when you’re talking!), but it’s generally 10-12 reps of every skill you want to showcase.  Make sure you are executing each and every skill to the best of your ability, including any and all transitions at game speed.  Game footage should be highlighting your play, not a 20-minute piece showing an entire match.  And be sure it is very clear who you are in the footage (Outside hitter #3 in the front row or libero in the near court, for example).  Begin each video or DVD with an introduction (“Hi!  I’m Suzy Sixfoot and I play middle for H2 Saint Louis Volleyball Club on the 17 Cardinal team.  I also played Kirkwood High School where we won our conference and took third in regionals.  I am member of the 2013 graduating class.  Thanks for watching my skills video.”) and finish with all your contact information on the screen.  If you mail a DVD, be sure to include all your contact information with the disc. 

7)  Be visible!

There a number of good recruiting websites out there (berecruited.com; NCSA Athletic Recruiting) where you can create a profile for college coaches to review.  Use these to your benefit and make it easy for coaches to find out more.  Be sure to include some photos, skills and/or game footage(or a link to wherever they are on the web), and your volleyball credentials, but also include your high school and H2 coaches’ names, phone numbers, and email addresses.  Many college coaches like to contact your high school or club coach for their thoughts on you as a player.  These sites provide a link to your email address, so make it one you will actually check on a regular basis.  Coaches don’t like to wait a week or two to hear from someone who “never checks my email!”  (They might have contacted 50 other payers during that week and if half of them respond right away, you just moved 25 spots down the list.) Many players use a parent’s email address, particularly if they will be checking more often.  You might consider getting an appropriate email address; volleyballcrusher@yahoo is a lot better than iluvpinkbunnies@yahoo.  A simple suzysixfoot@yahoo is even better.

8)  Be Proactive!

The best way to show a coach that you want to play for him or her is to contact them directly.  But do some homework and tell them you’ve looked into their program.  First of all make sure you’re academically eligible for the school.  If you can’t get in, you can’t play, no matter how good you are.  (Some schools have a little more wiggle room than others.)  Look over their record and comment appropriately.  Don’t say, “I hope your season went well” if they were 3-27, but do say “Congrats on the great finish!” if they were second in their conference.  Tell them why you are interested in the school and in the team.  And go ahead and send your DVD or provide a link with your initial contact.  Nothing wrong with that.  Coaches like to see hustle from their players and from their recruits who want to become their players.  Then tell them you’ll follow up in a week or so.  Then be sure to follow up with an email asking if they saw the video and what they thought.  If this is during the club season, and this is a school you really like, include your schedule, especially if there is a qualifier coming soon near the school.  (“Hey coach! My team will be at the KC Qualifier this weekend.  We play on Court 36 at 8:00, 10:00, and Noon if you get a chance to come by and watch.  I’ll be wearing #27 and crushing the ball!”)  Yes, it’s okay to show some personality into these notes.  Your H2 coach can also help in this area by sending an email on your behalf to a college coach.  Your parents can help in this area as well, In general, your parents can help when you’re a sophomore and junior and your H2 coach can help when you’re a junior or senior, but you need to be in charge the whole time, knowing who’s doing what.

9)  Don’t take it personally!

Remember this is a business for college coaches.  You might be a great setter and in love with dear old State U.  But if State U already has a junior setter, a sophomore setter, and two freshman setters, they’re probably not looking for a setter right now.   And if a coach doesn’t get back to you right away, it probably means they are busy with other recruiting tasks, organizing spring practice, working on next year’s schedule, handling the many other duties that they have to do, or maybe even on vacation.   Just as college coaches have a list of players they are considering, you need a list of colleges you are considering.  There are a number of factors that go into a coach offering a recruit a spot on the roster, just as there are many factors that go into you deciding on a college.  The more that both respect the complex and difficult challenges each other faces, the better for all involved.  This is an area where your H2 coach can help you understand and navigate the recruiting process. 

10) If the Shoe Fits, Play Volleyball In It!

If you’re one of the lucky few who is actively being recruited (invited to campus for a visit, discussing scholarships with the coach, etc.) by a college coach you really like at a school that has your major and is within your geographic, size, and tuition comfort zones, do what you can to get an offer and then make the commitment.   The coach has a list of players at your position that he or she really wants.  You have a list of colleges that your really want.  Even though you think it’s early in the recruiting process, and you think there might be other opportunities out there (there usually are, but they won’t all translate into offers; Penn State and USC are not going to get in a bidding war for your services if they haven’t already contacted you), but why take a chance.  The coach also has other players to whom is ready to offer, so why not make it easy on everyone?  And if this magic moment happens in your high school season, and you say you want to wait and see, then the coach will say, fine, just let me know and promptly go to the next name on his list, or make plans to attend any number of other high school matches in the fall and dozens of club tournaments in the winter and spring.  Yes, this is being written from a coach’s perspective, but I think this will only make your life that much easier as well as the coach’s.  You can both immediately start planning for the future, one that should be very successful for both of you.

11) The Face to Face

So everything has gone well and you’re invited to campus to meet the coach and maybe some players.  Now what?  Time to do some prep work (sounds better than homework, but it’s the same thing; work done at home to get ready for a challenge).  Go to the school’s website and figure out exactly where you’re going.  If you’re not sure, ask the coach for directions to his/her office.  Then look over the roster.  If you’re a setter and you see they have 4 other setters, that will tell you something different from a roster with only 1.  Then start preparing what you want to say.  Don’t just plan to answer questions.  Have a story to tell, and make sure it has a point, that being that he/she should choose you.  Also, have some things you want to bring up.  Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What type of offense do you run?
  • What type of defense do you run?
  • How many other players are you looking at for my position?
  • What do you think my position would be?
  • How many players are you bringing in from my class?
  • Do you have a JV team?
  • How many matches?
  • How much do you travel?
  • How many days of class will I miss?
  • What academic support systems are available?
  • What if I have a class and a practice….a class and a match??
  • Does the volleyball program enjoy a positive relationship with the faculty?
  • Your coaching philosophy?
  • Training rules?
  • History/success of the program?
  • How many players are on the team, their positions, and their years?
  • How many hours a week do you practice, strength train, etc.?
  • Off season training and competition?
  • If I’m offered a roster spot, will I remain a member of the program all four years?
  • What if I’m injured? Insurance coverage?
  • Additional cost to play…fundraising?
  • When will you make a decision regarding this opportunity?

That’s a lot of questions, but this is a big decision and any coach will be happy to answer these and any other questions you have.  In fact, by asking questions, you show that you are very interested in this program and you are very serious about your college career. 

12) The Follow-Up

Always, always, always follow up with a note, preferably a hand-written note thanking the coach for the time, the opportunity, etc. Very few people do this anymore and anyone who does will separate themselves from the pack in a very positive way.  Then follow-up with any additional information that was requested, such as skills videos, game clips, etc.

13)  Never Give Up!

 If your dream is to play college volleyball, then keep after it.  There will be a program out there for you, but you have to persevere.  Your devotion and dedication to finding a college program that meets your academic and athletic goals is a good sign to the coach that you are ready, willing, and able to put that same level of time, effort, and energy into his/her program.

 14) Good Luck!!

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