The competition for an athletic college scholarship can be ferocious.
Many high school athletes want to play sports in college, but each program has only so many precious roster spots available.
As a Division II women's college volleyball coach, I have spent many hours pouring through emails, stat lists, video highlights, and voicemails from prospective players, their parents or their high school coaches. We're ultimately looking for someone who stands out from the crowd. We're looking for a reason to click on your email or your video link and learn more about you.
If you feel you have what it takes to play volleyball at the collegiate level, here are 11 tips to help you get noticed by college coaches.
1. Create a Video Highlight Reel
Players who contact coaches without video evidence of their playing skills are 10 times less likely to earn a reply. Because of our busy schedules, it's difficult for us to get out and see many high school matches. Therefore, we are heavily reliant on video links that we can view at any time. The easier you make it for the college coach to see your skills, the better chance you give yourself of making a great impression.
2. Make Sure Your Highlight Reel Checks These Boxes
Your highlight video should be no more than 5 minutes long. It should also include at least 5-7 clips of the following skills:
- Attack: Showcase your skills at the net! Show us how hard you can swing, various angles and spots on the court that you can hit, and your ability to hit from different positions on the net.
- Defense: If you're a hitter, we're looking for your blocking and stopping skills and if you can be a defensive asset in out-of-system plays. If you are a back-row player, be sure to include your passing skills, both in serve receive and in digs.
- Serving: Show us your jump float, your top spin and your aces!
- Short (30-60 seconds) gameplay: Now that we've identified you in your jersey and position on the court, show us what you can do during actual gameplay. We want to see, are you aggressive? How efficient and quick is your footwork during your transitions? Are you talking, clapping, yelling, calling out plays? All of this helps us form a full visual of you as a player and how you'll fit in on our court.
3. Provide Your Statistical Highlights
What is your hitting percentage? Are you in the top 10 of your league for serving aces? Blocks? Digs? Including these details when you reach out can make a big impact. You don't want to include a mountain of numbers, but pick some that you think are most impressive. To us coaches, numbers show a lot about a player, so any good stats you can give us to help prove your worth, the better off you'll be.
4. Tell Us About Your Awards
Did you make your league's all-star team? Have you been Athlete of the Year at your school? Or have you been highlighted as a Player of the Week by your local media? Include these accolades in your email to us!
5. Know What You Might Major In and Other Academic Aspirations
College coaches don't just want great athletes, they want great student-athletes. Sharing details on your academic interests and aspirations lets us know you're serious about being a student. What do you want to major in? What subjects do you love? What is your future career path? These details can help us determine if you're a good fit for our team and our school.
6. Play for a Club or Travel Team
As I mentioned earlier, college coaches rarely have enough time to attend a bunch of games during the high school season. One of the best ways to get out in front of college coaches is to attend camps or large club tournaments. Junior Nationals in Orlando, NEQ in Philadelphia, or any large format tourney during MLK or President's day are usually best!
7. Make College Visits
You can learn a lot about a school and a program online, but nothing compares to visiting it in person. Don't feel like you need to wait to be invited on an "official" visit before you can check out a school. Unofficial visits give you a chance to experience a school on your schedule and make a good first impression on the coaching staff. Be sure to email ahead of time to schedule a meeting with the head coach so you can introduce yourself in person while you're there. Other than that, check out the library, the freshman dorms, the class buildings, the facilities, the dining options, etc.
8. Understand College Contact Timing
For NCAA volleyball schools, a coach cannot contact a prospective player until June 15 of their junior year. NAIA schools have a bit more relaxed set of rules, so be sure to check which type of school you are applying to and understand the rules that apply to them. You don't want to be anxiously awaiting responses from coaches who aren't even legally allowed to contact you yet!
9. Keep the Communication Going
You don't want to constantly pester a busy coach, but you also don't want to send one email and then never follow up. Here's some tips for achieving an optimal amount of communication.
First, send an initial email to the coach. Be sure to introduce yourself, include your highlight video, position, key stats, awards and the name and location of the club team you play for.
A few weeks later, follow up with the coach, sending a new email that references your original email. Include any updated stats or video clips you may have.
Sometime in the following few weeks, pick up the phone and call the coach. Leave a message if necessary. Sometimes putting a voice to a name is helpful and gives us an idea of your personality.
If you're still interested in the program, now would be a good time to schedule your campus visit. Call the coach again to alert them that you'll be in town and wish to meet in person.
Once you meet the coach in person, you may get a better idea of how much communication you'll have going forwards. Depending on the recruit and the coach, some coaches are more proactive with their communication, while others are less. From here, you can continue to reach out every few weeks to update the coach on any tournaments you'll be attending and provide any new stats, awards or video links you might have.
10. Use a Subject Line That Catches Our Eye!
We receive a ton of emails each and every day.
So many, in fact, that we can't possibly read them all.
To help us sort through our crowded inbox, we often rely on the email subject line. If yours is eye-catching, direct and professional, you give yourself an excellent shot of us opening your email.
Some examples of great subject lines I've seen are "Ohio MVP OH seeking a spot on your team" and "Midwest Middle Hitter, looking for an east coast home."
As a coach, I liked these subject lines because they told me where the player is from, what position they play, and what their intention is. Your subject line should make us excited to open your email.
11. Know What You Want Before You Reach Out
Once you've made the decision to play in college and have determined you have what it takes, sit down with your parents and make a list of your top 15-20 schools. Be sure to include all three divisions and junior colleges, if necessary.
Take into careful consideration the school itself, the campus and the course offerings. Once you feel you have a solid list, look at the teams, their records, their level of play and their coaching staff.
As you enter into this new recruiting phase, be sure you are well-organized and know what you want before you contact us. After you've gathered your thoughts and data on your list of schools, then you can start reaching out. Being prepared and informed as you contact us helps us know you're serious about potentially joining our team.
This time in a student-athlete's life is one of the most anticipated, most exciting and most opportunistic moments they'll ever experience. Take your time, think logically and methodically, and be an advocate for yourself.
Photo Credit: FatCamera/iStock
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