"Play as much as possible."
That's what most volleyball recruits think college coaches want them to do before they make it to the next level. But in the eyes of a recruiting college volleyball coach, recruits should be doing many other things—all equally important as playing.
Prospects are called "student-athletes" when they attend a college or university. The word "student" comes first for a reason. Not every athlete continues to play volleyball after she graduates, and coaches want players who are serious about their studies. Coaches want athletes who started their high school academic careers on the right foot and ended the same way.
A student-athlete's GPA is important for admission to colleges and universities. It's difficult to bring up a low GPA, and because admission is so competitive at many schools, admission officers check to make sure student-athletes stay focused and end their senior year without slumping or coming down with a case of "senioritis."
In addition to NCAA eligibility and amateurism, ACT and SAT scores are a big focus. Coaches need all their players to adhere to the standards set by the NCAA, so academic and playing eligibility are not issues when applications are reviewed.
Communication in any relationship is important. Coaches want to know what is going on with the student-athlete in both their "volleyball world" and their "real world." Updates about matches, school and life in general are great. Short videos of highlights or big matches are helpful as well. A student-athlete congratulating teammates after wins and commenting on social media show coaches that the student-athlete is truly interested. A student-athlete visiting and watching a match can be icing on the cake. It gives a prospect maximum exposure and time to get comfortable with the program, team members, coaches and school.
For players who haven't begun to communicate with college coaches, it's important to get started. Coaches want to have informational conversations early on with each player they are recruiting. Even if interests change, active discussions about areas of study, location, school size and level of play will be helpful in the long run.
Last, but certainly not least, coaches want players who love volleyball. Practice reps are not enough to make it at the highest level. Extra reps and additional practice are critical. Recruiters want to know that players love to be in the gym getting coached on skill work, never settling, and striving to be great with every extra serve, pass, arm-swing and set.
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Playing builds volleyball IQ, but controlled conditions (reps) allow players to nail down fundamentals and work on specific outcomes in difficult situations.
Volleyball coaches want athletes who desire to play at their school just as much as recruits want schools that will offer them a scholarship or a roster position. Although the journey may be tedious and sometimes stressful, being focused, involved and putting in extra time will make the recruiting process smoother. Student-athletes who put forth extra effort will be glad they did when they put their college uniform on for the first time.