Although many areas still lack opportunities for boys volleyball, there has been a recent push to grow the sport. It’s exciting to see colleges add mens volleyball, as witnessed with the recent NCAA Division III explosion. As more junior volleyball clubs attempt to add boys volleyball, the next step is to educate the players about the college options that are available for them to continue their careers beyond high school. Here’s a look at the boys volleyball recruiting timeline and what college coaches are looking for in a recruitable student athlete.
In general, most boys are making their push toward college selection much later than the girls. Boys mature later and a lot of the tallest players aren’t finished growing until they are 17 or 18 years old. Don’t allow your boys players be discouraged about their college options when sophomore girls at your club are making verbal commitments and they start to feel behind in the process. With that in mind, it’s never too early to start looking into potential options.
Sophomore year is a good time to start making a list of schools that could potentially be a good fit academically, socially, financially, and athletically. Stopping in for a campus visit and going to camps are obviously the best because you get a feel for the campus, dorms, food, and can potentially meet the coaches and academic staff. There are so few men’s programs, we recommend our players visit local schools to get a feel for college campuses even if they don’t have volleyball. When you start to look at schools that are further away, you can have a comparison in mind based on the size of the school and urban area.
Entering junior year is a great time to become extremely proactive and begin contacting your top 10. Planning visits should become a little more serious. Men’s college coaches have limited resources and want to know that you have an interest before spending time and money to come and watch you play. A short unedited game film is great to include in an email to begin the recruitment/selection process.
During your senior year is when the vast majority of boys volleyball players are making their college decisions. If you’ve been in contact with a lot of programs, you can definitely find a place to play. Programs contact us searching for seniors who decide that they want to continue their career. Don’t wait to be ‘discovered’, send emails and make phone calls and your hard work will pay off!
What College Coaches Want
First and foremost, college coaches are looking for tall and athletic players. Another major difference from the girls game is that most boys don’t begin playing until they are in high school. College coaches are aware that they’ll be spending a lot of time on training and development for their younger players and it doesn’t matter if you’re not the best player on your team.
For a guide, we tell our players that they need to have a jump touch of 11 feet to have a shot at the top DI/II schools. That isn’t a hard number, just a guide. If you aren’t the tallest or don’t jump the highest, you can still play at a really high level if you’re really talented. No single physical stat can compare to being great on the court. Position specific at the Division I and II level we usually inform our players that outside attackers are at least 6’3 and touch 11 feet. Middle blockers are typically at 6’5 or taller and have an approach touch of 11’4″ or so. Setters and liberos can vary greatly.
Which Level of Play is the Right Fit
The toughest question and the one we hear the most from our parents about college volleyball is ‘where does my son fit?’ Most of the time there isn’t a great answer because it depends on the college coach and what he values in recruitment. My best answer is to go and watch for yourself. Watching on TV or online is good, but attending live matches is the best way to get an idea. Go to several men’s college matches and go down to the court during warm ups. When you stand next to the players you can understand how big they really are, you’ll see how high they jump and how hard they hit the ball.
There are new programs at the NCAA DI/II levels looking for good players. There are outstanding NCAA DIII and NAIA programs that are always looking. Some schools/programs are enrollment driven and looking for athletes to train while others schools have a roster limit. A great resource for more information is www.middlehitter.com run by Jerry Strub. It is the place for news on Men’s Volleyball in support of growth in the sport land includes links to every varsity program in the country. Another resource is www.offtheblockblog.com, which is great at covering men’s college volleyball too.
What Clubs Can Do
Many clubs are assiging a recruiting coorindator to focus on educating and guiding the student athletes through the recruiting process as they begin high school. It is helpful to have someone knowledgeable about the various levels, schools, academic and athletic requirements set by the NCAA. That individual or a coach who is experienced with the process can also host a recruiting seminar for both boys and girls and even invite a few college coaches to answer questions. Recruiting Coordinators typically answer a lot of phone calls and emails, and set up individual meetings with players to talk about college. It’s important to educate players about the adundance of opportunities, give them realistic expectations and help players stay open minded. Some clubs can also utilize a recruiting service with the same one on one meetings and guidance through the process.
College volleyball is definitely within reach if you are proactive and work hard to make your dream a reality!
About the Author
Matt Martin is in his 6th season with St. Louis High Performance, and is the Recruiting Director and Head Coach of the Boys 18 Royal Travel Team. A 2004 graduate of The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Education/Sport and Leisure Studies, he has 16 years of coaching experience, 10 of those in Division 1 collegiate men’s volleyball. In 2010, Matt was named the AVCA Division I/II national assistant coach of the year. He has been very active with USA Volleyball and has worked with all levels offered including teams that have earned medals in international competition.