One of the most frequently asked questions is “When should we start the recruiting process?” And the answer is: It really depends on the athlete. Volleyball players who are tall and athletic at a young age will start the process sooner than late bloomers who don’t hit their peak until later in high school. I’ve included tips on how—and when—to start the recruiting process, based on where you’re currently at in your playing career.
Tall, athletic volleyball players might begin recruiting by freshman year.
It’s rare for athletes to be both tall and athletic at a young age, but those who are will attract early interest from college coaches. Athletes who fall in this category need to start preparing for the recruiting process as soon as freshman year of high school. Start by researching schools and identifying what you’re looking for in a college. Consider what major you’d like to pursue. Figure out if you’re comfortable moving far away or if you’d like to stay in state. Iron out these foundational questions with your family and stick to them when you start communicating with coaches.
Often, families of young, superstar athletes feel pressured to make an early decision. Remember that you can set your own timeline, and if a coach won’t wait for your answer, they might not have been that interested in the first place. What you really want to avoid: Committing early to a school that’s not the right fit, getting there and wanting to transfer after a year.
Late bloomers should begin the recruiting process when they have developed athletically.
The majority of athletes will fall into this bucket, developing athletically and/or physically as high school athletes. The good news: College coaches are always looking for late bloomers and transfer students. The bad news: You might miss out on some D1 programs that filled their rosters with young recruits. And that’s OK. There are thousands of great programs across all division levels, and most athletes aren’t going to be D1 volleyball players.
If you’re a late bloomer, take the time to really hone your skill set and focus on getting great highlight video footage to send to college coaches. Work hard, train harder and keep playing. Anything you can do to make your skillset better will also make you more valuable to college coaches. Make sure you’re also researching schools and determining what you want to study. Then, when you start contacting college coaches, you’re ready to make your best first impression.
Insider tip: Don’t base your recruiting journey off someone else. You might have a teammate who started hearing from coaches as a freshman, but you might not be ready to start contacting coaches until your junior year.
How the new NCAA Division 1 recruiting rules might affect the recruiting process.
Effective April 25, 2018, the NCAA passed new recruiting rules to cut back on coaches extending early scholarship offers to underclassmen. These rules are only being implemented at the D1 level, and they are as follows:
- Official visits: Recruits can now start taking official visits starting September 1 of their junior year of high school. In the past, official visits weren’t permitted until the athlete’s senior year of high school, so this rule is actually bumping them up.
- Camps: Recruits and college coaches are not allowed to have any recruiting conversations during camps prior to September 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school. Previously, there weren’t really any rules that prevented coaches from talking about recruiting to underclassmen during camps. In fact, it had become common practice for college coaches to extend verbal scholarship offers to top recruits during camps.
- Unofficial visits: Division 1 college athletic departments—this includes college coaches—are not allowed to be involved in a recruit’s unofficial visits until after September 1 of their junior year. Quick refresher: Unofficial visits are any campus visits paid for entirely by the recruit’s family. Before the rule change, unofficial visits were an easy way for underclassmen to visit a college camp, meet with the coach and get an early verbal offer. Under the new rules, if athletes want to take unofficial visits, they cannot schedule them with the coach until September 1 junior year.
No one is quite sure yet how exactly these rules will impact the recruiting process, but you’ll likely see coaches cutting back on extending early offers. Athletes can still call coaches at any point, send emails, social media direct messages and try to get in touch with them through any digital means. Furthermore, athletes can also lean on their club coach to reach out to college coaches on their behalf. This can be a great way to start creating connections and receiving interest.
The recruiting process is unique to every athlete. When to start really comes down to when you’re able to show the coach why you would be a good addition to their program. For some athletes, this will be freshman year and for others, it won’t be until junior year. Always remember to do your research, know what you’re looking for in a school and be prepared to push back if you need more time to make a decision.
For related reading on the volleyball recruiting process click HERE. For more education for players navigating the recruiting process click HERE.
For additional education on the volleyball recruiting process visit our partner NCSA HERE.
About the Author
Matt Sonnichsen is the Director of Volleyball and National Speaker for NCSA Athletic Recruiting, the Official Recruiting Services provider of the JVA. NCSA assists JVA Club Directors and Coaches with guiding their athletes through the recruiting process. For more information about NCSA click HERE. Matt has over 20 years of experience coaching volleyball at the collegiate level.