The Division I Council re-extended the dead period for Division I sports through May 31, 2021 continuing the ban on in-person recruiting activities that began when the pandemic hit last spring. This means that high school student-athletes still cannot take an unofficial or official visit to a Division I university or be evaluated in person by a Division I college coach. Many college programs at all levels are currently not permitting on campus visits for their athletic departments due to health and safety protocols.
Here are six steps high school volleyball student athletes can take to stay pro-active in their college recruiting process and potentially receive and/or accept an offer without an unofficial or official visit.
Evaluate or re-evaluate your priorities
Before getting too far in the recruiting process, student athletes should identify their priorities when it comes to the college search. This is also a good time to re-evaluate priorities, especially if some previous opportunities or offers are no longer on the table.
The list below identifies factors that the student athlete should weigh, and then prioritize the value each one has for finding the best collegiate fit. These may require doing some research or asking the college coach directly on the phone, during a zoom call or in an email.
- Distance from home (Mileage, climate, etc)
- Size of school – size of the campus and also the population size of the school.
- Level of Play DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, Junior College, Playing time
- Major – make sure the school has the major the student athlete is wanting to receive a degree in.
- Cost – how important or necessary is a scholarship? Find out the cost of tuition at the school, plus room and board cost.
- College program needs – check the rosters online and see how many athletes of your position are listed and what graduation class they are in. The NCAA gave eligibility relief to DI, II and III student-athletes, so they can receive an additional year of eligibility if they decide to take it. This does not guarantee that the collegiate program will award an additional year of scholarship money. It is important to discuss this with the college coaches if they are seriously recruiting the student-athlete.
Take a virtual tour
Check the college admissions websites to see if they have a virtual (or “360”) visual tour of a college campus. Also, most colleges have a YouTube page (official or unofficial) of students sharing their experiences with the cafeterias, dorms and classroom buildings. On campus visits with DII, DIII, NAIA and NJCAA programs are currently allowed, however a virtual tour can be a great starting point before getting on campus, especially if that particular school is not currently allowing on campus visits.
Zoom call with the coaching staff
Utilize technology and get some face time with the head coach and assistant coach(es) to learn more about them, and ask some direct questions. When the recruiting process moves into more serious discussions about a potential offer or future visit, you can invite your parents on a zoom call with the coach. If the assistant coach is the member of the staff that you have a primary recruiting relationship with, ask the coach to share more about their personal ties to the program to better understand the ambitions of that coach and their chances of staying with the program throughout your time at the program.
Take a visit on your own
After developing a relationship with the college coach(es) and narrowing down your list of schools, visiting the campus on an academic visit can be the next step. This is recommended if the student athlete knows they are the top one or two recruit for that college program in their position or class. It’s possible an athlete commits without a “volleyball” visit on campus (official or unofficial) but it is highly encouraged to visit the campus on your own before committing to a program. It’s simply too important of a decision to make without having all of the information that an on-campus visit provides. Student athletes should choose a school based on if they would be happy attending the school if volleyball was not in the picture. This is an extremely difficult decision to make without having been on the campus in person.
Zoom call with the players
Zoom calls are a great way to connect with current players separately from the coaches to be able to more freely discuss what it is like to be a volleyball student athlete at that university, and better understand the demands of the volleyball program.
Try to talk with the freshman and sophomores since they are the ones who will be there while the student athlete is there if they end up committing to that program. A zoom call with the players of the same position would also be valuable to hear their perspective on the coaches’ philosophy and their personal and team goals.
Be patient and wait as long as possible
This step is for student athletes who are juniors or younger. Many clubs are following the lead of the college coaches they have established relationships with at all division levels, and they are encouraging athletes to be patient. Most programs will not know what their needs will be until after this spring is over and their current athletes on the rosters know if they plan to return to use the additional eligibility or not. Right now, coaches want to hear updates from athletes, see video in the form of highlights and full matches and receive information on schedules and streaming to watch athletes compete at tournaments.
Use this time to build relationships with college coaches and update your video to share with them. Stay focused on your academic and athletic goals, and continue to communicate with your club recruiting coordinator and/or club coach as you navigate the next few months of your recruiting journey.
This article is written by Briana Schunzel, JVA Director of Marketing and Education in collaboration with Glenna Bianchin, Recruiting Coordinator for Carolina Union Volleyball Club and a group of JVA members from across the country.