OK, now that a PSA (Prospective Student Athlete - NCAA speak for recruit) is in their Sophomore year of High School, it is time to get a bit, just a bit more serious about the recruiting process.
First thing, is to just enjoy the high school season. Being 15 or just having turned 16 is still very young for college coaches to get a good feel about your future abilities, so don't worry about college yet. Work hard in practice, play your best in games and enjoy being a Sophomore in High School and let your parents worry about the fact you will soon be driving a car on your own!!
A volleyball playing suggestion that I have, would be to learn to focus and compete. If you have the desire to someday play college volleyball, then now is a good time to begin the mental part of the game. What I mean by that, is to be more serious about focusing and getting the most out of each playing/training opportunity. I am not saying don't have fun, but I am saying that a player who wishes to play at the next level should start to focus a bit better and concentrate on the task at hand - practice or a match. Too often, I will be at a high school match and see an almost recreational mentality among the players - they are going into the stands to say hello to family or friends during the warm-up, they are singing and dancing to the music on the speaker system, etc. To me, this shows a lack of focus and seriousness about the upcoming match.
After the High School season is finished, then it is time to begin the first part of the recruiting process. This first part is selecting a junior volleyball club team. The reality is that junior club volleyball teams are the best way to physically prepare for college volleyball and the best venue to expose your abilities to potential schools. This time period, from your sophomore winter to your junior winter, tends to have the biggest impact upon the development of high school players into potential college players.
On a top 16's junior club team (open to players 16 years old and younger), there may be 9 or 10 players who could have potential to be a Division I college volleyball player - by the time the next year comes around, on that same top team that is now at the 17's level, the number of potential Division I players has dropped to around 4. It is not that the other players have gotten worse, but since this age range includes such changes in height, strength, coordination, applying advanced skills, that a few players elevate to a higher level, while a number of players stay the same. If you don't play club volleyball at all, those players that do will absolutely zip past you in ability.
When selecting a junior club volleyball team, you must be cognisant of the specifics of that club team. Is the junior team a regional club team (just play local/regional tournaments and maybe one big national tournament) or are they a national - travel club team (they play in a number of national qualifier tournaments, along with the stronger elite tours and regional tournaments). As a sophomore, this is an important decision, but not yet a critical decision. The financial difference between these two levels of club teams is significant - anywhere from a $3,000 to $15,000 difference.
A player will be seen by more college coaches if they play on a national club team. The national qualifier tournaments and the elite tour tournaments have a larger number of club teams in the field or the participating teams have already established themselves as top flight. By going to such tournaments, the college coaches can get the most 'bang for their buck'. Only just a few of the top level DI programs have the budget to scout at any and all juniors tournaments of their choosing, but it is also these elite DI programs that don't need to be at every tournament, because they can just recruit from the very top flight players from the long established junior volleyball club teams.
Now, don't get me wrong - college volleyball coaches are hard working and driven by a desire to succeed, so there will be coaches at the smaller, regional tournaments. But, at the smaller regional tournament, there may be 5 coaches, while at the national qualifier tournament there will be 250 coaches (no joke!). When the larger tournaments can set-up 80+ volleyball courts in a convention center, it makes sense that more colleges would attend such scouting opportunities.
After a player has selected their junior club volleyball team and received their playing schedule for the junior volleyball club season, then it is time for the player to send out a brief Introduction Letter to colleges. I specifically said Introduction Letter, not e-mail. The reason why, is that Division I college volleyball coaches (and other level college coaches) get HUNDREDS of e-mails a week from a variety of sources - recruits, parents, sponsors, athletic directors, general campus educational e-mails, current players, conference matters - because of this, your single e-mail can easily get lost by accident. A letter has physical substance, it will be opened and reviewed by a college volleyball coach or staff member.
This Introduction Letter should contain the following and be all within 1 page - it can look like a flier: Name, mailing address, telephone number, e-mail address, year of graduation, club team name and age group/specific team name, position(s) played, height, weight, approach touch and block touch, along with a listing of the tournament playing schedule.
While it may be cool to send your information to the Stanford's and Penn State's of the college volleyball world, it is important to be realistic. If you are a 5'9" outside hitter, with an approach touch of 9'3" and you are from North Dakota (nothing against North Dakota, but it is not a hot-bed of junior volleyball) - your letter will be put into the round file; also known as the paper product recycling bin.
I encourage the player/family to be open and send the introduction letter to a variety of schools - large, small, 4 year college, major university, local or cross country, but to be VERY realistic of a potential level of playing ability. If you are not sure about that potential level of ability, ask someone you trust who may have experience with such a question - maybe your high school coach has had players go off to play college volleyball, the club director of your junior club team, maybe you happen to have a family connection with a college coach. If you are a potential low Division I, upper Division II player, save some time and money by not sending your letter to every PAC 10 school.
All you are looking to do, is just get onto the list of players that college coaches may want to check out among the 16 year old age group. For many coaches, the last thing on the 'to-do' list is to gather/evaluate the younger age groups, but if they have time after scouting the 17's age group, then they will move the 16's courts.
I caution families not to get too high if there a few college coaches sitting on a court that your daughter/son is playing on. I also will tell you not to be concerned if coaches don't come by at all - it is still very early and there are many, many opportunities that will come.
As the junior volleyball club season progresses through winter, spring and into summer, then a secondary letter or possibly an e-mail, if you have previously sent a letter, informing the colleges of your junior volleyball season championship plans - there are a number of season ending events (Junior Olympics, the AAU Championships, the VolleyFest, etc.). By the late spring, early summer, many college programs have secured their 17's age bracket recruiting class or are near to finishing it, and are ready to spend more time and focus on the 16's age teams. By providing the college programs specific information about your season ending competition plans, you are enabling yourself to be seen by coaches who are making some serious evaluations in consideration of their next recruiting class.
The goal of the sophomore year of the recruiting process is two fold - develop your physical and mental volleyball abilities, and to get on the preliminary recruiting lists of a number of selected schools.