My daughter is in 8th grade and in the middle of her season, the coach wants to know where she wants to play because she likes to set but is also a powerful hitter, however, she is only 5’ 3”. My question is; where should she focus if she wants to play college volleyball, as a setter or hitter, or what? Or should she just find a different sport? Or should she just plan on a high school career because of her height?
This is a good question and a bit of a scary question. Short answer is don't worry about college volleyball and encourage your child to play the position she most enjoys!
I would discourage you to just plan on a high school career because the definition of being a college player is incredibly varied. Whether you are starting for Penn State or a practice player at Tillamook College (this is where you learn the finer point of cheddar), you are a college player!
How about we work backwards first - College Volleyball. So, a 5'3" club volleyball player walks into a bar and...... Thought I could come up with the punch line but no luck! Your daughter is in 8th grade and 5'3"; yes this is not tall, but she is still just in 8th grade. Question being, how tall is Mom and how tall is Dad, and do you have a 4'8" grandparent lurking in the recent family tree? This will determine if 5'3" is the max or maybe there is a chance of an extra inch or two coming up.
5'3" with a very good jump may open up some opportunities as a setter in NCAA Division III, Division II and Junior Colleges, but may well preclude any Division I looks unless she is the mini-me version of Misty May (did I really blow my achilles on Dancing With the Stars) Trainer.
As a hitter, she would need the jumping ability of a men's outside hitter on the Moon, but it is still possible in the NCAA Division III ranks, along with a few select JC's and Division II programs, but again, she would need hops, ups, elevation, etc.
Each inch she grows (hopefully still a possibility) she will become more attractive to college coaches in each category outside of Division I. As a setter, if she hits the 5'7" ish range, with very good skill sets and a solid jump, then she will start to attract the attention of DI programs.
If the Volleyball Gods have decided 5'3" is it and she wants to play in college, she should probably stay in the outside hitter position as long as possible in her club experience, then move into the Libero role when she hits the 16's or 17's age groups. Stay in the OH position because she will get more touches in varied situations, which will just make the game 'clearer' to her when she moves into the Libero roll (or dive and roll!).
Now, to the here and now of the current club season - She should play whatever position she enjoys playing the best. If she likes setting, but is also a fan of attacking (and who does not like to bang the ball?), then maybe the coach would consider a 6-2 offense or an offense which is a 6-2 with her going all around and a setter/opposite go front row/back row with each other. If she just loves the physicality of passing and attacking, then encourage her to keep at it.
As I have written about before, do not worry about anything having do with college volleyball other than being a fan (seriously, try to get to some college games - I know high school season makes it a bear, but every fan counts!). There really is no advantage to getting her name out 'early' because she is not going to grab any one's attention with her current stats, so why complicate the mental picture she enjoys now. Extend this no pressure, no worries about college volleyball as long as possible.
With your daughter, I would not start sending out information until her Junior fall of high school. Let her enjoy 16's and see if any coaches send her introductory letters just because her abilities caught their attention. You will not be 'behind' by having her wait until her junior year just because there is plenty of time to get onto the 'to see' lists of college coaches who are preparing for the spring club season.
Just enjoy her loving a great game!