September 12, 2011

Volleyball Position and Impact upon College Volleyball Recruiting

(***Please note that I had answered these questions before the player entered classes for her 9th grade year and I am just reprinting the exchange now as it might help other VolleyFamilies***).

Dear Coach,

My daughter started playing volleyball a year and a half ago after 5 ½ years of competitive gymnastics. She has made the “A” feeder team last fall and played in a power club team last spring. She just started high school and made the JV team. My question has to do with her position. She played middle for the feeder and club teams, even though she is only 5’-7” tall, but can block at 8’-4”. Her approach jump is 9’-0” (she has a 22” vertical). She has spend a lot of time this summer preparing for try outs as a left side hitter, but when it was time for try outs the JV coach decided to accept her as a DS, since there are 3 other OH that are taller than her (but not necessarily better hitters). Is there any hope that she will ever play as a OH? Should she just concentrate her efforts in DS skills? or is this a good time to consider learning setting more seriously? I find very frustrating to see her jumping/hitting/blocking skills wasted, and would like her to have the opportunity to play OH at least one club season…


Good questions and I will try my best to help.

Volleyball is a height driven, position specific sport.  Let me ask you questions and I will answer based on your possible answer(s):

1. Is your daughter done growing?  5'7" is small for an OH at most NCAA levels.  If she is not done growing, and can add an inch or two then she will be more attractive to DII/DIII coaches because this category is not as height dependent.  But, that being said, there are still successful 5'8" OH's in the mid to lower DI level who can jump and attack with power.

2.  Is your daughter's jump ability natural?  Meaning, has she lifted or is this just how she jumps?  Most players will tend to add inches to their vertical attack jumps throughout their careers as a byproduct of getting stronger as they physically mature, then in college we make them lift.

3.  Has she ever set before?  Setting is a skill ability that I feel a person has "it" or does not have "it"; I don't think it can be created or managed such as a hitter and even a passer. If she is comfortable setting because of just playing volleyball and has good technique, then this could be an option.  Smaller size setters are still valued by college programs, because we can give up some height to have ball control and smarts in the setting position.

I would not 'vacate' the OH position just yet and her being trained as a DS is not a bad situation to start with for her JV career, just because you can never be too good of a passer.  I suggest she have the mindset that she is an OH who is playing DS this year.

In terms of being an OH in club, this coming club season is the time to do that because each year from now on, height becomes a dominant driving factor in the recruiting process.  If she is still growing a bit, then she can keep within the OH position and maybe re-adjust her possible college category/level which would support a 5'8" OH (and many, many do).  But, to be seen as a viable OH option, with her height, she will need to be a very good passer, defender and keep adding to her vertical jump (which should come through maturity and strength, PLEASE do not put her in a lifting program now!).

As for selecting a club team, just be very specific that she wants to play OH and not DS - It means you may need to "shop" clubs or go with a club you may not have considered, but you are paying the $ so you have the right to choose.

Hello Coach, thank you for your quick response!

1. She is “supposed” to grow to at least 5’-8”. She has grown 3” per year since age 9, then slowed down after period began at 12, growing 1 ½” last 2 years. That seems to indicate that the growth will not stop just yet. With luck she might hit 5’-9”.

2. She has never worked on her vertical specifically; I think her jumping ability is a combination of natural ability and having done physical activities from an young age. Her gymnastics training was a big part of it, but the emphasis was on form, not just how high can you go. She has done weight room/conditioning this summer in preparation to fall sports, but she said she preferred less weight and more reps. This was done 2x a week, I would guess no more than 30 minutes in the weight room. Trainers were not volleyball specific, just high school staff. She has also danced (classical ballet) since age 4, and started on pointe last year – her instructors are very strict about allowing pointe work – only when they think their legs/ankles are strong enough.

3. She has not set seriously before, only playing around (like queen of the court type thing). She can pass well, and I have to say she can back set pretty good since she can bend back farther than most girls, but what she lacks is that perfect control and consistency since she never trained as a setter.

We don’t know if college volleyball is in her future, but right now, she is loving the sport. Considering that she has not touched a volleyball until 1 ½ years ago, and made the JV team, we feel that she can improve even more.

I agree 100% with you about the passing – without good passers we got no game! We learned that the hard way during club season… and that is why my daughter asked to have OH and DS clinics over the summer – she wanted to be able to play all around.
That is how she was able to make JV – the other OH are tall, but cannot play back row…

I have been telling her that this coming club season when she tries out for 15s could possibly be the last chance she has to play OH, and I am glad to hear you agree with me (maybe she will believe me now!). We have no plans on putting her on a lifting program (I am not sure I even know what this is), and I did notice her body mass filling out the last 2 years (she has always been a stick!). So I guess plyos would be ok to continue? We had 2 coaches tell us that she is a natural OH and that is why we would like her to give it one more try.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! Love your website!


Glad to help and I think you are making good decisions. Keep her as an OH, and she can always step into the DS/Libero role as she gets older if she does not continue growing and her passing ability does continue!


Thanks Coach!!! We are feeling tons better about our decisions! C.

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