June 11, 2012

Recruiting and the Small Outside Hitter

Hi coach!

Can you please not post this on the website? Thank you! So I play on a twos team at the most elite club in my state. I was on the top team in the region last year as a ds but I decided I wanted to play outside hitter on a twos team instead. I am 5'7" with a (hopefully growing!) great vertical. I am the team captain and play all the way around. Some coaches tell me playing D2 or D3 is definitely doable but others can't get past my height. They say D1 talent and D3 height. So where does that put me? I'm not sure what to try out for position wise next season. Do you have any advice or tips for becoming better? I really really want to be an oh and im better than many of the bigger girls but you know how that goes! Any magic growth potions! Haha :) what do I need to know?

Thanks so so much!

The D1 talent and the D3 height outside hitter

My reply just back to you.

Division I is very height driven, even at the lower levels.  There is a chance that a low level DI program could recruit you as an OH, but in the back on the coach's mind, they are thinking that they would probably shift you to DS/Libero if you can't cut it as a hitter.

I have four suggestions:

1.  Become so freaking good at every facet of being an Outside Hitter, that the height question does not loom as big.  Pass nails, have perfect technique, be a defensive whiz, block great, be able to hit line, hit angle, off speed shots to any part of the court, tool the block for a kill, use the block for a soft block and get the ball back, set perfectly on any broken play balls, have a great attitude that combines positivity with aggressiveness, etc.

2.  Continue to work on your jumping and physical strength.  You can't change your height because the DNA code is set, but you can increase your jumping ability and physical strength.  Now, I am not talking some crazy, over the top lifting or conditioning program.  But rather, a steady, consistent program that targets the appropriate muscle groups and allows for recovery to keep your body healthy.

3.  Actively pursue lower level NCAA Division I programs (you can get a RPI rating of all DI volleyball programs at ncaa.com, under the women's volleyball link); I would keep reaching out to the bottom 125-150 programs.  You could find coaches who are willing to think outside of the height box.  Be very aggressive about upper level D2 programs.  As I have written about many times, I have come to feel that D2 offers the best balance of volleyball, academics, support and having a life away from the court.

4.  Be patient in your recruiting efforts.  The reality is you will need to wait longer, and work harder in the outreach and communication process because of your height/talent/goals.  It would not surprise me if it takes until spring of your Senior year to find your home, and please remember that many DI's will be active in recruiting senior players in the spring.

Play the position you want to play in club, and make sure it matches the position you want to play in college.  I understand the logic, but I feel sad for players that move away from their favorite position just because they think they will have a better chance of playing DI in another position.  If you enjoy something, you will do it better.

The best player that I ever saw play, and played against, the best ever without a doubt was Karch Kiraly.  You probably know him as the color commentator on ESPN Volleyball matches.  Karch was a shorter OH for the men's game with a good vertical jump, but he was so talented and smart that he is regarded as the best player to have ever played the game of volleyball.  

Also, I would like to ask your permission to print this response on the site simply because there are any number of shorter players who are faced with the challenge of finding the college roster spot.  I don't see anything in your question that would remotely identify you.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen

Okay sure! I would love to help girls like me feel confident in their decision to be an oh! I also adore your site and find it very very helpful! Thanks again!

The D1 talent and the D3 height outside hitter :) 

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