January 6, 2014

NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball and the short player

Hi Coach-

I recently was looking for some tips on how to get into a D1 volleyball college… And I found your website. I read one of your answers to the "D1 talent and the D3 height outside hitter." I am a freshman in high school and I am really trying to focus on my future as a college volleyball player. 

I have been playing school volleyball and club volleyball since 4th grade. I have switched from MIddle Hitter to an outside hitter/ right side hitter and I really want to get into a great volleyball college. 

I go to many volleyball camps during the summer at multiple clubs and colleges. My question is if I am 5'7'' right now and maybe growing a little more. How can I be a volleyball player in a D1 college and still be in a position I love to play.

Thanks so much! M.

As you have figured out, your challenge is your height (or lack of) as it relates to being a NCAA Division I Outside Hitter.  Volleyball is a height driven positional sport; unless you are a libero or the team runs a front to back 6-2 offense with the setters.

5'8' ish is on the edge of being a DI OH, and you would want to have a good vertical jump to compete.  VolleyFamilies have to remember that there is a range of DI play.  Because of the influence of the power conferences, we tend to only see these elite programs on television.  It is because of this visual, that we get the impression that all NCAA DI attackers are monsters with huge jumps!  

When you start to look at the mid-majors, and 'no-name' DI conferences, you will begin to notice a larger number of attackers without the height to top the Christmas tree.  6' middles and 5'8" outsides can be found at these non power conference programs.  With the 'shorter' player competing at these programs, they will still be athletic (jump high, very quick).

A smaller player, playing at the DI level, must be athletic and complete in their skill sets. The tall players can 'get away' with not having the best armswings, or not being disciplined in their court movements, or not being in peak physical condition - This is not the case for the smaller players.

As to your question, yes, you can play NCAA Division I volleyball as an Outside Hitter but it requires you to be very good in all the skill sets and very athletic.  With your current age, as you prepare for this challenge, I suggest you focus on skills right now and not so much physical improvements.  Your body is still developing (and maybe growing) and you are only a freshman, so to go into an intense physical regimen is not the best use of your time.

Instead, focus on becoming the old school, all around outside hitter by mastering all the skill sets in volleyball.  The old school OH's could do everything; pass, attack, block, serve, defend, set.....there was no weaknesses in their game!  The younger you learn and practice these skill sets, the more complete of an outside hitter you will become.  

If you can master these skills, then when you start to get stronger as you become older, you can add a physical regimen to improve your quickness, vertical and power.

I will close with two points:

1)  Smaller players must be very patient and focused in the NCAA Division I recruiting process because they tend to be later commitments.  DI recruiting has become fluid; programs offer athletes early and late.  At USA Volleyball Junior Championships last summer in Dallas, there were NCAA Division I programs offering full scholarships for the fall!  The unsettled nature of DI with coaching changes, conference changes, early commitments that decide to transfer after a year or two, coaches cutting players who don't get better, all result in the DI recruiting process being constant.

2)  As I have written about many times, both here on collegevolleyballcoach.com and Inside College Volleyball, the NCAA Division I level may not be the best choice for a player's collegiate future.  I personally believe that the NCAA DII level may be the best fit for player who wants to compete at a high level, to have a life outside of volleyball and to enjoy the summer and school holidays.

Good luck and work on skills now!



  1. So at 5"3' I have no hope of ever doing anything... I got shortchanged on the height chart. I guess I'll just play intramural..

  2. No - not at all; there are a bunch of very good, but short Libero's. You won't play front row in college, but you can find your spot. If you quit now, you will never do it - If you work hard to find the collegiate spot that is your comfort zone, then you can have a great experience!

  3. AnonymousJune 26, 2014

    Well the same thing applies for me as the young lady above, except for two things. I am going to be a junior, and I am a boy. Does this crush my chances of being an Outside Hitter for a D1 college?

  4. Men's and Women's Collegiate Volleyball are different beasts but men's volleyball is possibly even more height driven than women's volleyball because there are a limited number of DI men's teams (as compared to women's teams). If you are a shorter men's OH, you better have a great jump and a cannon for an arm. Men's Volleyball is all power; blocking and attacking are paramount.

  5. I'm 5'7 a sophomore in high school I have a 3 feet 5 inches vertical as of right now each year I have made at least a 2-inch improvement on my vertical do you think there is a hope for me to be a d1 outside hitter

  6. Yes, if you pass very well and play solid defense! Just make sure you include video with EVERY outreach email because coaches will be biased because of the height, until they see the jump!

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  9. I'm a freshman outside hitter with a vertical of 2 1/2 feet. I'm 5'5 as of now and might grow a little more. Is there any chance I could be an outside hitter in at D2 or something because I assume D1 is out of the question. Or should I focus on a different position?

    1. You could play D2, depending on the level of D2 but more importantly, the level of your skills. DI would be out of the question for a 5'5" OH, so you would need to join the ranks of the thousands of Liberos trying to make the DI roster.

  10. Ive started playing my sophomore year but been named MVP multiple times, I am now 5'11 with about a 2'5 vert with no plyo of fitness, I'm in my junior year now do you think I'd still be able to play D1.

  11. Yes, you could play at a lower level DI (outside of the top 150), but you have to market yourself to them, not hang around hoping that they find you!

  12. I am in seventh grade, and i play at school and club. I am only 5'1 do you think i could make high school varsity? and D1 libero? Im on the second best team at my club as a DS/libero out of 5 teams im U13.

  13. With your age (7th grade), stay focused upon developing your skills sets. As a LIbero, don't worry about height, worry about passing and defense. If you develop your skill sets to a high degree, then you can attain your desired Varsity and DI Libero goals!

  14. I feel very overwhelmed with the thought of trying to apply for college teams. I am 5' 8", a junior, and an OH and REALLY want to be able to play that position in college. From your Article, it seems like a D2 school sounds more appropriate for that height. Would it even be possible for someone my height to attain a scholarship? I think I have stopped growing, (I haven't grown since 8th grade and my shoe size has stayed the same since then as well) so I'm starting to be more conscious of my weight, vertical and speed. Thank you for any advice

  15. Nothing to be overwhelmed by, just start emailing college coaches in your comfort zone and make sure you include video. Absolutely you can garner a DII scholarship of some level; just make sure you are working on getting better while reaching out!

  16. Hi. I am a 5'8 OH junior I have a pretty good vertical. I hit over the block many times in club tournaments and I am very quick. I just started sending out video to D2 today. I read your blog alot so I think I am doing the right thing cause I might not get recruited until my senior year. Should I send out applications to these schools during the fall of my senior year to the places high on my wish list? It's going to cost a lot of money. Or should I wait to hear back and will they do that before January 2016? Mid D1 program saw me last June and still seems interested cause I got an holiday email late 2014. But nothing since then. Hope you can help me cause I don't know what to do. Thank you for your help.

  17. Keep working the outreach and communication process - Because of your height, you will secure your collegiate opportunity in the spring of your senior year. Only apply to those schools you would attend if you were not going to play VB, because the others will get you in if they recruit/commit you!

  18. Hi. I'm a 5'3 Middle/OH with a vertical of 8'1. I'm currently a high school freshman. I plan to switch my position to setter/ DS. I plan to switch it to anything but hitter because I know I'm short and almost have no chance of playing D1 as a hitter. I would prefer setter. I'm pretty quick. All the sites I click on say I'm supposed to be at least 5'7 to play D1 Volleyball at the collegiate level as a setter. Do I have a chance to play D1 volleyball if I improve my vertical, technique, and skills?


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