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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