March 16, 2015

What do you bring?

This is the first post written on by someone other than me (The Coach!) - John Forman was instrumental in bringing Inside College Volleyball to fruition and serves as the book's Editor.  In addition to working on his doctorate degree in England, coaching men's and women's college volleyball in England (with a background of college volleyball coaching in the USA), he also authors the Coaching Volleyball website.

I would encourage you to direct any questions about the article to John at his Coaching Volleyball website and Thank You to John for a great post!

What do you bring to the volleyball recruiting table?
Getting recruited to play volleyball at the college or university of your choice is a lot like trying to get a job. It’s not just about saying “Hey, look at me!”, though that is where a lot of Volley Families think it ends. It’s about showing a head coach what you would do to help their program.
OK, it’s true. If you’re a real stud athlete playing for one of the top Juniors programs you’ll probably have coaches lining up to try to get you into their team. The reality of things, though, is that most players fall into the average category, so they don’t stand out in the recruiting process.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s no shame in being an average player for the division of volleyball you’re targeting. By definition, most people fit into that category. As Coach has discussed numerous times, there are tons of 5’9” outside hitters, 6’ middles, and 5’7” setters trying to get on to Division I rosters, not to mention loads and loads of liberos. It’s just the reality of things, which means it’s a really competitive environment.
If you fit into one of those categories, or otherwise want to improve your chances of being recruited to a school of your choice, you need to try to stand out in some way. That means you should be asking the question…
What do I have that could benefit the team, coach, or program?
You need to think about things from the other side of the equation. What does the coach you’re trying to convince to offer you a spot in the team want or need? Obviously, it’s easy to look at the roster and see what position(s) they need in the next recruiting class. What I’m talking about is going beyond that.
Here’s one such consideration.
I used to coach in the Ivy League. Obviously, academics were a major consideration in the recruiting process. It wasn’t just about meeting a minimum standard, though. It was also about a recruiting class collectively having an average qualification level above that.  This is something I’m sure is the case for a lot of the schools with high academic standards.
For example, let’s say the minimum acceptable GPA is 3.5. The school, though, may require that an incoming class of recruits average 3.7 as a group. That means if the coach wants to recruit a player with a GPA below 3.7 (but still at 3.5 or better) they need to have one or more players who come in higher to balance things out. In a situation like this, if you have a 3.8 GPA you could separate yourself from the rest of the players at your position because you offer something above and beyond what you can do on the court.
I guarantee you, there are players who get recruited specifically to help the incoming class academic average. I’m not saying they are comparatively poor players. Good grades, though, can offset slightly lower skills or lesser experience. Alternatively, good grades could earn you an academic scholarship, freeing up volleyball scholarship money for someone else, which could be a real help to the program. This is a big deal at some levels.
Obviously, not everyone is going to be able to stand out academically. Think about what else you might have to offer. Are you a leader? Do you have a really positive personality? Do you work harder than anyone else? Think about what – beyond skill and physical attributes – differentiates you from your current teammates and others you see and makes you someone a coach would want around.
Don’t stop at thinking about things from a sports perspective either. What else do you have going on? Athletic departments love to share the off-court exploits of their student-athletes, which means the volleyball coach is going to look good if you do something positive on campus or in the community. These sorts of things can be particularly important lower down the competitive ranks where being an athlete isn’t expected to be as all-consuming.
Let’s not forget enthusiasm! Sometimes the decision which player to make an offer to is made based on which one seems to want it more. There’s obviously no guarantee, but a player who expresses a strong, sincere desire to attend the school and be part of the team is going to be seen by the coach as someone more likely to be happy in the program.
The bottom line is that it isn’t just about how good a volleyball player you are. So as you’re writing your next intro email, building your athlete profile putting together your recruiting video, or whatever, make sure to have in mind the benefits the school(s) you’re targeting would gain by making you a part of their volleyball program and campus community. Do that and you’ll increase your chances for success.

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