Let me answer your questions below, as you have many!
Hi Coach Matt, Hi to you!
I am a sophomore and I have been sending emails out to volleyball coaches, some D1 and some D3. Why not DII? Division II can be at the best of both worlds - Athletic and Academic with time to enjoy college. Also, NAIA, which is very similar to DII in scholarships, time commitment and playing level.
I had a few questions: And I have a few answers!
First of all, since I am only a sophomore, what are the rules on “who can contact who”? This is where collegiate athletics can get confusing - There are 5 college volleyball opportunities; NCAA Divisions I, II, II, NAIA and Junior College and each category will have their own contact/communication rules. As a reference point, the recruit can contact (email or call) any school at any time. NCAA DI schools have the most limitations on when they can respond and NAIA/JC's have no limitations on when they can respond, while NCAA DII and DIII schools are somewhere in that middle zone. Just remember that you can reach out at anytime, but don't get down if they don't respond (because they may not be able to).
I have received a mix of generic emails containing questionnaires, and also some personalized, individual emails. Are the schools sending generic emails not interested? Not necessarily. That program just may use a generic initial outreach for potential recruits as their standard. Each program will have their own level of support; some enjoy multiple assistants and access to a secretary, while others it may just be the head coach. If a program has support, then they can get personal and fancy.
Also, I want to start going on unofficial visits, but I don’t know how to start this process. Unofficial visits are a good thing but only when invited; you don't want to be the bothersome relative who shows up at the door. If you really want to go visit a certain campus, but have not been invited, then visit the campus as part of the admissions department's guided tour. Going on a visit via the admission's department is a great way to see the campus, without the influence of athletics.
What are the procedures, both for setting it up, and for once I’m there? As mentioned above, you should only go on an unofficial visit (a visit to campus where you meet with the volleyball coaches and go on a tour of campus guided by the staff or volleyball players) when invited. To be invited means that the program is interested in you as a recruit and has asked you to come visit (with contact limitations, the DI programs will work through your coach to communicate). If you are invited for an Unofficial Visit, the program will set up an itinerary so you are able to tour the campus, athletic facilities, meet with Academic Counselors and/or professors.
Is there a limit for how many visits I can go on? Nope, unofficial visits have no limit. You should be aware that during a NCAA Dead Period, the college coach cannot see/speak with you on campus (hence the word Dead).
How large should my list of possible schools be? It should be large, based upon your broad parameters for a school. Think of building a pyramid; start with a large foundation of schools and narrow your list as you work through the recruiting process.
So far, I have contacted about 20-25 different schools. Is that too few? Most of the time yes. Unless you have a very specific major or you are only comfortable attending college in a small geographic region, your collegiate outreach should number in the hundreds.
Is it true that coaches ONLY want to see video of full games, or are highlight reels acceptable as well? Currently, I have a Hudl page of only highlight reels, one from my most recent club season and one from my most recent high school season. Each coach has their own opinion on video, just like they have their own opinion on the best ice cream flavor. Some, like me, want to start with a highlight or skills video so we can quickly asses a recruit's techniques. Some enjoy seeing the full game video, as it shows some intangibles which a skills video does not. Best to have both ready, and I suggest sending the skills video first (quicker to watch by the coach), with the game video ready to send upon request. Make sure you are sending recent video; a video that is older than 3 months does not help you.
Lastly, I am 5’11 and I know that most hitters at the college level are 6’0 or taller. My vertical is decent, so since I am on the smaller side, should I only be talking to D3 coaches? Incorrect - there are many hitters that are 6' or taller, but there are many which are not 6' plus. You must remember there is a broad spectrum of height when it comes to hitters. Yes, Penn State's hitters are all taller than 6'. But, many DI's have OH's which are shorter, and a few DI's will have non 6' MB's. Division II/NAIA/JC will see a larger percentage of non-6' plus athletes. Don't focus on height, but rather, focus on ability. If a player is 6'2", can't jump much and has a bad armswing, she won't be recruited as much as a 5'10" player with hops and a solid armswing. College Volleyball recruiting can be height driven, but it is really driven by the combination of athleticism and skills.