September 26, 2016

College Volleyball Recruiting without playing Club

Hi Coach,

First of all, I'd like to thank you for all the great advice you've given in your book and on this website. You've already answered a ton of questions about volleyball, recruitment, and playing at the next level.

So here's my situation. I'm a 16-year-old 5' 11 middle blocker just beginning the school season of my junior year. I played club ball in the 13's and 14's years, but (while still playing school ball) took my 15's and 16's years off, mostly due to burnout. Now, however, I'm more excited than ever about playing more and improving my skills, especially this year, because I know 17's is where most coaches start seriously recruiting players. I should add that I don't feel "behind" my fellow junior class (those who have played club consistently) because my school team is exceptionally good and the coaching is great. I feel like I learn a lot and am constantly improving. I'd also been doing clinics and extra practices during the off seasons to keep up.

Right now there are two options for the rest of my junior year as far as volleyball goes. 1) I could play club ball on a national team who has already offered me a spot, although it would be a strain on my large family, factoring in time spent away at tournaments, club costs, travel costs, and other expenses such as food, gas, etc., or 2) Practice with some of my teammates and school coach throughout club season and scrimmage other teams in a nearby club. I wouldn't be getting any material for a tournament highlight video, and I couldn't exactly email coaches to come watch me play, but I would be getting coaching and playing time, and I could always film a skill video (I think you've said in the past that as a college coach you actually prefer skill videos?).

My question is this: Is it necessary to play club in order to be considered for a scholarship? How, if possible, would I go about being recruited for college volleyball without playing club? If it is something that can be done, I think it would be a better option for my family, especially since I know I don't want to play D1 (my goal is D2/NAIA). So how do I reach out to those coaches if I won't be playing in tournaments next spring? Can I send a highlight video from my school season, and then possibly some skills videos or film from practices next spring rather than tournament highlights? Basically, if you were me, and playing club ball would be logistically tricky, what is the course of action you would take to get noticed by D2/NAIA coaches?

Again, thanks for all your wonderful advice in your book and on this website!! And thank you for taking the time to consider my question(s).

-Perplexed Player

Thank you for the compliments on my book and!  Glad that both avenues of information have been able to help you!

You have referenced something which many club volleyball families are managing and that is 'burn out' - Either physically, emotionally or financially, year round volleyball with the club volleyball season being dominant can easily lead to an exhaustion.  Because of how young club and almost year round volleyball can begin, staying fresh and focused for 10 years, before even going off to college, is a daunting challenge.

If a player/family feels this 'burn' approaching, it is best to do step away earlier in club than later in the club.  Better to take the  8th and 9th grade years off from club than the 11th and 12th grade years, if playing college volleyball is a desire.

The opportunity cost of club volleyball is high; financially, physically, emotionally, time commitment, academics, family time, etc, etc, are all impacted by club.  Playing club easily takes away the opportunity of traveling just for adventure, saving for a new car, getting a better grade, visiting with Aunt Edna and so on.

If a player's goal is to play college volleyball, club is not mandatory but customary, especially for those aspiring to the DI level.   Club allows for thousands of additional touches upon the volleyball.  Beyond good or bad coaches, beyond regional or national level teams, beyond all of that, each touch upon the ball can make your better and a thousand touches will make you a thousand times better.

As to your questions; if you were intent upon playing NCAA Division I volleyball, then I would reply that you should play club on the national team which has already offered you a spot.  DI recruits must obtain maximum repetitions and then play in national tournaments where they can display their abilities to DI coaches.

But, you have noted that D2/NAIA is your desired level, so this changes the response.  Before I give the world's best answer to your question, please be aware that many elite level D2 and NAIA programs (those in the top 10+) operate and recruit like DI programs, so the expectations of the recruitment scenario are the same.

For those D2/NAIA programs outside of the elite ranks, a recruit does not necessarily have to play club but must be conscious of still developing abilities.  As I have written about many times and spoken about at my many NCSA Athletic Recruiting events, a player's ability will determine their opportunity.  Too many families/players think that since they are not shooting for DI, then they can just play high school and send out some emails to secure the D2/NAIA position. This is an old school mentality which is no longer valid.

The number of high school age athletes playing volleyball continues to grow, but there are no more colleges/universities being built.  This results in the supply vs demand equation becoming a disadvantage for players; there is an increasing number of good players trying to secure roster spots with a non increasing number of colleges.  This new reality means that players must continue to develop skill sets outside of their high school season, because they are competing against a thousand other recruits for that roster spot.

If you decide to not play club volleyball, then attending open gyms, scrimmaging against teams, engaging in clinics/private lessons and increasing your physical fitness will be critical to achieving your goal of securing a D2/NAIA opportunity.

In terms of managing the recruitment process, video and combines will be your two best avenues.  While you may not have club tournament footage, you can still video practices, lessons and scrimmages.  This will give you current video to send out to college coaches.  

Recruiting combines (also called Showcases) can be a useful tool for exposure to college coaches, along with a venue for you to invite specific programs to come watch you play in person.  If there are major club tournaments in your greater region, many of them will offer open Combines (you don't have to be playing in the tournament to register and participate).

With any situation, playing club or not playing club, the outreach process by the player is the critical part of any recruiting situation.  College coaches need your help to 'find' you because there are so many many high school age players who want to play college volleyball.  If you reach out to the appropriate level of collegiate program, that also matches well your non-volleyball interests, then you are positioning yourself to be successful in the recruiting game.  Because of technology and the internet, it is simply a matter of emailing them with your information and including a video link.  

The more active you are in the outreach process, with using video, the more opportunities you will have (provided you are contacting appropriate D2/NAIA programs)!


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