Playing volleyball at the collegiate level is almost every single player's dream as a young athlete. From the number of hours dedicated to the gym to the thousands of reps taken over an athlete's lifetime, it all leads up to one moment: being recruited by a college team.
It's generally noted that your sophomore year in high school is a great year to begin engaging with coaches about their programs and sending them your highlight videos. Some athletes will reach out as soon as their freshman year of high school. This will allow athletes to determine the type of program they wish to join, as well as give them a plethora of time to reach out to different programs across the country. It's important to note that you can always make a new highlight video each year to keep sending out to different coaches.
A key aspect of the recruiting process is making sure you take charge of your recruiting experience. Put yourself on the radar. No matter which division you are seeking out, DI, DII, or DIII, reach out to all of the coaches with a highlight video expressing not only your desire to be a future player in their program, but why you would be a great fit.
In the 2021/2022 school year, there were 520,600 registered high school volleyball players across the United States. Currently, in the NCAA across DI, DII, and DIII, there are a total of 1,037 volleyball programs to choose from. Quick math would suggest that if you want to be on a coach's radar, you need to put yourself on it.
How Early Can Recruits and College Coaches Begin Communication?
USA Volleyball states that DI and DII coaches cannot communicate with recruits or their families until June 15th or later, after their sophomore year of high school. DIII and NJCAA have fewer restrictions regarding when they can begin contacting recruits, but they will generally wait until after an athlete's sophomore year of high school.
However, collegiate coaches can begin communication with both high school and club coaches whenever they want. It is also important to note, there are no restrictions stating when an athlete can reach out to a college coach. They can reach out through email, phone calls, text messages, snail mail, etc. as soon as they would like, but depending on the division of the program will restrict when a coach is allowed to administer a response.
What is The Difference Between an 'Official' and 'Unofficial' Visit?
As a recruit, there are two types of visits you can go on to get onto campus: An official or unofficial visit. According to NCSA Sports, official and unofficial visits are defined as:
- Official Visit: Any visit to a college campus in which any part is financed by the school.
- Unofficial Visit: Any campus visit entirely financed by the recruit's family.
Official visits are known to be saved for a university's top recruits, and being asked to go on one is a huge honor. However, if you are not asked to go on an official visit, do not fret. Many athletes take unofficial visits and get recruited to play at the collegiate level. My volleyball journey stemmed from an unofficial visit to a university within one of the top DII conferences in the country.
Do not be afraid to arrange an unofficial visit with a university that has a program you are aspiring to play for. Unofficial visits are all a part of putting yourself on a coach's radar. An important DI rule change within the NCAA, you cannot arrange an unofficial visit with the athletics department of the university or interact with the coach about recruiting until August 1st of your junior year of high school.
When Should You Expect A Scholarship Offer?
If you have learned anything from this article, it's how important it is to reach out to programs on your own, starting as early as your freshman year in high school. Even if a coach cannot respond to you until June 15th or later of your sophomore year, sending them your highlight video with a message about why you would be a great fit for their program will land you a spot on their radar for the upcoming recruiting seasons.
There are generally two steps for a scholarship offer: a verbal acceptance, and a written offer, also known as a National Letter of Intent. A DI or DII collegiate program can receive a verbal acceptance as early as June 15th of your sophomore year, but an NLI (National Letter of Intent) cannot be signed until the mid part of November during your senior year of high school.
However, a DIII or an NJCAA university can make an offer any time they wish. These division schools will usually wait until an athlete's junior or senior year after they have taken the ACT and/or the SAT.
As a volleyball recruit, it is important to put yourself on a program's radar but to also keep your options open. Send your highlight video to as many universities as possible! This will allow you the ultimate exposure, and hopefully the opportunity to play volleyball at the collegiate level.