Finding a good college, team, coach, and place to spend four years of your life is important and exciting! There are a lot of factors to consider when making the decision of where to go to college, but we've focused on the questions to ask during the recruitment process.
Here are nine questions to ask a coach that you're communicating with to see if you have found the right team to play for:
1) What is the team culture like?
Asking the coach about the team culture is huge. You want your values to line up with the team's values. Does the coach value hard work, working out, and a good team bond or does the coach have other values that don't align with yours?
When answering this question the hope is that the coach will explain what the team is like, how the group works together, and what the coach focuses on to grow values, ideals, and integrity within a sports program.
2) What is a typical practice like?
All coaches run their practices differently. Some practices are more focused on individual work (a position working on a specific skill set), some practices consist of an emphasis on team drills, and then there are a lot of options and plans in between. You will be practicing every day (besides game day) for the season and should make sure that the practice sounds like a practice you want to participate in. Plus, it is great to hear what the coach expects during the practices and what the coach places the most value on during practices.
3) Where does the team live?
Are freshman required to live in the dorms? What happens after freshman year? Asking this question can show more of the team's relationship if you find out that different girls on the volleyball team live together in an apartment building or house after freshman year. Based on the coaches answer you will see if the team is close or not. A lot of sports coaches encourage teammates to live together or close by, and you will also learn what kind of living options are available at that college.
4) What do you do outside of volleyball with the team to bond?
Starting as a freshman, or if you are a transfer student, at a college can be filled with anxious moments about fitting in and finding friends. But when you're on a sports team it's much easier and less stressful to make friends and have connections with people because you automatically have a group of people you will become close with. Ask about what the team does outside of volleyball to bond shows if the coach implements relationship growth between team members off the court. A coach might plan (or have captains plan) a camping trip, a community aid event, a bowling night, a carbo load, or any other experience that will enable teammates to learn what each other is like as a person, not just as a volleyball player.
5) What are your team goals?
Every coach and team focuses on different elements of the game. If defense is your favorite thing to work on and the coach emphasizes and values defense over anything else, then you might fall right in with working hard on defensive moves and techniques. Asking for team goals will clarify what the coach might focus on during practices as well as what the coach is looking for in an individual. Every team is at a different place in their program as well: one's team goal might be to win a tournament, one's might be to have an even record, and another's might be to win a game against a longstanding rival. Knowing these goals will help you be prepared for team expectations.
6) Do athletes have study halls or tutors to help with classwork?
The reason why we go to college is for our studies and making sure that the coach places an emphasis on that can be important as well. Does the team meet in the library every Tuesday and Thursday night after practice to make sure that homework and studying is not only getting done but emphasized? Are freshman assigned upperclassmen mentors to help with their new experience in college? Asking about the access to study halls and tutors will 1) show your interest in the academia side of college and 2) ensure that there are resources and help available for you to succeed.
7) Are the players involved in other extracurriculars?
Even though you think you're schedule might be full with classes and volleyball, some members of the team might participate in other curriculars, depending on the coach's rules and your time schedule. This could be work study, joining a club, playing intramural sports, writing for the university magazine, and many other curriculars. Ask the coach to see if this is an option and if your schedule is too full and complete you can ask about availability for this in the spring.
8) Do you have meetings with your players during the season?
Transparency and communication is important for a coach and player to have a good relationship. Some coaches input preseason, midseason, and postseason meetings with each of their players in order to assure that there are no misunderstandings happening.
9) What happens during the off season / spring season?
When your season is over there is still work to do. Ask your coach if the team does anything during the off season and what the spring season will look like! Maybe the girls get together on their own to play volleyball a couple times a week, or everyone meets in the gym for work out sessions together at a certain time. Playing volleyball in college consists of more than just playing for three months during the fall. Spring season is often more position-focused and can be a time where a player finds the most growth and development in a position.
Getting answers to these questions will show you what the coach and team is like at the college you're looking at going.
One more thing each recruit should do before deciding which school to attend:
Ask the coach if you can join in on a practice before you commit - OR - schedule a night to stay with some members of the team so that you can get a feel for the environment and atmosphere of the college before you make a decision.