Wondering about what the recruiting process might look like? This post briefly covers some of the major steps in recruiting, from deciding that you want to play in college, to signing an NLI. Each one of these steps could be a post of its own, so be sure to click on the links for a more in-depth exploration of each step.
While I’ve laid these out in a logical order, keep in mind that everyone’s recruiting experience is different. I’m not saying that you have to take these steps in this specific order or even take them all—you may skip around depending on your individual circumstances.
Decide that you want to play in college and why
This may seem like it’s already a given, but in reality it is so important to consciously make this decision. Especially consider your motivation for playing in college. Why do you want to play? Is your reason for playing in college strong enough to carry you through all of the challenges of collegiate athletics for 4-5 years?
Read more in Why Play Volleyball in College
Think about what you’re looking for in a school and in a program
Sometimes, I think athletes are so enthusiastic to play at the next level, that they forget to consider important aspects like where a school is located, the culture and environment of the program, and what they want to study.
For example, if your heart is set on studying a certain major and your dream volleyball program is at a school that doesn’t offer that major… you need to seriously think before you start to market yourself to that program!
Read more in What to look for in a college volleyball program
Make a massive list of schools that fit the criteria you’ve set
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for in a school and in a program, make a massive list of every school that fits that criteria. For me, that list started out with around 50 schools scattered across the western United States.
Email blast all of those schools (including questionnaires, etc)
Once you have a list, it’s time to start contacting schools. I recommend starting out with an email. That email doesn’t have to be completely unique for every school (you will probably want every school to know your height, age, position, etc). Just be sure you address it to the correct coach if you’re copying and pasting a lot!
Schools may have a questionnaire that you can fill out. Do it!
There are a few things to be aware of when you begin making phone calls to coaches. First, regardless of your age, you can always make calls to coaches. Second, keep in mind that depending on your age, coaches may or may not be able to call you back—if a coach doesn’t return a call, there is nothing personal to it! They just want to keep the NCAA rules.
Summer camps are a great recruiting tool and something you can do at any point of the recruiting process. There is no better way to show off your skills to the programs you’re interested in, than by signing up for their camps. Summer camps are usually pretty expensive and you only have so much time—be sure to prioritize here in order to protect your time, money, and sanity!
These can only occur on or after Sept 1 of your junior year. Unofficial visits are a great way to get to know a school better, explore the campus, and meet the coaching staff. On an unofficial visit, you will pay all of your own expenses, including travel, lodging, and food. Because of the associated costs, you’ll need to strategize regarding how many visits you’ll make and which schools you’ll visit.
Official visits are also restricted until on or after Sept 1 of your junior year. On this type of visit, the volleyball program will pay for costs like travel, lodging, and food. You will not only spend time with the coaching staff, but you will likely be invited to watch a match, visit with the team in the locker room, and maybe even participate in a team activity.
Beginning July 1 after your junior year, you can have face to face contact with coaches off campus. In some instances, a coach may come and visit you at your home. This a great chance for them to get to know you and your family. Of course, a home visit is optional depending on the preferences of the player.
A verbal commit can happen at any time during the recruiting process. A verbal commit is a gentlemen’s agreement that you will play for a specific school and often entails a scholarship offer. Other schools can continue to contact and recruit you, however, you should tell them that you have already committed. Breaking a verbal commit is rare—both you and the school should expect to follow through.
The NLI is the “National Letter of Intent” and signals the official end of the recruiting process. Signing an NLI means that you’re committed to attending a specific school and playing for their program. Players may request a release from an NLI if they change their mind, however there can be consequences that may affect your playing eligibility. Do not sign an NLI without the intent to follow through on the commitment.
That’s essentially the process! Like I said before, let yourself be flexible and don’t set too many expectations for how things will happen or when. Everyone’s journey is a little different!