What should I look for in a college volleyball program?

There are a lot of decisions you will need to make throughout the recruiting process. One of the biggest questions to answer is, “what should I look for in a college program?” In this post, I walk you through the main considerations every player should make.

Academic degrees

At the end of your college sports career, you will end up with a college degree! The NCAA has a number of rules that help to ensure that you progress towards your degree and that you are eligible to graduate after 4-5 years. Make sure that the programs you contact and market yourself towards offer degrees in subjects that you’re interested in.

Academic support

Throughout the recruiting process, ask questions about how you will be supported academically as an athlete. Many schools offer study facilities, tutoring, mentoring, and more. If you’re scheduling unofficial visits, ask to see these facilities or speak to an academic counselor. As a college athlete you will travel often, which may mean missing class frequently. You will need excellent academic support (and a great personal work ethic) to ensure that your sport doesn’t negatively influence your grades.

Location

The type of location you are hoping for is highly personal. Some schools, like Pepperdine, have beautiful beach side campuses. Others are inner city and buzzing with energy. Make the effort to visit different schools with different types of locations, campuses, and weather so that you can figure out what you like. Of course, distance from home is a huge consideration; for some athletes moving across the country is a dream come true and for other it is a nightmare!

Athletic Competitiveness

Are you looking to play with the best of the best? Or would you prefer to be the star on your team? Are you only considering highly recognizable teams and conferences or are you happy to play anywhere with a ball and a net? This is a highly personal decision and will be determined by your skill level, size, past accomplishments, and the degree to which you successfully market yourself to college coaches. My advice is to shoot high, low, and in between. Then, someday, you can take the offer that makes the most sense for you.

Team Culture

There are lots of aspects to consider when choosing a college volleyball program, but this one may be the biggest. You will spend incredible amounts of time with your teammates. They will become a combination of friend, coworker, and family to you. If you are on a campus visit and you detect any amount of toxicity or negativity in the team, do your best to figure out the cause. On the other hand, if you feel an easy and natural connection to the team and coaching staff during your visit, this may be a great indicator that the program and you are a good fit for each other.

Athletic scholarships and academic aid

Receiving an athletic scholarship is a hard-earned and incredible privilege. You should seriously consider any school that offers you a scholarship, even if they aren’t your first choice. Coaches offer scholarships to players that they believe can make a major impact on their team. In essence, an offer of an athletic scholarship means that the coaching staff can see a bright future for you as a part of their team. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to turn a scholarship offer down, but this is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Don’t forget about academic scholarships! Volleyball coaches have only 12 scholarships to give to their players and typically need around 16 (or more) players to run their team. That means that coaches are always on the lookout for good players who are willing to walk on and fund their college career via personal savings, loans, or academic scholarships. Look for schools where academics scholarships may be an option for you.

Seek advice and trust yourself

Seeking advice from family, friends, coaches, and teammates can be very helpful when making big decisions like this one. However, in the end, you should trust yourself to make the right decision for you. There’s a lot to consider and the above points are just a place to get started. A clarifying question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to play volleyball in college?” Consider what matters the most for you and start pursuing the college volleyball programs that check most of the boxes!

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