A huge thanks to Kamille Jones for participating in this interview and sharing some of her volleyball playing, coaching, and recruiting knowledge with the rest of us! Kamille is originally from Fort Worth, TX and graduated from Murray State in 2017 as an OH. Now she is a graduate assistant coach at West Texas A&M while she pursues an MBA.
Read on for answers to common questions like:
- I’m a high school senior, is it too late for me to be recruited? How do I take things into my own hands?
- What information about myself should I email to coaches and programs I’m interested in?
- What does recruiting at a big tournament look like from a coach’s perspective?
BOS: What were some of the challenges you faced as a part of the recruiting process? How did you handle them?
KJ: Someone told me many years ago when I was playing club ball and going through the recruiting process, “look for the team you can see yourself on.” This literally means, pull up the roster, do you look like them?—That’s what the coach likes. Do you match their measurables? This of course is not a foolproof method but one day after school I went home and pulled up all of the schools I would consider and then pulled up their rosters and found the players who were similar to me.
BOS: That’s a great way to find “good fit” schools. What’s the next step?
KJ: I emailed the coaches directly with my name, grad year, position, and link to film. The next week I got a phone call with interest from a coach, two weeks later the coach came to see me in a tournament, and a month later I was committed to Murray State University. This was during my final semester of my senior year. Until I took matters into my own hands, I went unrecruited. Before this point, I was only being recruited by schools who I thought weren’t quite representative of the competitive atmosphere I wanted to be a part of for 4 years.
BOS: You managed to make things happen very quickly during your senior year. What advice would you give to unsigned seniors?
Draft a list of a schools you would be interested in. This list can range anywhere from 20-50 schools. These are not necessarily all of the schools that you would consider but it is a manageable number for you to start with. You will have to do research. For me, I searched the level I wanted to play in (i.e. mid-major Division I institutions) and then I pulled up the rosters for the volleyball program (and player stats) to see if I could see myself fitting on that team.
I reached out to the coach of each program through email. I listed my name, graduation year, position, and provided them a link to my online film.
BOS: A lot of players don’t really know how college coaches approach the recruiting process. Can you tell us a little about what you do now as a college coach?
KJ: Before I go out on a recruiting trip, I organize my recruiting database for the players that will be there that weekend. There are a variety of ways that I rank/tag prospective athletes. If I have seen them play (on film/in-person) I will establish a preliminary ranking. As I continue to follow them throughout their career, this ranking will either increase or decrease depending on what I’m looking for—specifically, what our team needs. Tags allow me to have quick visual identifiers at a tournament. One tag could mean that an athlete has contacted me previously (email or phone), another could mean that I saw them at a tournament and liked their game, and another could mean that I was previously recruiting them but have now decided to move in another direction…the list continues.
The big picture you need to see is that there are several players in a coach’s recruiting database at any given time. You may not always stand out, but at the very least, it’s best to be on their radar (in their system). This is why I am so big on encouraging athletes to reach out to coaches personally. If a prospective athlete emails me, I will see it.
BOS: Emailing a college coach can be intimidating for players that are new to recruiting. What information should they include?
KJ: I want the following to be clear and heading the email: Name, position, grad year, film with jersey number, if you’re legacy in the program (ie. you have a family member who played in the program or attended the university).
There is other important stuff too (some coaches like knowing if your parents were collegiate athletes) but this is generally all I need to give you a preliminary ranking and decide if I want to see more. If you’ve sent me an email, I have you in my recruiting database. If we’ve talked on the phone, I have you in my recruiting database. If I have seen your film, I have you in my recruiting database. The most important piece of this is to make sure that you include a link to film when emailing a coach for the first time.
BOS: Why is sending an email so important?
KJ: As I am preparing my database for a recruiting trip, I am very precise and particular. I have a game plan going in and prioritize seeing certain players (those that I ranked highly). However, at the larger tournaments, I may evaluate upwards of 300 athletes. If I am walking around from court to court, I may happen to spot something I liked and choose to stop by.
No athlete should take a chance that they may happen to have a great moment just as a collegiate coach walks by. Get on their radar. Email me before the tournament. Players should include all of the aforementioned necessities in a preliminary email, as well as the tournament that they will be attending and should ask if the coach will be there [“and if you can, please come see me play. I play for X team on X court and am #X]. Now when I get your email, I will tag these notes into the database and they will be there when I get to the tournament; it will even be included with a tag or note that lets me know you have reached out before.
Hence, make sure you get on a coach’s radar so that they can see you play. Even if the film I saw on a player was ranked one way, when I see them in-person, it could be ranked an entirely other way. The key to being recruited is exposure—strategical exposure.
BOS: Can you give me some more information on what types of qualities and skills you look for in players? Both in terms of off-the-court skills/attitude/soft skills and on-the-court. How about academics? How heavily does that weigh into your decisions?
KJ: The most valuable advice I received as a player was “be an athlete.” Seems simple enough but because I was an undersized, I had to learn to use my strengths [athleticism] to my greatest ability. I had a private lessons coach who taught me to be more athletic when playing and find a finesse to my game. Volleyball is a skill-based game. I have seen players who are twice as talented as other players who are twice as athletic. I am a big believer that if you possess the strong level of athleticism necessary to train with players who are better skilled than you are, you can eventually play to that level.
BOS: What should players prioritize developing? Skill or athleticism?
KJ: An interesting concept of athletics is that one of the two will limit you, but at the end of the day, everyone has an athletic ceiling. What makes training worthwhile is the thrill to develop your skill level.
BOS: Can you share an example of a time where you went the extra mile to improve your skill level?
KJ: When I went into preseason training my freshman year of college, I was the worst player on the team—horrible. Very athletic but lacking skill and we were doing a lot of skill-based training. When we scrimmaged or played, I would shine, but anything to do with the fundamentals, I was a mess. I was already very strong so I petitioned my coach to let me forego weightlifting once a week to get some extra one-on-one reps with him. It turned my season around. As the least-skilled player on the team, I was starting every game. I believe that I was the shortest middle in the entire country playing a position that I wasn’t comfortable with. When spring came around, I stayed a gym rat and was able to transition into being a pin hitter.
BOS: That’s incredible how you took the initiative to get extra sessions with your coach. Do you have any final advice for players who want to become college athletes?
KJ: As a coach, I am looking for athletic athletes. At the end of the day, athleticism and skill go hand in hand; as in, the compensation of one makes up for the lack thereof in another. More importantly, I am looking for athletes who want to compete. I want athletes who aren’t afraid of getting in the gym to practice on their own. I want athletes who prioritize winning. It is a red flag for me when I ask an athlete to list what is most important to them in the sport and winning is not in their top three.
When I played at Murray State, I believe the reason that we were so successful was due primarily to the fact that every single person was a competitor. Every single player competed both intrasquad and intersquad. We were constantly in competition with one another to be the best. Our practices were so competitive that official matches became a mental break for us. In an atmosphere that competitive, it is impossible to be successful without having a constant regard for your goals. On that team, everyone’s number one priority was winning—and that’s why we won.
As a coach, I can’t help but seek to replicate that culture. Ultimately, I just want athletes who will hold themselves accountable and push a competitive mentality within the team. I want competitors.
A huge thanks to Kamille for sharing her knowledge with us! If you’ve got a story to tell and a desire to help other athletes to breakout, please write me at email@example.com or sign up at the bottom of the page to get weekly BreakOut Sports updates directly in your inbox.