Are you ready for the next step in the recruiting process? This week’s interview comes to us from professional volleyball player Allie Davenport. Allie was a four year starter for UT Chattanooga (class of 2017) before she took her volleyball skills to England and then, most recently, to Sweden. Read on to get Allie’s advice on the importance of campus visits, networking in the recruiting process, and why you should consider more than just volleyball when choosing where to play.
BOS: At what age did you start playing volleyball? What drew you to volleyball?
AD: I started playing volleyball when I was 10! Before then I did other sports like swimming, gymnastics, and competitive cheerleading. I started when I was 10 after having watched my sister play for two years! I really looked up, and still do, to my older sister and wanted to be just like her! I’d say that’s really what drew me into volleyball. When I was 10, however, there were no teams for 10 year olds! So I had to play up with 13 year olds for two years until I was finally able to be with girls my age!
I think what kept me playing volleyball was the excitement! It’s so fast paced and fun! Volleyball is one of the only sports where a point is scored on every possession of the ball! I also love how much of a team sport it is. You really can’t do anything in volleyball without the other people on the court!
BOS: What experiences did you have in high school that helped to prepare you for playing in college?
AD: In high school I started to get really serious about volleyball. A few things really helped me become a better player and standout to colleges who were recruiting me. The number one advice I give to all young girls who want to improve their game: get in the weight room. I found an awesome personal trainer when I was a freshman in high school. I started to see huge results almost right away. Lifting weights helps you so much as an athlete in so many ways. It helped me jump higher, hit harder, and prevented injury. In college you lift weights several times a week, so already having experience with lifting helps a lot.
The second big change I made in high school was going to play for the highest level club available to me. I’m really lucky that I’m from Atlanta, so A5, one of the best clubs in the country, is right in my area. The level of training was unlike any I had experienced at the time, and though it was really challenging, nothing prepared me more for college. So whatever your circumstance is, train at the highest level available to you. It’ll be hard, but I promise it will be worth it!
BOS: At what age did you start thinking about playing in college?
AD: I had the dream to play in college since I was 10 years old! At that age, I’m not sure I really knew what college volleyball was, I just looked up to the college players and wanted to be like them! It wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school that I realized college volleyball was a very real option for me if I put in the necessary work.
BOS: Can you describe how the recruiting process went for you? Was there anything in particular that you did to get recruited?
AD: The recruiting process can be stressful for volleyball players! I remember having to contact colleges myself as a 15 year old. It can be quite intimidating, but also helps you mature and grow! The biggest way to get recruited out of high school is to play for a Junior Olympic club volleyball team. They have giant tournaments that college coaches come to and watch people play.
Colleges aren’t allowed to contact you until you’re a junior in high school, but the recruiting process begins much earlier than that. I started emailing coaches of schools I thought I might want to go to my freshman year, and went on lots of college visits! I think that is the best thing you can do! Go see schools, meet the coaches and players because those are the people you will spend 95% of your time with in college. After you go visit the colleges, decides which ones are your favorites and then go to their summer volleyball camps. That’s a great way to get exposure and also see what life is somewhat like on that campus!
BOS: What was it about Chattanooga that made you want to play there?
AD: At the end of my recruiting process, I was deciding between a couple schools! UT-Chattanooga and two other bigger schools. I chose UTC because I absolutely loved the city, my coaches, and my teammates. I also knew that they needed a 6 rotation outside like me, and that if I put in the work I would have the opportunity to be a four year starter for them. I visited twice before I committed, and was sure after the second visit that I wanted to play there.
I absolutely loved my time at UTC. Playing division one college volleyball is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had. I think my favorite memory, and certainly the memory that sticks with me the most, is when we played for the regular season title. We had to win this game to be regular season champions in our conference and we were down 11-5 in the set and came back and won 19-17. I will never forget it because of the enormous team effort we made, and also because we got conference rings from it as well!
BOS: At what point did you start thinking about playing professionally? How did you learn that professional ball was an option?
AD: I started thinking about playing professionally after my junior year of college! I had a breakout season and got all conference honors. I had no idea what the process of going pro was like, but I knew I was interested in trying! After that season, my coach talked to me and the other rising senior about an agent who had contacted him about the two of us! Obviously nothing could be done then, as we both had another season and year of our degree, but that’s when I first learned that going pro might be an option for me!
BOS: What was the professional recruiting process like? How was it different from being recruited to college?
AD: The process of going pro is very different from the recruiting process in college. You don’t really get recruited to play professionally, you have to sign with an agent and they send your film out to help you find contracts in Europe or Asia. The professional process was a little different for me, however, because I decided to go to a university in England after college and play for the school there and get my masters degree! After that year, I knew I wanted to keep playing and pursuing volleyball! My coach in England had connections with my club now in Sweden, so I didn’t need to sign with an agent for this first contract! I would say being in Europe first helps a lot as far as exposure and getting your name out there, so I’m very glad I went to England.
BOS: How did you find a program to play for in England? What was it like playing there?
AD: After my senior season, I was looking up job openings on the NCAA website and I saw an ad for getting your masters in a year and playing volleyball in England! It sounded like something I wanted to do, so I got in contact with some schools in England and found the best fit for me! I knew if I was going to be in England I wanted to be in London, so I chose the university of East London! It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I actually ended up going to the same school as one of the outsides on my rival college team, and we are now best friends! The education was good, and I was able to live in a new country and get a masters degree in just a year! The level of play wasn’t the highest, but it was still a lot of fun!
BOS: How has your experience been in Lund?
AD: My experience in Lund overall has been great! I love the city and the club I play for, my teammates and coaches are awesome, and my living situation is amazing as well. My team has faced some challenges this year, but we have made great strides and improved so much throughout the season!
BOS: Have there been any challenges to living and playing abroad?
AD: As I said earlier, the city I’m living in is amazing. Additionally, everyone in Sweden speaks perfect English, so that has helped me adjust so much to living in a new country. The hardest part about being abroad is being away from family and friends! There’s things you have to miss out on like weddings, graduations, birthdays, and it can also get pretty lonely at times! What helps me is staying busy, and also remembering how lucky I am to get to play volleyball as my job and experience new cultures and places. It can be hard to be away from home, but it’s worth it to me!
BOS: What advice would you give to players who are beginning the college or professional recruiting process?
AD: I think I would have the same advice for people going into college and the professional scene: make sure there’s more to where you are going than just volleyball. Make sure it’s a good situation for you as far as the people there, the city you’re in, the degree you’re studying, etc. Though volleyball takes up almost all of your time, there’s more to the experience than just volleyball, so make sure it’s right for you!
BOS: Are there any skills or qualities that you believe have helped you to be successful as an athlete?
AD: I think being hard working helps with success in every aspect in life. There are a lot of things you can’t control in life and volleyball, like how tall you are, how good the other people around you are, etc, but you can control how hard you work. People see that and respect that and I also think it rubs off on people. The second thing I would say is always having energy. I am always the loudest one in the gym, always talking and spreading positivity. Energy certainly spreads to other people, and I think people like playing with someone who is loud and energetic!
Thank you Allie for the great advice! If you’ve got a story to share that could help the next generation of athletes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to learn more about the volleyball recruiting process? Click here to go to the BreakOut Sports blog!