In my 7 years of recruiting as a college coach, I tried to begin every initial conversation with a prospective student athlete by asking a simple question; “is this fun?”
The reason I asked that question was because it was such a disarming question that acknowledged that I understood that even though it would seem like the whole idea of being a college volleyball prospect and going through the recruiting process should be fun, it often isn’t! Too often it becomes a stressful mess of confusion, uncertainty, pressure, and balancing expectations with reality. It was always my intent to try to put prospects at ease about the whole thing and encourage them to see it as fun and exciting. I’ll be writing more about the psychological and sociological observations on my new site www.morethanwins.com
This post seeks to answer one of the most common questions I get from players and parents of players who have college potential but are probably not top D1 stars. If we are being honest, there are only about 100 of those nationally each year…you’re probably not one of them and if you are, you probably already know it, lol. That being said, there are literally 1000’s of college potential prospects who could play small D1, D2, D3, NAIA, or at a 2-year school who are freaking out about the recruiting process. One of the biggest concerns is about the timeline; When do I reach out to colleges? When should I be concerned if I’ve not heard back from anyone? When should I take visits…etc?
Let me start my answer by saying that there is no one-size-fits-all answer and there will always be anecdotes that disagree with this, but here is my rough timeline for the typical college prospect;
Freshman Fall: Make an effort to go to some college matches to get a feel for the teams, the coaches, the style of play, the level of play, and the culture surrounding the program. Don’t analyze too deeply, just go enjoy the match and see what you feel.
Freshman Winter/Spring: Club volleyball is good, playing another sport at your school is as good or better. Hopefully you have reasonable coaches who can help you do both! Get some offseason training and hit the weight room if you aren’t playing another sport or doing club. Start to think about attending camps at some colleges over the summer.
Summer Before Sophomore Year: Hit a few camps on college campuses that might be in your range. Get a feel for the campus and the program culture. Hit the weight room – as much if not more than you play or work on skills. Start building a list of schools that fit your decision making criteria.
Sophomore Fall: Now is about time to start reaching out to coaches of schools you might be interested in – not vital to start now, but acceptable and you won’t throw up yellow “high maintenance” flags with a simple note to a college coach telling them of your interest and maybe telling them you’re coming to a match. School visits at this point aren’t bad and are becoming more common but I still think it’s a bit early until after the season. If your team makes state – invite coaches to come see you play at state.
Sophomore Winter/Spring: This is an important time – play another sport for your school and look at club opportunities. If the club thing is out of reach distance/money/commitment wise, find some good training. Take a visit or two in the spring to school(s) that interest you and have maybe returned an email or you’ve been to their camp and they seemed cool. Send college coaches your club schedule and ask them about camps. That being said, if you haven’t started this stuff by now, you’re NOT too late but many are starting this early.
Summer Before Junior Year: Attend camps at schools you are targeting or want to check out, perhaps even push your high school coach to bring the college coach to your high school for a site camp or clinic day! Hit the weight room!!! I’m not a big fan of college visits during the summer – the energy is just different without the students there. Go to camps on college campuses, but wait for the fall to take your school visit.
Junior Fall: Be a bit more aggressive about asking (email is best for most) college coaches what they are looking for in your class and if they think you might be a fit. Take an overnight visit – hang with the team if they are serious about you (don’t request this if this is your first contact with them). This is the time that offers start being discussed. Invite them to watch your high school team but express an understanding that you know they are in season and busy too! Please don’t freak out if you haven’t committed yet!!!
Junior Winter/Spring: Probably the most common time for visits, offers, and even some verbal commitments at the smaller college level. Keep playing other sports at your school but communicate directly with your coach that college volleyball is in your future (another blog post on secondary sports is coming 😊) Club ball is HUGE this year if you are still wide open and not very deep into the process – you aren’t too late, but you need to be seen before your senior year as most colleges, even small ones are just filling the holes in their classes during senior year. If you’re already in contact with schools and generating the interest you want, then club isn’t as vital from a recruiting perspective.
Summer before Senior Year: Go to camps – especially the ones of schools are deciding between or maybe one(s) that are showing late interest. Some others may want to think about committing during the summer to get it out of the way before school starts up, allowing you to not worry about it during the season.
Senior Fall: I advise a “make sure” visit if you are committed or close to committing. Stay overnight, hang with the team, attend a practice or match. This is where pressure starts setting in for those who aren’t deep into the process because stalling much longer is going to result in closed doors as small colleges complete their class.
Senior Winter/Spring: If you are uncommitted – be direct with your inquiries, it’s decision time if not past decision time. There will still be some possibilities out there but you’re going to have to look pretty deep to find schools who lost out on other prospects or are having to replace transfers. Schools that just had a coaching change and schools that have a JV squad might be worth looking at for late opportunities. Don’t give up hope, but don’t dawdle!
Again, there will be significant variations on this time line as I’m even seeing sophomores give verbally commit to small colleges now. That being said, I think this is a pretty good guide that should point you in the right direction.
If you want more help with the whole process and the nuts and bolts of things like how to narrow your list of schools, figuring out what level you could play, how to reach out to coaches, and the whole process, drop me a line. We offer a very reasonably priced consultation based recruit advisory service that has been very well received by the families we’ve worked with!
Best of Luck and Blessings on Your Search!