I had a question come in from a member of my mailing list. I was from a high school coach who wanted to know how he could help his players get recruited to play in college. Other high school coaches told him not to worry about it. Why? Because recruiters will come to them. He isn’t comfortable with that – and rightly so! So what can he do?

Know the levels of play

A really useful first part of helping players progress to play in college is to understand that level of play. This actually takes a bit of doing as there’s a lot of variability. Yes, we all know that generally Division I is better than Division II, which is better than Division III. As I posted previously, though, there is both a fair amount of overlap between the divisions and a wide range of levels within each. And it gets even more complex when you add NAIA and Junior College. Plus, there’s even the potential option to play in the UK. The better you understand where different teams and conferences fit in, the more able you will be to help guide your players.

How do you do this? Watch them play! Going in-person is probably best, but it’s not always doable. Fortunately, there’s a lot of streaming video out there. Make good use of it.

Get them in databases

If college coaches don’t know a player exists, they can’t recruit them. That means players should be findable. There are two ways to do that. First, make sure they have a profile on University Athlete. In many cases, if they play club volleyball, they have one. If not, they should create one. Either way, make sure they keep it up-to-date. Colleges use University Athlete a lot at club tournaments. I can say from experience that it’s really frustrating when a kid’s info is missing, incorrect, or incomplete.

Second, a lot of recruiting services allow kids to create free profiles. This is then something the player can share directly, plus they will show up in search engine results. Further, bigger services like NCSA, represent large databases of recruits. This makes them places coaches go to look for players via searching through profiles. Since University Athlete gets most of its use from college coaches going to juniors tournaments, having a profile on one of the bigger recruiting service websites can be very useful for kids who only play in high school – or who don’t play for clubs that go to bigger regional and national events.

Help them with video

Video is a massive part of the recruiting process. This is even more the case for kids who only play in high school. Generally speaking, it’s very hard for college coaches to get out and watch school matches since they too are in-season.

This is not the place to get into a discussion of video best practices. For that, let me point you to this video. Make sure you’re collecting quality video on a consistent basis, though.

Encourage them to reach out to coaches

Just being in University Athlete and/or having a profile page with a recruiting service isn’t enough. You can’t rely on college coaches simply finding your kids. Think about it. How many thousands of kids are in any given recruiting class looking to get recruited? You need to encourage your players to be proactive, otherwise it’s really easy to get lost.

Additionally, college coaches almost uniformly put kids who reach out to them and demonstrate clear interest in their program higher up on their priority list. Even more so when it’s the recruit themselves make contact. That’s better than if it comes from a parent.

Assist them in identifying good target schools

This combines understanding different levels of play and knowing what your kids are looking for in a college experience. There are so many variables that go into these decisions. It’s up to you how much you’re involved in these sorts of discussions. If the family understands the process, then you might not have a lot to add. In the case of a family lacking college and/or recruiting experience, however, your input could be considerably more influential.

Reach out

If you have a good relationship with a college coach, you can use that to help promote your players. If not, however, you can still reach out. In this case, though, I would take more of an inquiry approach. For example, you might do something like email a coach with a clip and ask for thoughts on a kid. This is a good way to learn what sort of things different coaches look for.

Be conscious of your reputation as a potential recruit promoter, though. Never suggest a prospect to a college without having a good sense of the level in question. If you recommend a player who is nowhere close to having what it takes to play at that school’s level, you’re going to appear clueless to that coach. They are unlikely to take you seriously moving forward. So do your research!

Know the rules

It’s also quite helpful if you are at least reasonably familiar with the NCAA’s recruiting rules. You can find the manuals for each division here. They are daunting, to be sure, but you really only need to focus mainly on the Recruiting section. NAIA and 2-year schools (mainly NJCAA) also have their rules, but they are generally less restrictive than is the case for the NCAA. Nobody expects a high school coach to be a rules expert, but it definitely is useful to at least understand things like recruiting calendars, academic requirements, and contact rules. And keep in mind that rules differ between the divisions, particularly where permission contact is concerned.

And don’t be afraid to ask college coaches about the rules. It’s their job to know them.

Keep your ego out of it!

As a final point, let me request that you keep the focus on what’s best for each individual and not what makes you and your program look best. There are way too many coaches (high school and club) out there pushing kids toward what they consider better levels of play even when that might not actually be the best for the player. Think about the whole package, not just the athletic side of things – and encourage the kid and their family to do the same. Getting an athletic scholarship sounds great, but often players have better financial options, and even better volleyball situations when looking at non-scholarship opportunities or partial scholarships vs. full rides.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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