I came across the following question in a Facebook coaches group.

College Coaches – How important is it, that a girl plays high school ball? Are you ok with her just playing on a strong club team, that goes to qualifiers?

Let me provide a quick, direct answer. Then I’ll take a deeper dive.

As someone who’s done a lot of college recruiting across a variety of levels (JUCO, NCAA Division I, II, and III), the answer is simple. From a talent identification perspective, I really don’t care one way or the other. I’m looking at where they’re at and how they might develop.

Now for the more in-depth discussion.

When matters

It definitely matters when we’re having this discussion. Is it before the kid goes into high school? Or is it before senior year? This is important because it influences how I project their development.

While it is often the case for better players that their high school teams are not as good as their club teams, being on a school team has other things to offer. This is especially true when talking about someone looking to play in college. Here are a few:

  • In-season time management is similar
  • Being in a team with players up to 3 years older/younger socially
  • Being on a team with student-athletes all from the same school
  • Experiencing a roughly similar weekly schedule during season
  • Potentially having to “wait your turn”
  • Having the sense of being part of something bigger (representing the school/community)

In other words, high school is an opportunity to learn to be part of a team in a way that is similar to what you find in college. That could be quite important developmentally beyond the volleyball. This is stuff I’m going to factor in my overall assessment of a prospect.

So if we’re talking about a 15-year-old opting out of high school volleyball it’s a different situation from a 17-year-old choosing to skip their senior year. The latter has likely gained at least some of the benefits of being part of a high school program.

Of course, there’s nuance

There are a ton of potential factors I would be thinking about in the case of a kid opting out of high school.

  • What’s their reason?
  • Where are they developmentally?
  • What’s the quality of the coaching in their high school program?
  • What will they do if they don’t play the high school season?
  • What’s the club situation?

I’m going to be thinking about the situation in two ways. First, are they actually better off in their volleyball development to skip high school? Second, are they skipping high school for bad reasons? For example, they don’t want to play because they’d be a bench player? Or because they (and/or their parents) have an elitist view of themselves relative to their teammates? Those would be huge warning signs in their recruitment.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that while the decision to play or not play high school won’t make a difference in what I think of the kid’s current state. It potentially will, however, influence how I think they will develop moving forward and/or what I estimate their character to be. Of course, playing or not playing high school volleyball is almost certainly going to influence where they are at when I first get to evaluate them.

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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.

    2 replies to "Recruiting Question: Skip high school and just play club?"

    • Dave Boze

      Coaching both, at the same time, for decades, my answer is both are important.
      If an elite potential plays for a historically poor coached HS, just club is the way to go.
      This happens in soccer, gymnastics, etc.
      The players that elect this route are not ostersized by their peer group. Their friends recognize their potential and are supportive of their choice.
      The only frowns I have ever seen have come from the HS coaches.


    • Jason Bibler

      Lots of variables to consider. It’s usually not the same situation for each kid. One thing I do try to communicate on my end is that the position she plays at the HS level will often have 0 bearing on them getting recruited. Playing “out of your position” for HS can often be a benefit.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.