If you are an aspiring college volleyball player, you already know that the competition is fierce. Coaches are continuously evaluating players across the country to fill just a few spots on their roster each year. There are fewer programs in men’s volleyball compared to the women, and even fewer at the D1 level. Knowing this, it is important to realize that a coach views not only your raw talent and athletic potential, but some key “off-the-court” qualities about you as a whole package.
The recruiting process is all about the art of finding pieces that fit together well.
Good coaches artfully weave these pieces together to create a cohesive team with the talent, work ethic, and drive to perform on the court and in the classroom, in combination with the various personalities already on the team.
While it’s obvious that position-specific talent and physical attributes can get your foot in the door, you can definitely help boost yourself higher on a competitive list of potential recruits if you have other key qualities that coaches are looking for.
Enhance your opportunities with the five qualities listed below. They’ll take you pretty far in life, too, regardless of whether you get recruited to play at the school of your dreams.
Five qualities coaches look for:
1 Work Ethic
A strong work ethic is at the top of almost every list when you ask coaches what qualities they look for in their athletes. Work ethic is not just how hard you work during a match, but it’s the way you approach everything regarding your sport – from before, during, and after practices, to your level of commitment in the classroom.
Work ethic also shows in a player’s attention to detail. Whether it’s putting away the balls, filling up waters, finishing drills, or completing your reps no matter who is watching, a strong work ethic is evidence you are no slacker.
Displaying this trait means you are someone with the mental and emotional maturity to do the what takes to excel at the next level.
My daughter’s club coach has had several former olympians and professional players come to speak to her team over the years. The driving message from nearly every one of them? You need to “be coachable”. Having this attribute signifies you are a person who is willing to learn, grow, and improve.
Let’s say a college coach comes to watch your high school practice. Some ways that he or she can tell if you are coachable is by observing your body language, especially your eye contact. The way you handle being corrected is also a dead giveaway. Are you humble? Are you able to self-reflect to improve on mistakes? Do you listen to feedback with an attitude that shows you are open to bettering your game?
Not only are recruiters watching you serve, pass, set, and hit, but they observe the way you listen to your coach’s directions (or not), how actively engaged you are (even if on the bench), and how you respond to criticism.
Remaining coachable, regardless of how “elite” a player you might be, helps assure your future college coach that you can adapt to change, deal with challenges, and ultimately make a valuable contribution to his team.
Respect is all about relationships – with your coaches, teammates, parents, and even the linesmen and the refs! Ideally, players and coaches will have a mutual respect toward one another, and it shows more than you may think.
Respect in it’s simplest terms is following the Golden Rule: treating others they way you would like to be treated yourself.
College coaches look for respect in the way you follow directions. They observe the way you listen when being corrected. They watch how you communicate with others. Respect is sometimes one of those intangibles that is hard to define, but recruiters definitely know it when they see it.
Passion is also one of those intangible qualities that shows potential scouts just how deeply committed you will be to their program. Do you look like you are out there having fun? Does your emotion on the court show your focus, your drive, and your love for the game?
Passion for the game itself is just one side of this coin. Coaches also want to know how much you want to play for THEIR program, wear THEIR uniform, and go to THEIR school. You don’t have to beg, but you should definitely express your level of interest. After all, if you don’t make that apparent, someone else will.
Sometimes also called grit, resilience is about not giving up after mistakes. It’s seen when your team is down by more than a few points and you somehow find a way to climb back into the match.
Resiliency is the way you bring energy to your teammates. It’s the body language that says you are ready for the next point. It’s your eyes up and fixed ahead, not on the floor.
Resilience is continuing to stay vocal through adversity so you fire up your team. It’s never giving up pursuit of a ball until the whistle blows.
Aside from those obvious examples, coaches see resilience in other ways. For example, resilience shows when an injured player’s continues to make a contribution to a practice or a match, as they stay connected to their teammates and coaches from within their new role.
Speaking of roles, what about if you are a bench player?
Sometimes being on the bench is one of the toughest roles there is. You are always hoping you’ll get in the game, and when you do, you put pressure on yourself to do well. When you make an error (and we ALL do) give yourself a little positive self-talk in your head so that your body language shows you are ready for the next point. Being resilient means having a growth mindset and looking ahead, not behind.
If being a non-starter is your roll on your team at the moment, keep your head up and your attitude strong. Continue to train, continue to perfect your skills, and more importantly, keep your mindset positive. You never know when your resilience will shine through, and whose eyes will be on your when it does.
A science, and an art
If we are being honest, college athletics is a business, and coaches are under pressure to win. Recruiting is a game of numbers, but it is also the art of gathering players with qualities like work ethic, coachability, respect, passion, and resilience.
Increase your opportunities not only by training your physical body and refining your technique, but by working on some of the mindset qualities that can help you elevate your potential to play at the next level.
To your success!