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10 Smart Recruiting Strategies Before, During, and After Your Next Volleyball Tournament
During recruiting season, coaches make multiple trips to club volleyball tournaments and qualifiers to go see players throughout the country. With their lists of potential prospects tucked safely inside their phones, iPads, and laptops, volleyball recruiting coaches are on a mission.
At a typical volleyball qualifier there are hundreds of teams across dozens of courts. The 2019 SCVA volleyball girls’ qualifier fielded 108 teams in just the 18s age group alone. At the 2019 Triple Crown NIT volleyball tournament there were 458 teams in the 15s through 18s age groups. That’s at least over 4,500 players! Trust and believe that coaches aren’t walking into the convention center without a game plan.
So who are they looking at? And how can you sway the odds in your favor that they’re looking at you? One way is to be strategic about what you do before, during and after your next tournament to market yourself and build relationships.
But first, if you’re new to my blog, WELCOME to Student Athlete Connections! I’m so happy you’re here! =)
The SAC blog is filled with resources to help you navigate your way through the (sometimes overwhelming) recruiting journey, so I hope you stay a while – and find something helpful!
Here are some popular posts you can bookmark & save for later!
- NCAA Eligibility: What You Need to Know So You Don’t End Up on the Bench
- Calling College Coaches: What To Do Before Picking Up the Phone
- How to Create a Volleyball Highlight Video that Coaches Want to Watch
- Recruiting Visits: What You Need to Know About the New NCAA Rules
- Am I Being Recruited? How to Gauge Where You Stand as a Volleyball Recruit
Ok, so let’s get back to our topic and dive right in!
Getting on Mission
At any recruiting tournament, if finding the right players for their program is a coach’s mission, then getting yourself on their radar is yours. By the time you walk into that gym, a coach either…
a) knows who you are before they arrive – and has made an intentional effort to include you on their list of courts to stop and see.
b) has heard about you briefly from a fellow coach (maybe even your own club coach) – and is coming to evaluate and verify whether you’d make a good fit for their program.
c) has received some kind of contact from you – and figures since they are there, they should go check out your team.
d) happens to notice you as they are on/near your court scouting other players.
Or a combination of all of the above (…it’s not always black and white).
Whether a coach intentionally seeks you out or not, your job (besides helping your team do well) is to be on top of the communication that happens before, during, and after the tournament.
There are some concrete steps you can take that can help.
So let’s get down to just how to make the most of your next tournament (or the one you just played in last weekend). And don’t worry, this will apply whether your team finishes at the top of your bracket or not. Volleyball recruiting, after all, is about marketing yourself.
Do it well and you can increase your chances of standing out among the sea of other potential recruits.
10 Tips for making the most of your next tournament, qualifier, or showcase:
BEFORE Your Volleyball Tournament
Smart Recruiting Strategy #1 – Do your research
My first tip before a big tournament is to do your research. Be sure to have researched potential best fit schools (best fit for you, not necessarily your best friends on your team). Create an organized system (Google sheet, Excel, huge chart on your bedroom wall…) to track everything on your list (and leave plenty of room to add more).
Include information about the school, coach, volleyball conference, tuition, and other pertinent information you would want in your notes to refer to later (i.e. region of the country, any roster information you can find, average GPA or SAT/ACT scores, etc.).
Then get ready for making contact.
Smart Recruiting Strategy #2 – Make initial contact
Next, make initial contact with coaches at schools that you are interested in. Include some safety, target, and dream schools. Just about every program has an athlete recruiting questionnaire on their website. Fill it out, but don’t stop there.
Make sure you also email the coach, to share that you’ll be traveling to “abc” tournament on “xyz” date (don’t forget to give him/her your team name and jersey number). You don’t need to give them a schedule – they have complete access to the AES roster and court schedules on their phones. Let them know which division your team is in (i.e. Open, Club).
In your email, invite the coach to stop by your court, and make sure to send a link to your online volleyball profile. If you have a SAC website, your link will have everything you need handy in one spot for them, including your volleyball highlight videos.
Keep this invite email short and to the point. This is a great way to get your “foot in the door” especially if you don’t yet know this coach. If you have already spoken with/emailed this coach before, it’s a super simple way to follow up.
Remember to PROOFREAD before you click send – especially if you are cutting and pasting similar email messages to multiple coaches. You wouldn’t want to accidentally leave the wrong coach’s name in your message!
Smart Recruiting Strategy #3 – Prepare your body and mind
Mental and physical preparation starts days (and weeks) before the tournament. Proper hydration, sleep, and nutrition will all play a role in your performance – no matter which schools are out there watching.
As always, it’s important to keep on top of your academics, too. In the week or two leading up to a travel tournament, see if your teachers will give you some of your assignments ahead of time. As a middle school teacher, I always appreciated a student giving me plenty of advanced notice when they had to miss school due to sports trips, and I’d try to accommodate them as much as I could. This might not be possible in your case, but you won’t know unless you ask. Be proactive, and don’t procrastinate. Remember, you are a student-athlete and student comes first.
A more prepared you helps you do well in your games and that means a better outcome overall. Not only that, you’ll be more likely to handle the pressure of tight matches, even when the tension gets high.
Preparing your body and your mind well in advance of your next tournament is a step that many younger players overlook, but it will help you focus on your game with much less stress and better performance when it counts the most.
DURING Your Volleyball Tournament
Smart Recruiting Strategy #4 – Bring the focus
Know that at any moment of the tournament, there is a likelihood that you are being watched (I know, I know… didn’t I just say to try and keep your stress levels down?). Realize that along with your volleyball IQ, your attitude, hustle, willingness to work hard, how you deal with adversity, and the way you listen to your coaches (and parents) matter! Even body language can say a lot!
Of course, I’m not here to add to your overwhelm. That said, it’s in your best interest, whether you are a starter or you just go in for a few points at a time, to remain focused throughout the tournament. One coach I spoke with said it like this: “Act like this is a job interview and your next potential employer is auditioning you for an important role in his company. Because he is”.
Smart Recruiting Strategy #5 – Don’t overthink it
Remember that you play volleyball because it’s fun! Try not to overthink the fact that there might be coaches along the sidelines. If it helps, use your pre-game routine to try to control some of the nerves you may be feeling!
Something that also may help is to know that other than a brief hello, college coaches at the DI level may not speak to you during a tournament. So you don’t have to get overwhelmed wondering who “likes you” and who doesn’t because the talking happens later. I personally believe this is a great rule… after all, just imagine how hard it would be to play if the whole time you were wondering who would come up to you after every game and begin “courting” you (or not)?
So don’t overthink things. Just play the best you can and enjoy the competition.
Tournament’s Done, Now What?
So now that you’ve taken care of your BEFORE and DURING tournament recruiting strategies, what about when you get home? It would be kinda of amazing if now it was just time to sit back and wait for the offers to roll in. If you are a top tier athlete that has been highly sought after already, perhaps this is your reality. But if you are like the majority of student-athletes who are still trying to navigate the recruiting journey and make it to the next level, you’re not done just yet!
These next tips are vital – because what happens after a tournament is just as important from a recruiting standpoint as before and during, if not more!
My final 5 tips all come after the tournament. Why, you may ask?
Because the power is in the follow up!
AFTER Your Volleyball Tournament
Smart Recruiting Strategy #6 – Follow up
Yes, my friends, the power is in the follow up! It’s time now to go back through your list of schools you emailed invites to before the tournament, and follow up with them.
All of them.
This should be done after between 48 hours to about a week after you get home. Yup, even in the midst of trying to catch up on your missed homework assignments. But it’s important, so you need to be intentional about it and schedule this on your to do list. The main reason for this quick turnaround time in following up is so a coach still has a frame of reference for the particular tournament you just came from (remember, they are probably going to another one the next weekend, and you don’t want to get buried at the bottom of their inbox).
As much as possible, make a personal connection in your email. Did you notice the coach at your court? Thank them for coming. If you had a great win against a tough opponent, acknowledge that (but with humility). If nothing else, just ask if they had a chance to see your team.
Keep in mind that coaches know we all have bad games. If you didn’t have such a great game/tournament, never apologize or make excuses! What is important is how you react when things aren’t going your way. There are a ton of off-court skills that they want just as much as your talent for passing, defense, blocking, and hitting (see my article on what volleyball coaches look for here).
Smart Recruiting Strategy #7 – Follow up again
In another week, follow up again, this time with an updated highlight video link or stat you’ve included on your website (no website yet, let’s chat!).
Reiterate your interest in their school/program. Let them know about your next tournament and that you’d love to chat over the phone if possible before then. Read this article to know what to do before picking up the phone.
Smart Recruiting Strategy #8 – Respond
If a coach does reach out to contact you after your tournament (within the NCAA guidelines, of course) RESPOND. Do this within 24 hours, even if you’ve never heard of the school before or don’t think you’d be interested in going there.
You’d be amazed at the amount of movement that happens in the coaching world. Coaches relocate to change schools, assistants get promoted to become head coaches, and many other variables are going on behind the scenes that we are sometimes not aware of. For all of these reasons, you don’t want to burn any bridges. Respond politely to all coaches who take the time to reach out to you. Plus, it’s just good manners!
Thank them for their interest and let them know where you’ll be playing next (then go research the school to see if it would be a good fit for your list)!
Smart Recruiting Strategy #9 – Ask questions
Guess what? It’s OK to ask coaches questions! Here are some ideas…
If you do end up making contact, try to find out which match they watched you play in, or how they feel you fit into their recruiting picture. This helps you as you try to get a feel for their needs. It also begins to establish some sort of rapport between you and the coach.
You might also try to see if they have any feedback for you, and where you stand in their recruiting class for your specific position.
Smart Recruiting Strategy #10 – Be patient, but be ready to shift
You can probably already name the top players in the gym you played in last weekend. Maybe you even know the schools they’ve committed to. If you don’t happen to be one of the “elites”, I’m here to say that it’s definitely still possible for you to play college volleyball. DO NOT get caught up in the comparison trap and start judging YOUR path based on someone else.
After using all of these strategies if you aren’t seeing the needle move just yet, don’t lose faith. Sometimes it’s just too early in the process and it might just take a little more time. Sometimes you may need to make a shift – to expand your list of schools or open yourself up to a different conference or a lower division. The recruiting process doesn’t happen overnight, and the better you match your talents, skills, and academic abilities with the right schools, the easier the process will be.
A quick note to mom and dad:
Coaches are not only watching their potential recruits, they have their eye on you, too! They would love nothing more than to see your positive cheering on the sidelines, and encouragement from you toward your child, the team, the coaches, and yes, even the refs (I know how hard THAT is sometimes)!!
Here are all 10 of the strategies I recommend you work on before, during, and after your next tournament to give yourself a really good shot at getting seen by more coaches (and making quality connections with the right schools for you):
BEFORE your tournament
- Do the research
- Make initial contact
- Prepare your body and mind
DURING your tournament
- Bring the focus
- Don’t overthink it
AFTER your tournament
- Follow up
- Follow up again
- Ask questions
- Be patient, but be ready to shift
Doing All the Things
If you are serious about playing college volleyball you will need to be proactive in your recruiting strategy. Don’t rely on just being in a qualifier to get you noticed. Don’t rely on your high school or club coach to get the word out. Getting your email game started, sending coaches a link to your website with your stats and updated video footage, and then following up is key! It may be your only way to get seen.
There is no guarantee that following these strategies will guarantee you a scholarship, or even a spot on a roster. What it will do for you is set you apart from the rest of the pack, because most players aren’t even coming close to doing all of the things it takes.
Recruiting, like building up a savings account, is a process that pays dividends over time. Market yourself well, and your journey will pay off!
Ready to take it to the next level? Be sure to grab your FREE Done-for-You Email Templates to help you start connecting with coaches from your best fit schools by tonight!
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