In 2014, when the NCAA approved beach volleyball as a championship sport, elevating it from its previous status as an “emerging sport,” there was no telling the immediate and vast impact it would have at the grassroots level.
Just seven years later, 148 schools sponsored beach volleyball programs: 62 Division I, 16 Division II, 5 Division III, 20 NAIA, 36 CCCAA, 9 NJCAA.
The result? Volleyball is now the most played sport by girls and young women in the United States.
With how quickly the sport has changed the landscape of the NCAA, and with how many programs are added every year, it begs the question: How do you get recruited to play NCAA beach volleyball? As with any sport, there is no single answer. But there is a progression you can take, whether you’re a junior in high school or an incoming freshman, that will get you on the map.
“Colleges are starting the recruiting process earlier and earlier,” said Jo Kremer, a current professional player on the AVP who won a pair of National Championships at USC. “We suggest starting it before your junior year, however, if you’re a junior in high school right now and still want to get recruited, you’re not too late. If you’re a freshman who has varsity or elite club film, you’re ready to start the recruiting process.”
So: What does the recruiting process look like if you’re an aspiring NCAA beach volleyball player?
As Kremer mentioned, if you’re a freshman or even a sophomore, you’re in excellent shape to begin the recruiting process. You could call this phase the "Research and Reach Out" phase of recruiting. This is where you should begin familiarizing yourself with both the NCAA recruiting rules – these are many and can be confusing at times – and the NCAA programs themselves. Do your research: Which schools will be a strong fit for you, both academically and competitively? Where does your skill set reasonably align?
Be honest with yourself here. Are you a National Championship-caliber talent that could join the likes of a USC or UCLA? Or are you more of a mid-level talent, someone who could thrive at, say, Grand Canyon or South Carolina? Do you want to go to the East Coast or West Coast?
Once you’ve established a general list of ideal factors and characteristics of schools where you might be a good fit, you can begin sending out highlight reels and skills videos. This is an excellent, and easy, way to put yourself on a coach’s radar.
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Here it’s important to keep in mind that coaches are restricted in their communications, both when they’re allowed to communicate with athletes and how often. Don’t be dismayed if they don’t respond; trust us, they’re reading everything that comes in. Keep the coaches updated on your progress, your results in tournaments, and any video you might have. Just don’t go overboard with it. They don’t need a play-by-play breakdown of your local CBVA. Just the results and maybe a highlight video will do the trick.
“Now it’s your junior year,” Kremer said. “We’ve already made initial contact, and we’ve narrowed down our school choices to 20. Now we’re going to start calling the coaches – call them, call them, call them, and eventually they’ll pick up and would love to talk to.”
Junior year is the most important year in terms of recruiting. This is when offers will begin coming in, so it’s important to have your list of schools ready. Kremer recommends whittling down your target schools to 20: 5 safety schools, 10 target schools, 5 reach schools. This will keep you from spending far too much time emailing and calling 50 different schools while also keeping you focused on building relationships with the schools you most want to attend.
As Kremer said: Pick up the phone and start dialing. Let them hear your voice. Introduce yourself. A phone call is far more personal than an email. It’s an essential role in building a relationship with a program. Ask questions; the coaches are happy to answer them and tell you how great their program is.
Remember: They're recruiting you! Make their job as easy as possible.
All of this work will lead you into your senior year: The offer. By the time you’re a senior, if you’re a good enough player and have done the work necessary, you should have at least one offer from a school, if not multiple.
But, you may ask, what if I’m currently a junior, maybe even a senior, and I haven’t begun the recruiting process, or I just began playing beach volleyball?
Worry not. It’s not too late. If you’re a junior, you still have time to reach out to schools who haven’t filled up their roster for your class. It’ll be tight, yes, but there’s time. If you’re a senior, you could potentially walk-on somewhere, with the idea to earn a scholarship later in your career. But that might not be ideal for you.
This is where junior colleges come into play.
“Junior college is a great option for someone who wants to see what playing a sport is like at a two-year institution before transferring to a four-year school,” Kremer said. “This is a great option if you’re starting the recruiting process a little later; you might want to consider starting at a junior college before transferring to a four-year university.”
We'll have plenty more videos coming on the NCAA beach volleyball recruiting process at Better at Beach. Let us know any specific questions you have and we'd love to answer them!
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