University of Montana Head Volleyball Coach Allison Lawrence has 13 years of collegiate coaching experience and was a recruiting recruiting coordinator for Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, as well as for the University of Montana before becoming a head coach.
- DON’T be intimidated. With a little work on the front end, the recruiting process can be very enjoyable. There will always be times of doubt and, perhaps, stress, but don’t be alarmed as these are good signs. Doubt, stress, anxiety and even fear are sure signs that this – your volleyball career, your college choice, your education – your future – means something to you. Accept and observe all feelings without judgment and get on with the business of working hard to achieve your goals.
- Get to know yourself. Carve out an hour or two on several different evenings away from people and distractions.
- Write down what matters most to you about your college education and the institution you envision yourself attending. What will you study?* How many students are in your classes? What are your professors like? What do you do outside of class for fun? How close or far from home are you? Etc. *not knowing what you want to study is perfectly normal – if you don’t know, narrow it down as much as you can and move on.
- Write down what matters most to you about your college volleyball career. What are your coaches like? What are your teammates like? What is the history of the program? Are you an impact player from day 1 or are you battling for playing time and loving the challenge? Are athletics supported in your community and to what extent? Is a scholarship important to you financially and/or emotionally?
- Write down a list of schools that meet your personal and athletic criteria. You may have to do some research here, especially if you’re interested in going out of state or to parts of the country you are unfamiliar with. This should be fun – there is no need to look at every school in the country. Start your list at 10-20 schools, you can add more as you get further along in the process.
- Email all the volleyball programs on your list. Write the email to the head coach and send to all coaches on staff. Make sure the email is personal; include personal/specific reasons why you are interested in their program (majors offered, size of school, program history, style of coaching, etc.). Include any recent video you have, unedited is usually best but a short highlight segment (absolutely no slow motion) with clips of you with no dead time. Lastly, include your position, height, approach touch, block touch, jersey number, club team and club coach’s contact info.
- Register for the NCAA Clearinghouse and start any other NCAA paperwork at www.ncaa.org. You can also read up on recruiting rules for different divisions. Also note that recent changes in eligibility standards may affect you.
- When programs begin emailing you back you will start to get an idea of how often they want to hear from you and what else they would like to know about you. If you don’t get a clear picture from their reply as to what to do next, send them updates after each tournament (or once every few weeks) and see if you get a more detailed response. If you never really get a response or it is a form-letter-type response, either move on or send minimal updates. A program’s recruiting needs can change quickly and those athletes that communicated regularly will be thought of first.
- As your relationships with certain programs deepen, revisit your goals. Can you rank the schools you’re communicating with?
- Visit as many schools as you can and attend camps if you are able to. You should know through the communication process whether or not it is worth your time to visit a school. If it’s unclear, just ask them. *There is no need to schedule wall-to-wall camps during your only break of the year; attend your top 1, 2 or 3 schools’ camps. If you can’t attend due to cost, travel, timing, etc., don’t sweat it. It’s not a deal breaker- it is more for you than anything.
- Revisit your goals and continue to adjust them according to what you’ve learned in the process. Keep up to date on your NCAA status and your academic eligibility.
- As you come close to committing to a program, make sure you are communicating honestly with all schools you are interested in. Be very open and honest – don’t be afraid to tell them where they rank or if you’re simply not interested anymore.
- Make your decision and don’t look back. Now is the time to really enjoy your final club and high school seasons, celebrate all of your accomplishments thus far and take pride in knowing that your future is in place. Many athletes sort of check out after they’ve committed but I believe this is the time to live in the moment and give everything you have to your present commitments. That is where the joy is and that is what you will remember most.
Best of luck. An incredible future awaits you. Onward!
A short note on recruiting services…
**Here’s what they do well:
- They organize your info and video so that you don’t have to. I’m really not a video person. So I can imagine it is tempting and a bit of a relief to have a recruiting service take some raw footage and throw it online in a way that is well organized amongst your info and academic achievements. That’s nice, no way to argue it’s not. *However, most clubs have someone that can help you with this, and if not, most teams have a parent who knows a bit about video and can help guide you through the process. What I do know is that it isn’t hard at all once you learn the basics.
- They mass-email and reach more coaches/programs than you even knew existed. The emails they generate are well-written, consistent and they reach so many schools. *But here’s the thing. Their strengths are their downfalls. As a coach, I don’t want a recruit who’s fishing. I want a recruit who is genuinely interested in Montana for more reasons than just the fact that we have a volleyball team and 12 full-ride scholarships to offer. 100% of my friends in coaching, regardless of division, feel the same way. These emails from recruiting services send me a confusing message about you as an athlete: you’re passionate about volleyball and want to explore your options, and yet you aren’t willing to do your research on specific schools and risk a personal connection. No one person can truly be interested in 100+ schools; everyone has some criteria that allows them to narrow down their choices (location, coaching staff, roster dynamics, size of school, majors offered, etc.)
Now, some recruiting services are getting better at this because they’ve gotten a bad rap. Their form letters include the athlete’s personal reasons for wanting to contact that particular school. The email will say, “Hello Coach _____, my name is _____ and I am very interested in your program because your university offers a degree in journalism…..” While this is slightly more personal, anyone can see this is a form letter, that every single program with a journalism degree at their university got this email, and who even knows if the actual athlete did this research.
To get to the point: I delete emails from recruiting services faster than they are even labeled ‘open.’ We have recruited kids that used recruiting services, but our recruitment of them was due to us watching them in person and making a personal connection outside the service. The only way I will pause and look at a recruiting service email is if I know the name already.
If using a recruiting service will help you and your family spend more time doing things you love doing (and it is FREE), then by all means, do it. The best thing you can do though, in my opinion, is to get to know yourself and communicate with programs directly and personally. The truth is, you could get injured at any time and you want to be somewhere you love being. Your email doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be from you. I love these emails and respond to each and every one of them. The road map to your future program will lay itself out from there.