If you want to play volleyball in college, at any level, the absolute best thing that you can do is to play club volleyball. While it can be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking it’s worth it for players who are serious about a long term volleyball career.
Check out this article from VolleyballRecruits.net on how important club volleyball is. The folks on that site are experts on the recruiting process, and they highlight club volleyball as the number one most important step high school players can take toward getting recruited.
If you look at it from a coach’s perspective it becomes clear why this is. Coaches only have a set amount of money to spend each year on recruiting, so it makes much more fiscal sense for them to travel to a few huge national qualifying/bid tournaments. Just visiting one tournament allows them to see thousands of players in a single location; with dozens of courts playing simultaneously it’s definitely the most bang for their recruiting buck.
Attending a high school game, no matter how intense or high level, will let a coach see only a couple dozen players at most, and it’s unlikely that s/he would be able to see more than a couple of high school matches on a single trip. So club tournaments are essentially the only places that scouting and recruiting really happen.
If you live in a larger city it’s likely that there’s already a club program in place that you can join. A quick Google search for club volleyball in your area should help you find out your options. Teams are divided up by age, with players 12 and under on one team, 14 and under on another, and so on. Tryouts are often in the fall after high school season is over, with the first tournaments taking place in January and February and continuing through May.
You can start playing club volleyball at any point in your high school years, but before you contact coaches or take any other steps, seriously think about the type of team you want to be on.
Most clubs have several levels of teams, each with its own costs, schedule and goals. High level teams compete in tournaments around the country and typically have longer seasons and higher price tags. They will probably play in several national qualifying tournaments, and these teams are intended for players whose goal is to be recruited by Division I college volleyball teams. Obviously being able to play at this level requires a huge time commitment from you as a player as well as monetary commitment from your parents. Some clubs offer scholarships, and my club team in high school did several fundraisers to help defray our parents’ expenses. If you really want to play at this level there’s a way to make it happen.
Intermediate and low level teams won’t travel as much or as far, and depending on your location they may or may not attend national qualifying events. If you’re not committed to playing at the highest collegiate level these teams may be your best choice, as they can get you in front of Division II and III coaches without forcing you to commit to the constant travel and practices that are part of a high level team.
In my own experience club volleyball, or Junior Olympic as it’s sometimes called, was the best thing I ever did for my volleyball skills and my overall athletic career. It gave me the foundation I needed to play for the rest of my life, and I’m still enjoying the fruits of the time I spent playing club. For any high school player who’s serious about their future in the sport, club is the way to go.