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College Volleyball Scholarships: The Straight Scoop

Why do you want your son/daughter to play volleyball? The answer is kids who play volleyball are: Smart, athletic, good looking, great kids from great families! That is the attraction of the sport. Not an athletic scholarship. You want your kids to be around these kids 2-4 times a week. If you want to play at the next level, below is some general advice.

You will choose your college based on these 4 factors and usually in this order:


Cost of education






Extra Curricular

If you are not an athlete, take out the athletics.

One of the first thing’s things colleges/universities look at on your application is your SAT/ACT score. Take a SAT/ACT preparatory class to raise your test score.

Four ways for money: Athletic scholarship, academic aid, financial need based aid and of course you can always pay for your daughter and son’s education.

1. Volleyball Athletic Scholarship: If you want a volleyball scholarship, you have to play club volleyball. About 90% of the women and men NCAA volleyball players have played in the USAV junior club system. The other 10% come from overseas. Maybe more, maybe less. Best results are when you play on a “Traveling Team” for your club. These club teams play in what we call JO Qualifiers or similar tournaments. The list of JO Qualifier tournaments can be found HERE. Why do you want to play in these tournaments? That is where the coaches are. You will see more collegiate coaches watching “Open” players than the “National” or “American” divisions. Here is the big secret about recruiting: If you are good, the coaches will find you. Period. They are very good at this. It is their job. You do not need to spend a lot of money on a club in order to be seen. If you go to a JO Qualifier, make sure you go to the USAV’s High Performance tryout the night before/after the tournament starts. The coaches are there. They will see you. Be aware of the omnipresent “Combine/Recruiting” events. Some are good, some are bad. Here is another secret players and parents need to warm up to: Coaches can watch you play for 30-60 seconds and they know whether or not they should keep watching. I often tell the story of when Jeff Stork and I watched 129 boys play King of The Court at a HP tryout in Orange County. We were asked to find the 30 best players. We both scanned the floors for 25 minutes and we each came back and threw down a sheet of paper. We missed each other’s list by 1 name!! It is that quick and accurate. Any college coach can do the same.

As a general parameter, here is where you are according to your touch:



D1 Athletics


D2 Atheltics

9’4″ & Below

D3 Atheltics



D1 Athletics


D2 Atheltics

10’10” & Below

D3 Atheltics

Again, these are some rough measurements that should give you an idea of where you fit in!

Should you make a DVD/Tape? Should you get a recruiting service? Again, college coaches are very good at finding talented players. Have your club director help you. He/she is getting weekly e-mails with request from college coaches. A good director is going to forward you this information. The most popular way to contact coaches is to send them a short 3-5 minute YouTube video. Send this YouTube video along with a short honest bio to no less than 100 coaches. Coaches get between 15-60 of these videos a week. The first thing they are going to look at is how high you touch then your SAT score.

What positions are the most recruited? Since the game is won and lost at the pins (antennas) the most sought after recruits are opposites and outside hitters followed by setters and then middle blockers. Liberos and defensive specialist will be recruited in 6-packs. The wining libero or DS might get a scholarship their junior year. Be aware of programs that offer something in the future. College coaches are for the most part an honest group, but their job is dependent on winning and if somebody else better comes along, a decision will be made.

There are about 300 DI women’s programs that offer volleyball. About 300 DII women’s programs that offer volleyball and about 300 DIII that offer volleyball. Figure an average of about 10 scholarships per DI program about 6 scholarships for the DII and no athletic scholarships for DIII programs. Junior colleges offer athletic scholarships as well as NAIA programs. Add it all up for the girls and there about/around/maybe 4500 scholarships. Add it up for the men and there are about/around/maybe 100 scholarships.

2. Academic Aid: Did you follow my advice and take a SAT/ACT preparatory class? Do you have a high GPA? The good news is colleges and universities recruit good students a lot more than they recruit good athletes. They will give you money if you apply for the right scholarships. The best thing to do is to visit each school’s web site and to look at the process for obtaining an academic scholarship . Work with your high school counselor. If you can go to the school and make an appointment with the admissions to ask questions about scholarships, so much the better. Keep on top of it. Words of wisdom: If the school is going to give you money, you need to maintain a certain GPA. If your GPA falls below a certain threshold, they will warn you, them pull your academic scholarship.

3. Financial Need Based Aid: This is what I did my last year at USC. You can go to to register for student financial need based aid. Once you register (they track you through your SS#) they will want to see two years of your parents income taxes, bank statements, IRA and other financial account statements, equity in real estate etc…..They compute this and will send you a letter in early April telling you that you have been accepted into the school with three types of aid: Grants, Work Study and Loans. Grants are what you want. It is free money. Loans you have to pay back. Work study is how the universities and colleges fill their labor needs. Two thoughts of advice: The first is universities will front load these packages with grants the first two years with the last two being more loans. That is why students graduate with so much in student debt. Secondly, you must apply for these grants every year. There are deadlines for turning current financial information back into FAFSA. Make sure you meet those deadlines or you will lose all of your financial need base aid.

There are Three parts to being an Athlete: Athletic ability, The ability to change and the ability to positively influence those around them. Let’s look at these individually.

  • Spotting athletic ability in sports is the easiest part of a coach’s job. In football, what is the first question they ask about a football player? “What is his 40?” In men’s and women’s swimming, they ask: “What is your 100 free?” In crew, they ask: “What is your ERG score?” In the sport of volleyball we ask: “What do you touch.?” As a very general barometer If you touch 9’6″ you will probably play at the next level. If you touch 9’8″ you are going to probably play at the next level, but not where you think. If you touch 10′ or above, you could not hide from the college coaches if you tried. If you touch 10’4″ or better you are already on the radar of USC, UCLA, Stanford, Nebraska, Washington, Penn State, Texas et al……If you touch 9 and above, you are looking at a D11, D111 or a NAIA school. Boys, you need to be able to touch about 11’3″ to get the attention of coaches.
    You will know when you are seriously being recruited when one of four things happen: The college coach invites you on an un-official or official visit, or the college coaches asks to see your official or unofficial transcripts and test scores. Everything else is parental fluff: The phone calls, the letters, e-mails. Fluff, fluff and more fluff. Understand how colleges recruit. Coaches will look at between 100 and 400 players a year. On an average year, they will bring in 3-4 new players. You need to expand your possibilities and look at many colleges. Do not narrow your choice. You will be disappointed.
  • The second part to being an athlete is the ability to change. It is the wholly grail of volleyball, athletics and life. Common situation: You just got beat in a drill. Do you have the ability to compete? Can you change physically, technically and mentally to beat your teammates? Can you be beaten by others? Do you beat yourself? It is my estimation that only 2%-4% of the junior population are natural learners and have the aptitude to get better each day they play. Oldest sports cliché: “Get better each Day!!” Hardest thing to do as an athlete. The ability to change has one more name in today’s society: Leaders.
  • The ability to make others around you better is the third part of being an athlete. I will give you two examples: Barry Bonds, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens. Great athletes. Hall of fame talent. But they did not make the players around them better. As opposed to the greatest athlete that has graced us in the last 50 years: Magic Johnson. All Magic did was make the players around him better. You East Coast homers can vote for your very own Larry Bird as another athlete who would make this list. Tim Duncan is my latest addition. Making players better can be a result of your personality, your play or your display of work ethic. In that very rare case, players will possess all three.

Collegiate Club Volleyball If the coaches are not beating a path to your door or wearing out your e-mail inbox? Think about club volleyball at a major university. Everybody wants a college scholarship, but it is quid pro quo. You give them your time and talent, they give you money. Trust me when I tell you it is an even exchange. Club volleyball at the university or collegiate level is made for the students who want to stay involved with the sport, but do not want to wake up at 6am and do weights. They don’t want to spend 3 days on the road. They don’t want to feel so tired after practice, they cannot keep their eyes open. Club volleyball is one of the fastest growing parts of the sport for both men and women. Check into the Rec Centers at your college and see if they offer club volleyball. Typically, club teams train once or twice a week. They have tournaments once a month. And, they have a season ending national tournament!

Junior Colleges I love junior/community colleges! I am a product of a junior college. I still go to junior colleges to take courses on subjects that interest me. My daughter goes to junior college–not because she could not get into a 4 year school. There are 3 major reasons I like junior colleges:

  1. They save you a lot of money! (this is an understatement!)
  2. Great teachers! ( I hate to bag on my teachers at USC, but my CC teachers were great!)
  3. Students with tough majors can take GE courses and transfer (hopefully!) that class into a four year program. They are not competing against the curve!

College Reality Here is a scary statistic: Nationwide, 30% of freshmen do not return to the same academic institution for their sophomore year. 20% of sophomores do not return for their junior year. The numbers are going to be different for private institutions, but it is an eye opening experience for many students who come into a college thinking it is going to be easy. Why do students drop out of college? Grades? Money? Too much social life? Problems with roommates? Health issues? Maybe a combination of these things? Going to college is the greatest experience of your life. But it is not for everybody. Learning how to compete in a volleyball match is a walk in the park compared to the level of competition in a collegiate classroom. You need to learn how to take studying seriously……for the simple reason is there are quite a few students in your classroom that do take studying seriously. If you are like 80% of all college students, you are going to have a “crisis” your first year or so of college. Your success in college is going to be determined by how well you handle this issue. Talk to college counselors. Talk to your teachers. Talk to your parents. Don’t let the problem manifest in you giving up hopes of a college education. You will meet lifelong friends in college. You will receive a great education in college. You will learn more about yourself and the way of life than at any other time in your life.

Enjoy college!!!