When recruiting happens, don't drop the ball!
By CEVA grad and University of San Francisco graduate Alix Gombos Westlund
Going through the recruiting process can be daunting, especially in the beginning. I always told myself that if I could get the chance to guide young people through the process, I would do so.
My number one piece of advice would be to be pro-active. There are plenty of colleges to chose from, plenty of divisions and plenty different levels of volleyball within those divisions. Have a goal, a division or a university in mind.
When you start hearing from colleges, don’t discriminate a school that you think you aren’t interested in; keep your options open, return their recruiting information and keep communication open with any of the coaches.
If you don’t hear from the school that you’re hoping to hear from, don’t be afraid to contact them first via email, express interest, give a quick biography and then provide them with a schedule for an upcoming, recruiting-rich, tournament.
Along the lines of being pro-active, I would encourage you to visit as many schools that you’re interested in, as possible. If you’re offered a scholarship somewhere and the coaches put an expiration date on that offer, seeing as many campuses as possible, as early on as possible, will make this step less stressful (the best way to tackle campus visits is when you’re traveling for a club tournament, take a tour of campuses that are nearby).
Get a feel for the campus; see the coaches interact with their players, first hand, in practice or a game. Being able to ask the existing team questions about what it’s really like being a student athlete at that specific university will differ from college to college.
Keep in mind, being a student athlete is a full-time job. Talking to the people that are walking the walk could be the most insightful piece of your ultimate decision on which school you choose.
Ask the following questions:
- How does your practice and traveling schedule work with your class and free time?
- What is preseason/off season like?
- Do you do weigh-ins? (This is a real thing; some schools do food journals and weigh- ins. This isn’t for everyone)
- How do the coaches treat you as players and as individuals?
- Are you, as a team, close outside of volleyball?
- Are the professors supportive of your travel schedule?
Another piece of advice I want give is to remember that you are a student athlete, not an athlete student. Go in with some sort of an idea of what you want to do post-graduation and remember that school comes first.
You don’t need to know your major going into college, if you do, that’s a bonus but if you don’t, you have time to experiment and figure it out. I would strongly suggest doing internships during the summer if your schedule permits it.
Going into college with an idea of what direction you want to head post-graduation is very helpful in the long run. Remember, you probably won’t be a volleyball player forever.
As hard as it can be to do this, you should try to take volleyball and the coaches out of the equation. Ask yourself these two questions:
- Is the school you’re committing to a place you want to be if you had a career ending injury or your scholarship gets taken away?
Getting a scholarship taken away or having a career ending injury happens more times than most people think. Make sure you pick a college that has a degree that you’re interested in or that you would be happy at if either of those unfortunate things were to happen.
- If the coaches leave, is this still a program and school you want to be apart of and represent?
Coaches wind up leaving, a lot, and it’s especially hard to take make them a non-factor in choosing a college because that is who you do most of the communication with. The current coaches can promise you a starting spot, to play a position that you might not get the chance to play at another school, or even give you a scholarship. If the coach leaves, all those promises are done. You’re starting over, proving yourself to someone you probably don’t know at all.
Where you go will change your life. Don’t let the recruiting process be the reason you didn’t make the right choice.
Alix Gombos Westlund, CEVA grad, Class of 2005