Why become an NCAA student-athlete?
- A way to help get you accepted into an impacted university.
- Potentially a way to help pay for college (Likely a partial scholarship in beach volleyball)
- Job Skills: When applying for jobs, those who play sports work better with others, “Athletes work well with partners and in teams. Athletes know how to leverage the unique and complementary strengths of each member of their team. They know that cutting down a teammate or disrespecting a partner will only contribute to an organization’s demise. In fact, an athlete will typically put the needs of the team or a partner on equal par or even ahead of their own needs.” -David K. Williams, Forbes Magazine
- Immediately have a group of peers /mentors that have gone through and/or are going through the same thing.
- Priority registration for classes in college: At state and UC schools this is becoming more and more challenging. (This will help you graduate on time)
Opportunities to play:
- In 2016/17, 50% of all rosters were comprised of beach-only players. Out of 64 schools, 500 athletes were beach only players.
- 78 schools forecasted for 2018
Scholarship opportunities, Beach is an equivalency sport.
- DI: 6 equivalency scholarships possible per program (though most are not fully funded at this point) Scholarships can be broken out into percentages amongst up to 14 athletes. IE: a coach could have all 14 athletes on partial scholarships or only 6 full scholarships. The decision is up to the head coach.
- DII: 5 equivalency scholarships.
- in 2016/17, 287 Athletes receiving athletic aid (between 1% and 100%, the average is 20%)
- Increase of 43% annually
- Some schools offer supplemental Academic/financial aid.
The recruiting road.
The below is a broad outline of the important factors a beach athlete will need to take care of on their journey to an NCAA beach program. This is about the timing that most of the pac 12 and higher level D1 commits that I worked with went through. I do believe, that many of these steps are becoming earlier and earlier with some exceptions because of school academic standards (IE Stanford).
- Attend camps at local universities or universities you may be interested in attending. This serves to give you a taste of what the coach/program/campus is like while simultaneously learning new things and getting better.
- Start a list of colleges you may be interested in.
- Get good grades, work hard in practice, do extra work on your own at home, in your backyard, etc to hone your skills.
- You can talk to coaches all you want junior high so feel free to start up a conversation if you bump into a coach.
- Have good character and show it on your social media. Coaches often google search athletes and sometimes even pay for a private investigation service to research you. (YES THIS HAPPENS, especially at the highest levels) A clean social media page says way more about you than one that is private. You don’t want to be thinking in your Junior year of high school about that photo you took in 8th grade of you flipping the camera off.
High School – freshman year/sophomore year
- Continue to attend camps and build relationships with college programs.
- Though you are not allowed to talk to coaches in person until your Junior year of high school, you can have contact with them all you want if it is on their campus, so camps and the program’s home matches can be great opportunities to show your interest and start building those relationships.
- Start thinking about your most important factors that you want in a program and start to rank your list of schools accordingly.
- Write schools you are interested in. Leave your contact information as well as your club coach. College coaches cannot write you back but often will contact your club coach to let you know of their interest. For more on what to include in your college letter, click here.
- Begin compiling highlight videos and include them in your emails. Click here for my tips on how to get a coach to watch ALL of it.
- Consider creating your own website with your own blog. Along with social media, blog posting is becoming a more important way to market yourself and show your potential coaches/bosses who you are. Link your website to your videos highlights.
- Begin Attending national tournaments and/or recruiting showcases. Text and email coaches beforehand and day of. Let them know what court you are on and what your playing schedule is. Consider wearing something that makes you more noticeable like a jersey with your name on it, headband, etc. There are a lot of players these coaches need to watch and without traditional Jerseys, it becomes even more difficult to keep track of players. Make their jobs easier.
- Begin texting/calling coaches. Because they are not allowed to call you back, make sure to text them ahead of time before you call them. Always leave a professional voicemail. (you can delete it by pressing *3 if you mess up) Leave the contact info for your club coach for them to get in touch with.
- Sophomore year is generally the time where most recruits take their unofficial (though this happens earlier in some instances) Email and call the coach to give them a few dates you intend to visit campus and ask to see if they will be available ahead of time. The season can get pretty busy so planning ahead is imperative. Coaches will often ask you to visit if they are interested.
- Keep grades up and attend ACT/SAT prep classes.
- Register with the NCAA eligibility center.
- Continue to build your character. Cultivate a growth mindset. Focus on the process, learning and getting better in everything that you do.
- Continue to narrow down your list of schools with your research and your experiences on your visits. Ask the players what they think of the program. Re-evaluate your priorities in a school.
- Continue to send your grades, test scores, tournament highlights, and finishes to schools you are interested in. Keep in contact with coaches. Even if they are not your top choice, you want to keep your options open and going radio silent is not a good way to do that. Coaches have their lists and you may be their #3. It’s ok for you to have a #3 or #4 or #10. This is a process and they should understand that. If you neglect to respond to that #2s email’s you run the risk of dropping off their list completely. Then when #1 decides to go with someone else you are left with no backup.
- ASK COACHES WHERE YOU STAND – (this could also be placed in the sophomore year section depending on the athlete) It’s ok to ask a college coach about their list and where you stand on it. Most athletes don’t do this, I think because they fear that they will not get a straight answer or be told they are #3. Having a thick skin is key as an athlete. If you are #3, great, what do you gotta do to be #1? Guess what, that type of attitude will show more to that coach than anything else you could do or say. I’ve coached many division 1 pac 12 commits on this very topic. If you are not where you need to be, that’s ok! In fact, this can be a positive because it means you haven’t stopped improving! Use this as an opportunity to continue to grow and learn.
- Rock the ACT/SAT. A good amount of beach volleyball programs supplement academic aid with their athletic aid so good grades and killer test scores are important!
- Verbal Commitment – I’ve seen this happen more often than not during Junior of high school. (Nowadays, however, top-tier athletes are committing often times 1st semester of their sophomore year or earlier.) A verbal commitment is just that. It’s verbal agreement with you and the head coach that you will play for their university program. This is different than an NLI (National Letter of Intent) in which your scholarship offer (if you have one) is placed on a contract in which you sign. To read more about the difference and repercussions of such, click here.
- After Verbal commitment: CONTINUE TO PLAY HARD AND COMPETE IN AS MANY TOURNAMENTS AS POSSIBLE. Play in adult tournaments! I cannot tell you how many times I have heard of athletes dropping off the radar after their verbal commitment. As a college coach, this is one of our greatest fears. You work so hard to build a relationship to a player, to spend time with them, to welcome them into your program, and then their actions basically tell you that it was all about the scholarship for them, or about the name/prestige of the university. Don’t be that player. Remember you still need to fight for that 1st spot. Better yet, you still need to strive for that pro beach career!
- Let the other schools know personally and professionally that you are no longer interested. Don’t ever burn a bridge. That coach may transfer to your school, be your USA coach, or even your pro coach one day.
High school – Senior year
- If not committed yet, that’s ok! I have worked with plenty of athletes who did not focus on recruiting until their senior year and they are now at programs in the WCC and Pac 12. There are often opportunities that can come up last minute due to transfers, a new program, or new spots added to a current roster. The sport is still growing and programs like the University of Oregon that have just made the decision to expand their beach rosters are going to need those available seniors to start the growth process next year.
- Take official visits (up to 5).
- Sign an NLI – November or April
- Keep your grades up! Just because you sign an NLI doesn’t guarantee your admission! Your grades must meet the school’s minimum requirements and these can be very different depending on the school. Don’t be caught in a situation where you are stuck having to go through the recruiting process again in April of your senior year.
- Complete the FAFSA
- Keep building your character on the court, off the court, and on social media.
Quick NCAA rules to remember:
- You can call and email coaches but they are NOT allowed to call you back.
- Coaches CAN send you a questionnaire or camp invite via email.
- You are allowed to make unofficial visits the campus as many times as you like and coaches CAN have contact with you. Camps are a great way to do this. You can also attend home matches.
- Sept 1 of your Junior year and later
- Coaches CAN call and email you as many times as they like.
- Coaches CAN send you mail.
- CAN have off-campus contact with coaches (after July 1st between junior and senior year)
- CAN take official visits: this visit is paid for by the school.
- Coaches can come watch you play at a tournament or a practice.
- Coaches are not allowed to have contact with you at a tournament (but they can call/text you if you are a Junior or older)
Know the lingo:
Contact Period – A college coach may have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, watch student-athletes compete and visit their high schools, and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents.
Quiet period – A college coach may only have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents on the college’s campus. A coach may not watch student-athletes compete (unless a competition occurs on the college’s campus) or visit their high schools. Coaches may write or telephone college-bound student-athletes or their parents during this time.
*Division I quite period most of May, but not for DII
Dead period – A college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.
*Happens around the NLI signing period
Unofficial visit – Visits paid for by college-bound student-athletes or their parents. The only expenses a college-bound student-athlete may receive from a college during an unofficial visit are three tickets to a home sports event.
Official Visit -Any visit to a college campus by a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents paid for by the college. The college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the prospect, lodging and three meals per day for both the prospect and the parent or guardian, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event.
* What some schools can do may be limited depending on budget. At my previous school, we requested the athlete to pay for their flight home, especially when they were not yet committed as it’s a great way of knowing if the athlete is seriously considering your program.
NLI or National Letter of Intent – Document signed by a college-bound student-athlete when the student-athlete agrees to attend a Division I or II college or university for one academic year. Participating institutions agree to provide financial aid for one academic year to the student-athlete as long as the student-athlete is admitted to the school and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. Other forms of financial aid do not guarantee the student-athlete financial aid.
The National Letter of Intent is voluntary and not required for a student-athlete to receive financial aid or participate in sports.
Signing a National Letter of Intent ends the recruiting process since participating schools are prohibited from recruiting student-athletes who have already signed letters with other participating schools.
A student-athlete who has signed a National Letter of Intent may request a release from his or her contract with the school. If a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent with one school but attends a different school, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility and must complete a full academic year at their new school before being eligible to compete
Scholarship Offers: Scholarships are year to year contracts at most schools, and due to academic, or potential rule breaking on team could be canceled at the end of their full first year.
You may also receive what’s called a 1 for 4, 2 for 4, or 3 for 4 offer, which means the school has only select scholarships in select classes *Some D1 schools are now guaranteeing 4-year scholarships, but they are in the minority: Pac-12, Big 10, and some other big programs.
Division I—up to 6 equivalencies — only 17 Div fully funded
Division II—up to 5 equivalencies scholarships
Division III—No scholarships, but you can receive academic monies, and potentially get into a school that potentially you might not be able to get into.
NAIA—Scholarships, but no full scholarship offers, but more players can receive monies
Junior College – No scholarships in Ca. Some offer scholarships outside of Ca
Thanks to all those that contributed to the above info. Special thanks to Daryl Kapis of Empire VBC. We learned a lot from each other this past year coaching college indoor and beach and I could not have spent my office time with a better person.
2017 AVCA College Survey
Study on Crossover players in beach volleyball
Schools with beach programs
Schools considering starting a beach program: https://www.avca.org/res/uploads/media/SchoolsConsideringBeachVB-10-17-_1.pdf