A jersey with your name on it awaits you in the world of college volleyball. Here’s how to find it.
By: Josh Staph
“This is a great time for female athletes,” says Mary Wise, head coach of women’s volleyball at the University of Florida. “Any high school player who loves volleyball and puts all her time and energy into the game has a place on a college team.”
Perhaps the leading authority on moving players from high school to college volleyball, Wise has coached 41 players to 64 All-SEC honors and 15 players to 32 All-American titles. In her 14 seasons as the Gators’ coach, she has won 14 SEC regular season championships while producing an overall record of 459-48, a .905 winning percentage.
The 10-time SEC Coach of the Year says an unprecedented number of scholarships and college volleyball programs are available to women athletes. In this golden age of women’s volleyball, attacking the recruiting process like a perfectly set ball can reap huge rewards for rising stars who hope to play at the college level.
Wise explains what she looks for when recruiting volleyball players.
ADVICE FOR ALL PLAYERS
BE AN ATHLETE
Simply put, college volleyball coaches want athletes. “Regardless of position, we look for athleticism first. We want players with great foot speed, jumping ability and reaction time. Then we look at particular skills,” Wise says.
GYM RATS GET REWARDED
Working your butt off in the gym not only hones your skills, it demonstrates your desire and competitive spirit to college coaches. “We like to recruit the gym rats—the players who love to be in the gym all day,” Wise says. “When they come to our camps, they can’t wait to get back in the gym after lunch. We have to kick them out of the gym at night when we are turning off the lights.”
Wise seeks truly competitive athletes also. She says, “We want athletes who have an attitude on the court. They play hard regardless of the score or whom they’re playing. Great competitors can perform well in all different arenas. That is why we love them.”
BE SPECIAL, AND DOGGONE IT, COACHES WILL LIKE YOU
To stand out, a high school volleyball player needs a weapon. “Find something to be special at,” Wise advises. “College coaches are looking for some special ability in a player, whether it’s a strong serve, the ability to pass or being a great blocker or terminator. This will get you noticed.”
Strong jumping ability is a distinguishing characteristic among front row players. Wise says, “Women’s volleyball has evolved similar to basketball. Just as basketball games are won more and more above the rim, volleyball matches are increasingly won above the net. We look at how dynamic a player is with her jumps and how high above the net she plays.”
According to Wise, hand contact and delivery are the two characteristics that make a setter effective in distributing the ball to teammates. “These skills can be improved in college, but there is a natural quality to them. Some people just have great hands and a touch for the ball, like a natural shooter in basketball.”
Great ball skills and court courage make a good libero, according to Wise. Don’t confuse ball skills, though, with the ability to make great defensive plays. “The ability to pass is first and foremost in my mind,” Wise says. “Then come foot speed, quickness and hand strength to take balls overhead.
“We also want athletes with a gutsy attitude in this position. It is not a glory position, but it’s critical to a team’s success.”