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Recruiting During COVID-19

By Ontario Volleyball, 06/02/20, 11:30AM EDT


Digital communication is crucial for athletes when it comes to recruitment and given that everyone is dealing with the pandemic and transitioning to a different means of living, its importance cannot be understated. As we wait for sports to slowly be reintroduced to society, there will undoubtedly be new implications and new regulations and rules that will affect every corner of the sports we play which can even encompass recruiting domestically and internationally. Emails or staying digitally connected to recruits and coaches would appear to be more reliant upon than ever and we have received advice from some of the province’s university and college Head Coaches for athletes and parents on how to use these tools to best capacity. Read up on how you can best utilize digital communication platforms to stay connected and engaged with post-secondary volleyball coaches.

Keep in mind that every coach is unique in what they are looking for and expect from athlete recruitment inquiries; these are several examples to help athletes gain an understanding of how to conduct themselves and what goes into their communication which they can then modify when reaching out to coaches.  

Communicating via Email

If you haven’t been reaching out to university/college coaches yet, now is the time to get your ducks in a row and get your name on their radar. Provincial and National Championship tournaments would have been the ideal time for making initial contact, but now the circumstances are different. Most timelines for coaches when looking at recruits for the 2021 graduating class typical cut off at Christmas 2020; however, the current situation we find ourselves in may alter that case.

Regardless, the athlete should initiate the contact and the most effective way at this time is to highlight yourself is through a well thought out expression of interest email.

“I think the biggest mistake that any athlete could make is to not send a note because they are thinking well I don’t have video or they don’t know who I am,” states University of Ottawa Gee-Gees Head Coach, Lionel Woods. “The most important thing right now is not to get missed because no one is aware that you might be interested or might want to go to that school because if we wait, by the time things kick back into gear every school might be in a time crunch.”

When you’re While placing your stats and highlights is always important and a must to include in your message, so is the demonstration to communicate why you want to play for that program Head Coach for Canadore College, Andrew Nicholson offers tips on what catches a coach’s eye when scanning through athlete introductory emails.

  • First and foremost: what academic course(s) are they thinking of taking at my specific institution? The student- athlete needs to prove to me that they are genuinely interested in their education. This means that they have taken the time to review our course offerings and has, at least a passing knowledge of how our institution can address their educational needs.
  • Secondly, I need the athlete to be the main contact during the recruiting process. I am NOT recruiting the parent. I want to hear from the player and know that they believe in their own skills that much. If the player is asking me to recruit them; send me the email and copy the parents into it, if they want.
  • In the world of COVID and limited personal access – the more visual and/or specific coach reference contact information they can send, the better!
  • Their current team contact information; both High School and Club coaches contact info is incredibly important. Even adding the contact info of their favourite teacher or role model, will help.   

As coaches go through countless athlete email athletes each week, avoid using generic phrases such as “Hello Coach, my name is ____ and I’m interested in playing for your team” and then proceed to leave a link to your highlights and your signature. Articulate why you specifically want to play for that team and attend that institution and what your talents can bring to the program. This isn’t to say that the athlete needs to write several paragraphs; make it meaningful and concise. Being a team player is non-negotiable in the sport and the better you can show how you can fit in with the team and their needs, the greater chances you have at standing out.

If you are a student-athlete who may be looking to inquire about open roster spots, email the coach at your pursued institution that you have been accepted into your program and proceed from there.

Aside from demonstrating why you are interested in the program and what you can bring, be sure to include what grade you are in, what educational program you intend on pursuing, academic averages, club and/or high school information and contact info (yours, coach, teacher). James Garvelle, Head Coach for the University of Windsor Lancers, says that a few words about position, height and jump touches can be helpful as well. If you have an online profile that houses your skills (a recruiting website such as HUDL or even a YouTube channel) include a link to that also.

In some cases, it might be the club coach who reaches out first if they are aware of the athlete’s school(s) of interest. The contact thereafter would be solely between the athlete and the institution’s coach.

Highlighting skills

When discussing highlights and showcasing technical abilities, some coaches will require gameplay footage while others might suffice for videos of drills. Nicholson for instance, prefers athletes use match tape as it demonstrates true performance under constant change while Woods is not opposed to athletes submitting staged drills because it focuses on pure athletic ability.

“Generally what video is, more than anything, is an assessment of some athletic potential,” comments Woods. “If you are an athlete that can play at the next level, some backyard pepper, some pure jumping mechanics, arm swings, sprint work and agility training session still shows me who you are as an athlete if I haven’t seen you in some form.”

During this downtime, start to compile footage of any matches from this season or if you don’t have that, record videos of yourself doing volleyball drills. If you are unsure about which is preferred, don’t be afraid to reach out to a coach and get clarification and establish contact.

If you’re active on social media, it wouldn’t hurt to tag your institution of interest and/or their volleyball program when posting skill or drill videos or even highlighting community service as it further solidifies interest and engagement. With social media, athletes should be aware of how they conduct themselves and portray themselves on their accounts, especially if their profiles are public.