By Dana Hallisey, Associate Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Montana
What are college coaches actually watching at tournaments?
I have had multiple conversations about this with our current players, asking them to think back to when they were getting recruited. What they were thinking when they saw college coaches walk past their court when they had just whiffed their first warmup swing in the net? Or when they knew someone was coming to watch their match and they couldn’t focus during warmup because they were scanning the crowd for that one face?
Yes, there is an aspect to the experience of recruiting that is nerve racking; however, when I explain to my players what we were actually looking for, they often say they wish they had known those things before.
This will not be the same for every program, but here is an overview of what our staff is looking for when recruiting: execution, potential and current interactions—both on and off the court—during tournaments. Let me expand:
On the Court
- How you move! Yes, we want to see you get kills and pass dimes, but we are really watching how you move. We are looking at your ability to hold explosive load in your hips, knees, and core. We are watching your ability to accelerate through an approach or a floor move. We are looking at your jump mechanics and how you involve your arms while you are jumping. We are watching the speed of your arm and if it increases as you finish your arm swing.
- How you connect with the people around you! You spend a lot of time with your teammates and coaches in college, so recruiting is just as much finding the right person as it is the best athlete. It is my promise to my current team that we will find athletes who will both honor what they have built and add to it. I look for this in how you interact with your teammates in good and bad moments. I am also watching how you interact with your coaches in tense and relaxed moments. These interactions will likely mirror how you will be in our program. They tell me a lot.
- How you compete! I want to see if there are moments where you are attentive to detail. How you respond after an error or what you do on game point. I also want to see if the stress created by pressure causes you to interact differently with those around you and if those differences help or hurt your team.
- Body language! What are you saying when you are saying nothing? Does your body language add to your play/team environment or take away from it?
- Joy! Are you enjoying yourself? College volleyball requires a lot and being able to enjoy the playing piece of it is crucial in growth mindset and in preventing burn out. I would also like to point out that joy looks different for different players, but I believe it is a visible part of competing.
Off the Court
- Bench interactions! What are you like on the bench? Are you giving energy? Are you engaged in the game or looking at the mini donut stand across the way? Are you a learner of the game and a giver of information to other people in your position?
- Huddles! Are you listening during huddles? Are you engaged in your team’s strategy and mindset?
- Other interactions! How are you interacting with other people at the tournament? Do you engage with the janitors or people working concessions? How are you with your parents? Are you getting your own snacks or yelling at your mom to do that for you?
As I said above, we are still looking for terminal athletes with high athletic ceilings. However, the detail we are assessing while recruiting is much deeper than that. We are looking for additional qualities that will improve our program in many ways.
Now that you know this about at least one program, I hope it gives you new perspective for your next tournament or even your upcoming season. Trust that preparing well, giving to those around you, and competing hard will put you in the best place to be seen by the right school.