A Guide to Walking onto a Division I Team
The process of getting to the collegiate level in sports is anything but linear, and does not always entail being formally recruited.
Playing sports in high school shifts to more competitive environments, narrowing down to one or two sports, specifying positions, and honing in skills. For those with dreams of playing sports in college, this period of time encompasses everything needed to be recruited: emailing coaches, attending camps and showcases, being diligent in school, and putting in extra time outside of practice for strength, recovery, nutrition, etc.
This time of life can be stressful, especially on top of balancing school, friends and other commitments. Some of the pressure stems from our society, which tends to put a deadline on being recruited. For beach volleyball specifically, if a player is not recruited by senior year some may think playing in college is out of the picture. But I’m here to tell you that if you’re not recruited, keep going!
My dream since the day I started playing beach volleyball my sophomore year of high school was to play in college. My dream school had always been Cal Poly, and once beach volleyball became a part of my life my dream narrowed down to being on the beach volleyball team at CalPoly.
However, this dream looked extremely ambitious when I first started playing. I was a new and inexperienced player on the beach, and time was ticking to get recruited. I watched girls around me commit to various colleges, and I wanted so badly for that to be me.
I kept practicing, getting a little better each day, and playing in as many tournaments as I possibly could. I started winning more after a year and a half in the sand, but my wins weren’t enough for Todd Rogers (head coach at Cal Poly) to be calling my number. By the time senior year rolled around I was uncommitted, yet still had the dream of playing at Cal Poly. By that timeTodd had also said “No” to me, but there was something in me that knew a “No” from him wasn’t the endgame.
I knew the first step to being on the team was to get into the school myself, so I poured into my academic endeavors and stayed on top of my school work. I ended up getting into Cal Poly inMarch of my senior year, and shortly after Todd and I talked on the phone, he told me I would be able to tryout for the team.
The word “tryout” scared me because it meant there were no guarantees–there was still another mountain in front of me. But having to tryout motivated me to work harder than I ever had before. I was determined to prove I had what it takes to be on that team.
I got lucky with a few things along the way. I was lucky to train with girls who were already committed to play at the next level. I was lucky to have extremely supportive parents who encouraged me to chase my dreams. I was lucky to have coaches who believed in me, and beach volleyball partners who made me better.
There were also some proactive steps I took off the court that helped. I made sure to keep Todd in the loop with tournaments and sent him lots of film of me playing. I reached out to collegiate players for advice. I spent the summer trying to more establish myself as a player in the beach volleyball community. I also worked hard on the track, as I knew conditioning was a huge part of the program at Cal Poly.
When tryouts came around, I felt well prepared and knew I had people in my corner. But ultimately it came down to my performance and whether or not Todd thought I would be a good fit on the team.
After two weeks of trying out, he finally said the words “You’re on the team”, and not to be dramatic, but my life changed in that instant. Every little thing I did to prepare, from doing anACT practice test to getting extra reps on the sand, helped me get to that moment.
I encourage anyone who is not committed but wants to play at the next level to keep going, because if you want it badly enough and are willing to do whatever it takes, you CAN and WILL make it happen!
Big changes start with small steps.
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