Posted On: 06/1/20 11:07 AM

The recruiting process is different, it’s a little odd, and when it starts when the athlete is 14 or 15 years old it makes it all the more unique.  For the Class of 2021, these athletes have seen a little bit of everything through their journey and will continue to tread though some turbulent waters this summer to hopefully find a place to land for their volleyball and academic future. 

Here is a quick timeline for these athletes who have been through a variety of changes to recruiting rules and a global pandemic. 

14s and 15s Year (2017-2018)

[player_tooltip player_id="56429" first="Lizzie" last="Binder"], top available Class of 2021 prospect in Wisconsin.

This class was in 8th grade in 2017, for those playing at a national level in open divisions, college coaches were on their courts before they even set foot in high school because the trend in recruiting at the top level was getting a head start on recruiting athletes at the 14s level.  Calls lined up with coaches through recruiting coordinators, unofficial visits, and for some even offers from big time schools made where athletes and their families had some major decisions to make. 

As the recruiting process started earlier, rules started to creep up that would limit the contact between coaches and potential student athletes, no unofficial visits, and soon to be limited contact in regards to email and calls.  The result of this put athletes in a bit of an awkward spot to take offers while they were there, or continue to wait to find what was the best fit. 

16s into 17s Year (2019-2020)

Fast forward to their Sophomore year in 2019 in their 16s year, May 1, 2019 started new rules where they had to go “Quiet” meaning they could not communicate with college coaches until June 15 after their Sophomore year which gave athletes in the Class of 2021 the summer to explore options, setting up their Junior season (17s year of club) to be the time where visits can be had, options can be considered, and hopefully a decision can be made. 

One of the rule changes that occurred with all of this was moving the evaluation period for Division 1 coaches from MLK weekend (mid-January) to Presidents Day (mid-February).  This past season, athletes had about four weekends to play in front of coaches of all levels before quarantine took place which not only shut down tournaments, but prevented perspective athletes from going to on-campus visits.  Last week, the NCAA came out with more ruling that Division 1 coaches will be in a “Dead Period” where they will not be able to go off-campus and students cannot visit campus through July 31. 

[player_tooltip player_id="17226" first="Elyse" last="Winter"] is a top outside hitter in 2021 from Cedar Rapids, IA

But, What About Other Divisions?

There are plenty of great options when it comes to playing college volleyball.  In the Midwest alone, there are some of the top programs in the country are at the highest level of their collegiate division.  However, its a trickle-down effect.  Athletes start committing to Top 25 programs, then other NCAA contenders, to mid-majors, Division 2, and so on.  There are a lot of athletes right now in the Class of 2021 that are at that point where they could go the Division 1 or Division 2 route and usually it comes down to a campus visit and all the factors in how does a program fit in regards to their major, campus lifestyle, and for many what type of financial package is out there.  At the Division 1 level, not all athletes are on a four-year full ride, where at the Division 2 level they can bundle athletic and academic rewards to come up with a strong financial package, same with NAIA. 

The trickle-down hasn’t quite started yet.  There are even new coaching staffs at all levels that haven’t gotten a chance to get out and recruit the players they want for their program.  Athletes who want to go about finding a school the right way want to take visits, it might take three, four, or five visits to find the right school, the best fit no matter what that division 

What Now? 

Communication can still happen.  Technology is a great thing.  Coaches are being creative with various ways to showcase their campus through virtual 360 tours, matches of their games are online so athletes can see what the level of play looks like, and social media pages give a great glimpse into what the athletes are like at the program. 

For the Class of 2021, it’s been frustrating, but maybe a blessing in disguise really having the time to fully digest what is going on and what the future of the new normal they want to have for themselves.  I am thinking about you Class of 2021, I am rooting for you!  This is the first class in most states that we have been covering and will continue to cover.  Hang in there, reach out to those in your circle, and plenty of programs will be happy to have you as a volleyball player, but more so who you are as an individual.