John Cook Explains How to Get on Recruiting Radars

In the final blog of our three-part series, Nebraska’s head coach digs deep­er into recruiting.

John Cook Explains How to Get on Recruiting Radars

In the final blog of our three-part series, Nebraska’s head coach digs deep­er into recruiting.

If any­one knows about recruit­ing top vol­ley­ball tal­ent, it’s Nebraska head coach John Cook. His pro­gram recruits some of the best play­ers across the coun­try year in and year out. In the last blog of our three-part series, Cook shares his top recruit­ing insights.

Video opens the door to recruiting

As a five-time nation­al cham­pi­onship pro­gram, Nebraska is high­ly attrac­tive to high school play­ers. They receive hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of emails from prospec­tive ath­letes. How do Cook and his staff fil­ter through these play­ers to find who they need? For a top-tier pro­gram like Nebraska, high­light videos are used as a quick screen­ing tool.

We get tons of emails a day with video on it now. Most of them, we use it just to say, OK, can she play here, is this some­one we want to watch live or not?’” Cook said. So we use that to say yes or no because we are recruit­ing such a select group of people.”

Although schools like Nebraska typ­i­cal­ly use high­light videos to ini­tial­ly deter­mine which play­ers to recruit in per­son, Cook said this isn’t the case for most pro­grams. For small­er Division I and Division II pro­grams, video is one of the most cru­cial parts of their recruit­ing process.

I think for those coach­es, video becomes super valu­able because they don’t have the time or bud­get to go recruit all those play­ers,” Cook said.

Many schools have few­er resources and a small­er bud­get, so video can be one of the only ways for coach­es to recruit. These schools may require more work on the play­ers’ part so remind your play­ers that send­ing an email is just the first step.

Remember these coach­es are get­ting lots of videos, so fol­low it up with a call, whether it is from the coach or a play­er and just say hey I’m real­ly inter­est­ed, here’s my pro­file, I’d like to vis­it.” Cook said.

3 qualities of an impressive highlight

Your play­ers need to cre­ate high­lights that will set them apart from hun­dreds of their peers. Cook shared what he looks for when watch­ing a player’s high­lights — use his input to help your play­ers catch the eyes of coach­es like him.

1. Skill

How do they move? What are they excep­tion­al at? If they’re a set­ter, how well can they set the ball and can they do oth­er things as well? If they are a mid­dle, they basi­cal­ly have to jump, hit, block. Liberos, we don’t care if they can jump, so we’re look­ing at how well they can move and what kind of touch they have on a ball.”

2. Body Language

Are they pos­i­tive team­mates? Are they bring­ing ener­gy to the court? Are they giv­ing to their team­mates? You can pick that up real­ly quick­ly [on video]. Just watch a cou­ple plays or watch when a mis­take hap­pens and see how they respond. That’s some­thing hard to coach to peo­ple, so we want to make sure we have peo­ple who are pos­i­tive givers to their team and their teammates.”

3. The BIG Moments

What hap­pens at crunch time or the defin­ing moments of a game. Do they want the ball? Do they make aggres­sive plays? Do they make an easy serve or do they real­ly go for it? So who is real­ly try­ing to win that point opposed to who might be afraid of just not mess­ing up.”

If Cook looks for these aspects, you can bet oth­er col­lege coach­es do too. Encourage your play­ers to focus on these areas to be sure they leave a last­ing impression. 

What to tell parents about recruiting

Parents typ­i­cal­ly play a big role in their child’s recruit­ing jour­ney. But, in a process full of rules and strate­gies, it’s often hard for them to know the best way to pre­pare their child for suc­cess in col­lege. As a par­ent of a for­mer Division I play­er, Cook has a unique per­spec­tive on recruit­ing. His advice for par­ents? Gain an accu­rate under­stand­ing of the appro­pri­ate next lev­el for their child. 

Parents think their kids are either bet­ter than they are or maybe not as good as they are,” Cook said. So first, get a good coach, a high school coach or a club coach or maybe go to camp and have the col­lege coach­es eval­u­ate what lev­el can your daugh­ter play at.”

Your play­ers already have you, so it’s your job to help them dis­tin­guish what lev­el they’re capa­ble of play­ing at. Once they and their par­ents have accept­ed that lev­el, the next step is find­ing the best suit­ed con­fer­ence and school. Don’t for­get to add their aca­d­e­m­ic lev­el to the equa­tion. Once these deci­sions are made, encour­age your play­ers to begin reach­ing out to coaches. 

It’s like any­thing, if you want a job, you got to go apply for it.”

If it’s recruit­ing advice you want, Cook is the one to lis­ten to. Want to hear more insights from him? Check out The Past, Present and Future of Volleyball, According to John Cook and John Cook: Why Video Matters in Volleyball.