Former UC Irvine setter Chris Austin provides tips and insight into the recruiting process for young athletes.

Coming from Las Vegas, Nev., boys’ volleyball was not popular. The best hope was to take athletes who played other sports and turn them into athletes who enjoyed volleyball. When I made the decision around my 10th grade season to pursue a collegiate volleyball career, I wasn't sure where to start.

This blog is designed to provide insight into the recruiting process, specifically the transition from high school to college. I had so many different experiences personally, and now I help facilitate my own athletes through the recruiting pipeline

Game Video

The most important thing is to have video of yourself. You should avoid flashy highlights or video of rec league pick-up games. Do your best to get raw footage of yourself playing with a team, and try to pick the best match that you've ever played – many college coaches think that when they add you to their program, your best match in high school will become your minimum level of play in college.

As coaches, we want to see the way athletes respond during all moments of play. I learned this when I was coming up through high school, and it's been reconfirmed with every athlete I’ve worked with since.

Start thinking about what kind of experience you want for yourself.

The earliest you should send your video is around 15 years old. If a program sees potential in your play or would like to track your progress, you should follow up with them every two to three months. It doesn't hurt to send updates on your level of play as it improves, assuming you have access to consistent video footage of yourself.

Seek out the program's assistant coach’s email address and send it to him or her. It's not a bad idea to carbon copy (cc:) the program's head coach. However, do realize that over 90 percent of programs have someone in charge of recruiting athletes, and it is usually not the head coach. The head coach will often be the middle or last line of contact if the assistants or recruiting coordinators think you may be a good fit

Volleyball Camps

A sure-fire way of getting yourself seen is by playing in a location where the coach or coaches are present - likely at the school's volleyball camp. Now, volleyball camps can become expensive and I would not recommend going to one without having talked with the program first. You should ask if they are looking for a player(s) in your position or if they are interested in you specifically. Do your research and be aggressive when reaching out to schools. Don’t go with the sole desire of being recruited to that one school.

In regards to how many schools you should reach out to, that depends first and foremost on your grades. If you take care of your grades, you won't close yourself off to any schools. If you don't work hard and perform in school consistently, then you will definitely close yourself off to some schools, some that could have potentially been good fits.

Start thinking about what kind of experience you want for yourself - big school, small school, close to the ocean, a program with a winning record, a specific tactical style, what division the school is in, playing junior college ball, etc. I made a list when I was in high school, and as I learned more and more about those factors that didn’t suit me, my list became smaller.  

By the end of my 11th grade season, when I began reaching out to schools, I had 15 Division I schools, 12 Division II and III schools, six NIAA schools, and seven junior colleges that I was interested in. That may seem like a lot, but only 17 of those schools replied to me and only eight said they were interested. Only two of those eight were Division I. I decided that if I could get interest from Division I schools, then I only wanted to play Division I. Maybe that was the right move, maybe that was a mistake. It is different for everyone. What is certain is that you should follow your heart and avoid letting people deter you from an experience that YOU actually want.


Once you get your game in front of coaches and start to converse with them, it is time to go experience the potential product for yourself. You are allowed five official visits, so if you're fortunate enough to be invited on any, you should take them. The school will pay for you to fly out, stay on campus (or near), usually stay with the team, feed you, show you the school, maybe have you watch a practice or match, and give you the full college experience for a few days.  

You only get five officials, so choose them wisely. If you're like me and don't get offered any officials while you're in high school, you should take unofficial visits, in which you pay for the travel to the school and your lodging. The school can still buy you a meal or two while you're on campus and show you some things about the program. This is what I did with the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team in 2009, my 12th grade season in high school. Feel free to ask the coaches you're speaking to about coming on a visit. You need to take the reigns on your recruiting process. If you sit back and wait, you could miss the boat.

What was important to me was that I made it back to where I wanted to be and didn't settle on an experience that I didn't want.

If you aren't getting the responses you want and volleyball is something that you really want, don’t give up. I verbally committed to walk-on as an outside hitter to the University of Hawaii in 2009 after my unofficial visit. I didn’t have a scholarship. The coaching staff changed as I came in that fall and I was cut from the program. I decided that volleyball was still something I wanted, so I took an unforgettable offer from Randy Totorp at Long Beach City College (a junior college in California) and transferred there to start the rebuilding process. The first season, I did some passing and hitting, and began setting. My second season, I focused on setting and reached out to Division I schools again. I didn't have much luck with responses.

Celebrating a National Championship at UC Irvine

I waited and waited, and my best friend at LBCC was asked on a visit to UC Irvine. I asked if I could tag along with him. They weren't interested in me originally, but a spot opened up on the roster, so they invited me on my first official visit. Again, as a walk-on without a scholarship, I committed verbally to UCI because I had done my research and thought that if I went there, we were bound to win the NCAA title at least one of my two seasons, regardless of what my role was. What was important to me was that I made it back to where I wanted to be and didn't settle on an experience that I didn't want.  

What I will say is most important is gaining contacts in the volleyball world. The more players and coaches who know your name, the more opportunities you give yourself. You have to work on your skills and improve as a volleyball player and as a teammate. The old saying is true, "Sometimes, it's not what you know, but who you know."

Set yourself up for success in all facets and don't leave your career to chance. Be persistent and show programs how much you want to be there. It's rarely too early and it's never too late.

Chris Austin is currently the head men’s volleyball coach at Redondo Union High School in California, and was a two-time national champion setter at UC Irvine. He played professionally in Europe for four different teams over a three-year span. Email any questions to