How do you make high school or college volleyball tryouts? Surprising insights

A lot of volleyball players are nervous about the volleyball tryouts as they want to do their best. You will have to show your skills to the coaches and based on this they will decide if you are selected for the team. There is some luck involved but in general, the coach will get a good idea of your skills and can provide useful feedback afterward. You can use this as input for the next tryouts if you don’t get selected.  

What happens during volleyball tryouts: what to expect and how does it work?

Tryouts are quite similar to normal training. It might be with other players and in a different location but you can go to it with the same mindset as you would to a training session. Relax, focus and try to have fun. A lot of players are too nervous and get stifled when they have to go to tryouts. Being able to handle stress is part of being a volleyball player and you have to find ways to relax. 

The coaches will propose some drills and you will have to perform these multiple times. The coach wants to see how well you are able to perform this. They often check the five basic volleyball skills: spiking, serving, setting, digging, and blocking to see if you excel at one of these. They might need a specific player as there is a weak spot in the team. For example, the coach might be looking for a new blocker or libero. If you fit this profile, you already have more chances to get selected.

Next to these five basic skills, the coach also wants to know if you can work well together with other players. They will often let you play a match at the end of the tryouts with players that you have never met. This can be quite challenging as you don’t know the preferences of this player. The goal is to see if you are able to play together as volleyball is a team sport. If you want to do everything on your own, you are not going to be selected. Try to be friendly towards the other players and don’t see them as competition. Some players are quite mean to others during the tryouts as they think that they are competing for the same spot. To some extent this is true but if you don’t work together, you will lose as the coach will notice this and will prefer other players that focus more on the team. 

There also could be some running drills to see how agile you are and how long you can keep running. This is not part of every tryout but some coaches like this type of exercise to see how well that you will perform. 

How do volleyball tryouts work: get noticed at volleyball tryouts

This depends on the level of the tryouts. For junior teams, it can mean that you just get designated to a specific team. Everyone is invited for these tryouts and the goal is just to divide the players up into multiple teams. The coaches are trying to combine players of the same skill levels so that they can create even teams. They also do this based on the specialization of the players. For example, each team needs a few liberos and front blockers. There is no use to have five or more liberos on a team so it is better to divide them up into multiple teams so that everyone has a chance to play. Coaches can spend a lot of time finding the right balance in a team. They can discuss a lot about which player should be assigned to what team. 

For more senior players the goal can be different. It can be a selection to see if they can make it to a professional team. They often get scouted and need an invitation to these tryouts. The stakes are quite high as this can affect the future career of a player. At this point, the players already have a lot of experience so they know how tryouts work. The chance that they will get selected is really low so they have to give it their all. 

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

In essence, this is quite similar to normal volleyball training. You have to perform a variety of drills and at the end of the tryout, there is a match. Tryouts also last about one hour to one hour and a half. In some instances, they can take longer but these are exceptions.

If a coach is doubting between two players, it is possible that these players have to do some additional drills so that the coach can make a decision.  

How do you prepare for volleyball tryouts (with no experience): volleyball tryout tips

Preparation is very important if you want to do the tryouts. You can go to the sports arena beforehand if you are not used to the location to check the accommodation and where you can store your gear. It can be quite stressful if you need to find all of these things out before the tryout starts. A lot of players don’t do this and have to find everything out just before the tryouts start. This is not an ideal situation.

 If you already know this, you will be a lot calmer and be able to focus on the drills.

The weeks before the tryouts you can work on the five basic skills with some friends. You can repeat these over and over again until you are tired of it. After this, you repeat it some more. It is only after you have done the same drill over and over again that you will start to master all the nuances. A small difference in hand position can have a big outcome. You can discuss this with your coach and ask what drills that he or she recommends for you. If you really want to succeed a the tryouts, you can consider hiring a private coach. This is often a volleyball player that had success before. They are not cheap to work with but can really help you to improve a lot. Some even have dedicated programs for volleyball tryouts. They will push you to work harder and perform a lot of drills. This can be a great way to learn a lot for people that don’t have a lot of experience. If you are not dedicated and don’t have a lot of grit, this will show when you work with this person.

It is also necessary that you work on your stamina before the tryouts as the drills will be very intense. This can be done by running or playing matches with your friends. There are no shortcuts to improve this, you need to do the drills and  put in the work.

What to wear to volleyball tryouts

You will have to wear your normal volleyball attire: shoes, knee pads, socks, shirt, shorts, underwear, and your outfit. Some players also wear arm sleeves, sports glasses, and a sweatband. Be sure that you bring everything and also have a spare of all your gear. If something breaks during the tryout, you can just switch it.  It can be very annoying when one of the items that you need breaks at this point in time. You often wear things that are fitted to your size so you can’t ask another player to use their gear. Therefore it is really important that you are prepared for things breaking by bringing spare items.

You should make sure that everything is washed and fresh. Check your gear to see if nothing is about to break. Hairline cracks in the soles of your shoes can indicate that they might be in need of replacement. Nothing is more annoying than equipment that breaks during tryouts. It would be sad if you were not selected because of broken gear. If needed, you can always buy new gear to make sure that everything works. Pack your gear in advance so that you are sure that you bring everything. You don’t want to stress about your gear when you have to prepare for the tryouts. This way you still have time to go to the store if needed.

To conclude we can say that volleyball tryouts can be quite intense. If you prepare yourself well (from visiting the arena in advance, having enough gear, and being relaxed and focused), things will work out fine. It is a great moment to see where you stand and what you still need to learn. Often you can see that you still need to improve. This can be a great motivation to practice more often and improve your skills. You can always join the next tryouts if the current ones didn’t work out. A lot of great athletes didn’t get selected the first time and used this as motivation to work harder. You can only give it your all and see how it goes.