If you’re headed to volleyball tryouts (whether it’s to tryout for a club team or a high school team), there are a few things you should know to improve your chances. We start with what to wear to volleyball tryouts, and finish off with some great tips for getting you noticed by the coaches. If you’re headed for volleyball tryouts, we break it all down in this guide!
Tryouts can be stressful, whether it’s your first time, or you’ve been through several seasons of them. It’s normal to feel anxious and have some nerves going into them. But with the right preparation, you’ll have your priorities in check… so you can focus on the right things instead of on your worries. We’re here to help you learn how to manage your volleyball tryout experience. We hope the tips we share below will help you make the most of it and improve your chances of getting noticed by the coaches.
To help you prepare, we’ll cover what to wear to volleyball tryouts, tips for getting noticed by the coaches, and we’ll also give you an idea of the general format to expect (elements of tryouts that most coaches follow, to some degree).
In addition, we have some great tips for equipment that will allow you to train at home. If tryouts are still months away, and you’d like to invest in some equipment to help your daughter be as prepared as possible when the time comes, we’ve also rounded up the best home training equipment for volleyball.
What To Bring To Volleyball Tryouts – Helpful Gear
It can be helpful to load up on some essential gear, going into a new volleyball season. Stocking up in advance will not only lighten the laundry burden, but it will get your daughter prepared to come and go from open gyms and tryouts with everything she needs.
You’ll want to stock up on have good athletic socks and comfortable sports bras. You’ll also want to have a pair of crocs or athletic slides or Birkenstocks for coming/going from the gym. This will prevent you from wearing your court shoes outside. Finally, it’s helpful to have an insulated water bottle that has a straw style lid, so you can hydrate quickly during a super quick water break. It should be large enough that you don’t need to refill it.
Note that most clubs and high schools now provide team backpacks, so a volleyball specific gear bag is probably one purchase you can skip.
All of the following items link to Amazon for purchase, but can also be found at many other online sporting good retailers.
What To Wear To Volleyball Tryouts – Dressing For Success
Let’s start by saying, I don’t think any girl needs to go out and spend a whole bunch of money to be effective at a volleyball tryout. But if you want to look like you belong in the gym, there are some key items that will help you look the part.
We dive into gear recommendations in detail in other articles (check out our gear page for recommendations), but in general, these are the items that are worth considering (if you don’t already have them). Chances are good that most of the girls will be wearing (or using) some or all of these essentials in the gym.
Dressing The Part – What To Wear To Volleyball Tryouts
It should go without saying that if you’re trying out for volleyball, you should arrive dressed to play volleyball. With the exception of your court shoes, you’ll want to show up wearing what you intend to play in.
Although you don’t need to splurge (or break the bank!) for just the right gear, having some key essentials might give you that extra bit of confidence for the nerve racking tryout process.
What To Wear Tip # 1: Kneepads
Do yourself a favor, and don’t show up to volleyball tryouts without a pair of kneepads. This is considered essential gear. If you’re serious enough about the sport that you’re trying out for a team, kneepads are mandatory. You really don’t want to be the only girl without them (especially if the coach has you practice diving).
The color of kneepads will vary by team (some clubs and schools require a certain color as a part of the uniform), but in general, white is the most common color you’ll see worn by high school and club players.
The following Mizuno kneepads are an example of an appropriate pair. They’re affordable, and available in both youth and women’s sizes on Amazon.
What To Wear Tip # 2: T-shirt / Top
This is the easiest part of the wardrobe. Unless your coaches have specified otherwise, it’s generally best to go with a standard t-shirt. If you have a shirt that shows other volleyball experience (clubs, tournaments, teams or camps you’ve been a part of), by all means… wear it!
In general, you want to avoid anything too loose or too tight. I would also advise against tank tops, as most players wear t-shirts for practice and tryouts.
What To Wear Tryout Tip # 3: Spandex / Shorts
Any athletic shorts will do. It’s not necessary to have a specific pair of shorts. However, if you want to look like a volleyball player, you should opt for spandex shorts. If you don’t have those, select a pair of black athletic shorts.
Spandex style shorts are likely to be required as a part of most team uniforms, and most teams opt for black (so you might as well purchase a pair that can be used for games as well as practice). You might be able to see team photos or past snaps of the players on the website for the club or school team you’re trying out for.
We have a great resource for finding spandex for volleyball (with recommendations for youth and womens’ sizes) if you’re not sure what to look for. However, the following is a pair that’s commonly seen on the courts of competitive players, and is quite likely to work for games, too:
What To Wear Tip # 4: Court Shoes
It might seem like any pair of sneakers should suffice, but as girls advance an indoor court shoe (volleyball specific, if possible) is appropriate. These make a huge difference in terms of traction on the court, and they are specifically reinforced for the quick sideways movement and ankle support that the game demands.
We have an in-depth round up of the best court shoes for volleyball here, but the following pair by Mizuno is a nice entry-level pair, that’s of decent quality, as well as affordable.
It’s notable that most competitive players DO NOT wear their court shoes outside of the gym. Instead, girls will wear slides to the gym and change into their court shoes upon arrival to help ensure their court shoes are preserved.
What To Expect At Volleyball Tryouts
Volleyball Tryouts – Typical Format
Whether your tryouts are all in one day, or span a couple of days… we’re guessing you’ll see the following categories of activity as you progress through the process. Each of these categories of activity has a very specific purpose, so stay focused throughout the tryout, even if you feel like the specific activity is not as pertinent to you or your position.
Coaches will often incorporate some conditioning into the tryout process. The caliber of conditioning will depend on the level of competition as well as the coach themselves. Some focus on this much more than others.
The main thing to know about conditioning, is that it is a chance to show the coaches that you want to be there. Give your best effort, and make sure you’re not the last person to finish exercises. Coaches will be watching to see who is giving a solid effort, and who is cutting corners. You don’t need to be the top finisher in every exercise, but this is not the time to be a slacker.
Drills + Lines
Group drills that focus on one volleyball skill at a time are a chance for coaches to observe large numbers of girls at once. This is when they’ll begin to assess girls’ individual skill levels, and may be where they begin to keep stats or make notes on certain players to help them group girls by ability.
If you’re divided up into groups, and you’re not placed where you think you should be at first, don’t sweat it! Let it motivate you to hustle, focus, and do your best. Chances are, you’ll get yourself noticed and you’ll eventually land with the group where you belong.
Serving Lines / Hitting Lines
Regardless of your position, you’re likely to see serving and hitting lines. This is an opportunity for coaches to watch all the girls at the same time, and begin to assess relative skill levels.
Some tips: if you have a fancy jump serve to show off, that’s great! Just save it until you’ve established that you can be consistent with a more conservative serving style first. Coaches want to see that you can reliably make your serve in bounds, with power.
For hitting lines, don’t be afraid to go for a big kill if you have the perfect set – but don’t feel like you need to swing as hard as possible on every single ball. Volleyball is a game of finesse, and coaches want to see what you can do at the net. This includes valuable skills like adapting to the set, knowing how to find the court when you’re ‘off’, and keeping the ball in play (even if it’s with a tip vs. a hard hit).
Passing is a skill that all players need to possess. It’s quite likely that you’ll see a number of passing drills, where coaches can watch how you respond to the ball, and how often you’re able to pass to the setter zone in drills. Take this opportunity to show the coaches your ‘ready’ position, and your footwork on the court. There’s no faster way to stand out in a bad way, than to let a ball hit the ground while you’re standing there watching it hit the floor next to you.
Note during passing drills: don’t be lazy, just because it’s a drill. It’s essential not to let balls drop during passing drills. MOVE your feet, GET to the ball, and make your best effort to pass it to the setter zone EVERY SINGLE BALL. This is especially true if the coaches are new to you, and they haven’t seen you play much (or at all). This is your chance to show the coaches that you’re serious and motivated.
So, communicate with other girls (be loud!) during these drills! Communication shows confidence, so even if the gym is quiet, be the girl to call the ball, call it in/out for other players, and show the coaches that you’re NOT going to let that ball drop. Hit the ground when needed!
Scrimmage is usually left for later in the tryout process, once coaches have grouped girls roughly based on ability. A scrimmage is meant to simulate game play, and you’ll likely rotate through all of the positions during scrimmage play.
This is when your attitude on the court really shows, in addition to your skills. Treat your scrimmage partners like teammates. Bring positive energy and hustle, and help encourage others even if your ‘team’ is not doing well in the scrimmage. You’re not going to be judged by other’s mistakes on the court (but you may be judged based on your reactions to them).
Be a positive teammate, and give your best effort here. Shake off mistakes, and treat each ball as a new opportunity, just like you should in a game situation.
Beyond What To Wear – 6 Tips To Get You Noticed At Volleyball Tryouts
Tip #1: Make Your Appearance Consistent In Some Way (For The Duration Of Tryouts)
This is especially important when the coaches don’t know you at all, but is an effective strategy overall. I don’t mean you have to dress exactly the same from day-to-day throughout the tryouts… but what I’m suggesting is that you choose one thing that’s easily recognizable (think: non white socks, your arm sleeves, or a specific hairstyle).
If you wear your hair in double braids on the first day of tryouts, for example, don’t dramatically change your appearance on day 2! The coaches are just starting to recognize and identify the girls they don’t know… so make it easier on them, and they’ll probably get to know you faster.
Perhaps you choose a different green t-shirt for each day of tryouts, or you wear bright blue socks. Whatever it is, if you give the coaches a way to distinguish you from the other girls on the court, and you’re consistent about it… chances are they are going to remember you and you will begin to stick out in their mind.
Be creative and figure out a way to make your appearance consistent in some way.
Tip # 2: Wear Your Positive Attitude
They say “attitude is everything”, and tryouts are the perfect time to let yours shine! As long as it’s a good one. Quickest way to do it? Make yourself smile. Did you hear me? SMILE! This is supposed to be fun, after all.
A good attitude will win you the favor of coaches, maybe even over skill level. A good attitude means being able to shake off your mistakes without getting down on yourself. It means you can take coaching and respond to it in a positive way. It means you’re open to feedback, not going to crack when a coach gives you a critique.
Tip # 3: Arrive Rested + Well Fueled
Arrive to tryouts early, so you have plenty of time to get your bearings, get your court shoes on, and get your head in the right place. Being well rested, well hydrated, and well fueled ahead of time, will ensure that you’re set up for success.
Eat something substantial the morning of tryouts. Your meal should contains a combination of carbs, fat and protein. Some ideas are a breakfast burrito, scrambled eggs with peanut butter toast, or a bowl of yogurt with granola on top and fruit on the side). Eating smart will ensure you have some energy stored up in your reserves.
Get your rest. Before the night before. The night-before-the-night-before tryouts may very well be your most important night of sleep.
Hydrate the day before. This can be accomplished by carrying your water bottle with you over the course of the day before tryouts, or by setting an alarm on your phone to periodically drink an extra glass of water several times throughout the day. The goal is to hydrate in advance, so your body isn’t depleted going into the tryout process.
Being properly hydrated and fueled will set you apart, and help ensure that you’ll feel strong when other girls (who didn’t prepare themselves as well) start to get sluggish.
Tip # 4: Bring Your Best Energy
Think about the kind of energy you like to feel on the court when you’re playing. Do the other players have your back? Are they helping to communicate, and call the ball in/out for each other? What sort of players do you think the coach is hoping to add to his or her roster?
When you’re feeling anxious (and maybe subdued due to nerves), you have to really exaggerate the energy you’re hoping to bring to the court. Make sure that your teammates feel your presence, and that you’re a force of positivity on the court. Encourage others, and don’t outwardly react in frustration when you (or others) make a mistake. Move on to the next ball, and give it your full attention.
If you carry big, positive energy with you onto the court, the coaches will notice when it’s missing. That can make or break your ability to score a spot on the roster.
Tip # 5: Don’t Let Anyone Out-Hustle You
While there are girls who are sure to be better than you at various skills, there are also sure to be girls that are below your skill level. That’s just the reality of athleticism. Some of these abilities are out of your control, no matter how hard you practice. Do you want to know what’s NOT out of your control? Your willingness and ability to hustle.
Hustling at tryouts should happen from the moment you step into the gym, and up until you leave. It applies to shagging balls, getting yourself back to the court after a water break, and during drills. It’s 100% in your control to hustle. So do it! Don’t let anyone out hustle you on the court.
Hustle on the court shows the coaches that you want to be there, and that you’re focused on the task at hand.
Tip # 6: Look alive! Respond to the coach when they’re talking.
Nobody likes to feel like they’re talking to a wall. Even coaches. So engage when your coaches are addressing the group! When the coach asks a question, answer it! If they’re telling you something in a group, nod your head to show that you hear them, and agree.
Show signs of life in the huddle. Don’t just look at the floor. Make eye contact and smile! Let them know you’re engaged in what they’re saying. Trust me, they will appreciate it!
Time Of Year For Volleyball Tryouts
Club Volleyball Tryouts:
The club volleyball season typically runs from November or December through May or June.
Evaluations are often scheduled for July – after the end of the prior club season, so tryouts for a club season that gets started in November is happening over the summer. Be warned, and start getting educated early. You can often attend open gyms at area clubs for free (or for a nominal fee) to get a feel for the facility, coaches and girls. Look on your club’s website for details, or call to speak with someone for more information. Some clubs may continue tryouts over the summer and into early fall, by appointment.
High School Volleyball Tryouts:
The high school volleyball season typically runs from late summer (sometimes coaches run pre-tryout programs all summer!) through early November.
High school volleyball is a fall sport, so incoming freshman need to know that many programs have conditioning, open-gyms and pre-tryout program schedules that begin well before the first day of school. Watch for details in your middle school newsletter (if you’ll be attending the feeder high school), or be proactive and reach out to your High School’s athletic department to find out where the coaches will share the details for their upcoming season. At my daughter’s high school, tryouts take place and teams are assigned at the end of summer (all before the first day of school).
After Tryouts – Making The Most Of The Experience, No Matter The Outcome
Recognize That Every Tryout Is A Learning Opportunity
Keep in mind that no matter how well you prepare, no tryout is going to be perfect. Save room in your mind for mistakes, and allow yourself grace when you make them (you will)! Try not to dwell on them when they do happen.
Be open to coaches feedback, and take it to heart. Even if you don’t think it’s the best advice for you for the long haul, show them that you’re willing to listen and take feedback.
A coach I know has suggested the following exercise, when reflecting on a game or a tryout:
- What are 2 things that I did well today?
- What are 2 things that I can work to improve for next time?
Whether you do this in your mind, journal it, or talk through it with a parent or teammate, take the time to reflect on the good AND the bad. You can learn from every experience.
Make The Most Of Your Experience – Even If The Outcome Is Not What You Were Hoping For
If you do your best, and that spot on the roster isn’t yours this time… I know it can feel like your whole world just crumbled beneath your feet. But keep in mind that it’s just one season. This isn’t the end of your volleyball career. Let yourself be sad, and feel disappointed, and then embrace the drive to do better next time.
Once you’ve gotten the initial sadness and disappointment out of your system by talking to a trusted adult or friend, let it go. Let it light a fire to focus on what you can do to work toward your goals in the future. Maybe it’s getting some one-on-one coaching in an area where you’re struggling. Maybe it’s signing up for a club season to get some more play time under your belt and grow as a player. But just know that this too, shall pass.
Keep your eyes on the prize, and set your goals high. You’ve got this!