Ask the Pro: Brent Hilliard

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Q: What are the intangible qualities that attract you to a recruit besides her physical abilities on the court? What can young players do to improve their chances of being recruited?

A: Qualities that set certain recruits apart for us here at the University of San Diego are competitive energy, body language, communication skills, and a passion for playing. I think these are things that every coach values, but each coach might word them a bit differently to fit their individual style. No matter who youre talking to, these characteristics are essential in the make-up of a high-level recruit.

For me, it often comes down to intangibles when recruiting one particular athlete over another. When the difference in two recruits on-court play is small, well rely on character to make the decision. Many times when we return from a tournament or a campus tour, our coaching staff discusses these attributes at length. Finding athletes with these qualities is certainly not an exact sciencejust as recruiting physical gifts is not black and white, either. However, experienced coaches put a lot of stock in these intangible traits, and they have a good idea of how they fit in the big picture.

The first thing I would recommend a recruit do is contact colleges early so they can start a dialogue. I realize many high school athletes may not enjoy speaking with college coaches about recruitment, but communication is so important in this process, and it gets easier with practice.

From an athletic standpoint, my best piece of advice is to be open to change. There are many different styles and philosophies of teaching volleyball, and I always recommend staying open to feedback from every club, high school, and camp coach you interact with.

All you have to do is watch the Olympics to see that offense and defense are not universally taught the same way. I admire players who are willing to fail in the short term when learning a new skill to improve in the long run. It is so rewarding to see that breakthrough moment when a player can finally fit a new skill into her game.

Brent Hilliard played opposite for Long Beach State, leading his team to the national championship in 1991 and earning NCAA Player of the Year honors in 1992. The four-time All-American played professionally in Europe and helped Team USA win bronze at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 before beginning his collegiate coaching career as the head coach of Cuyamaca Junior College in 1999. Now the University of San Diego associate head coach, Hilliard boasts 15 years with the Torero women’s volleyball program, a stint that has included six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

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