How We Rank
How We Rank
What goes into the Prep Dig rankings? How can you get on to our radar? Why did someone move down?
Check out the sections below to learn about how our rankings are determined.
- Purpose & Standards What's the mission of our rankings? Learn More
- What Are You Looking For? Our criteria for evaluating players. Learn More
- Why Did My Ranking Change? Figure out why someone was moved down. Learn More
- Exposure Tips Ways to improve your chances of being evaluated, move up, and use the rankings as a tool. Learn More
- Frequently Asked Questions Everything else we may have missed. Learn More
- Do Rankings Matter? A message from Prep Network CGO Nick Carroll. Learn More
Purpose & Standards
The purpose of our rankings is to bring exposure to the maximum number of athletes pursuing the recruiting process, with a chance to play at the next level.
Our Scouts are tasked with filtering out players who haven’t shown traits that translate to the next level, but we don’t pride ourselves on exclusivity. We’re trained to recognize the potential and value that each player brings to the game. In fact, extending the list every update is a requirement for all Scouts.
We’re proud that our rankings include more players than other high school scouting websites.
Our Scouts pride themselves on how well they know the game. We put a lot of time and energy into putting players in order and are as diligent as we can possibly be to get it right.
The most important guideline for our Scouts is that the rankings are a projection of someone’s future collegiate potential, not a reflection of their current ability.
In the same way that the Heisman trophy winner doesn’t get picked first in the NFL Draft every year, the high school player of the year also isn’t always our #1 ranked player. We have plenty of room in our articles to recognize high school accolades and statistical achievements. The rankings, however, should give readers an idea of how players will perform at the college level.
The standards above and in the links below outline the expectations that we’re striving for. We’re not perfect, even though these expectations are shared with our scouts and championed by the editors. We will continue to do the best we can and tirelessly work to improve areas where our credibility has been questioned.
Finally, we owe it to our audience to explain what changed in each update, why players move down, and what we’re looking for in prospects. Please tune into your site post-update to see who the New Additions and Stock Risers are in each update.
On one hand, it’s quite simple:
- Skills required at your position
- IQ and understanding of the game
- Effort level
- Intangibles such as body language
On the other hand, all of our scouts place slightly different levels of value on each of those categories.
Most importantly, though, players are ranked on their potential as college prospects. The rankings are not based on performance in high school. That’s consistent across every Prep Dig website.
If a player is more athletic, taller, or larger, that will compensate for current skill deficiencies. There’s the old adage that you cannot teach size and skill. If you go down the different levels of college athletics, the difference is very rarely in skill level. The biggest gaps are in size, explosiveness, and athleticism.
This distinction between high school production versus collegiate potential is a huge distinction and where we see parents and players get hung up the most. There are countless All-State players who end up as Division III recruits, while late-bloomers who barely play until their senior year become consensus Division I prospects.
College and Prep Dig scouts are looking for plays and flashes of athleticism that translate to the college game. Sometimes a high school player may only make a few plays in a game that wind up in the stat sheet. But if there are one or two displays of extraordinary athletic burst during the contest, there’s a difference in the way those are evaluated that is reflected in our rankings.
Some scouts may value high school production and stats more than others, and that’s absolutely allowed. It is a skill to compete and produce every night. But at the same time, players need to be able to compete athletically and match up in size against your competition. The bar for athleticism and size continues to rise with the collegiate level. In order to be productive in college, you’ll need the requisite athleticism and size, whereas skills can be taught. So those differences, again, are reflected in our rankings.
Why did my ranking change?
We would never publish an article dedicated to the specific players who moved down in a rankings update. Our site is here to celebrate athletes’ achievements and skills. But the reality is that many players do drop on the list every update.
The question will inevitably arise, as it always does when we update the rankings: “Why did she get moved down?”
It’s a fair question, but in reality almost nobody is moved down the list on purpose. Rather they get bumped by newcomers who’ve made a big splash since the last rankings updates and kids who have raised their stock. We shouldn’t say it never happens, but players are only moved down in the rankings in the case of some extraordinary negative occurrence. For example, a player who leaves their high school team in the middle of the season for no apparent reason. A player who gets in some kind of serious trouble on or off the court – a fight on the floor or an extended suspension, for example.
“Wait a minute,” you might say. “My daughter went from 75th to 85th. They were definitely moved down.” Actually, that’s not what took place. What’s happened is that she has been passed in the rankings by others who have done more.
How it works
Let’s use a hypothetical example. Say a player – let’s call them Sam Thomas – is currently ranked #75 in their class. Sam had a good high school season so far but hasn’t exceeded expectations, hasn’t cracked the starting lineup, hasn’t grown from 5’5”. None of this is unusual for a high-schooler. Given that nothing has really changed, shouldn’t Sam still be ranked #75? Not according to the math. Why? Because there are always newcomers who work their way into the rankings. And there are always kids who have exceeded expectations, who have cracked the starting lineup, or who have grown two or three more inches.
If 25 new kids are added, and three of them are ranked higher than Sam, that now puts Sam at #78. If three kids have raised their stock enough to move into the Top 75, that means Sam is now at #81. In other words, by maintaining their current level of performance, Sam got passed by six other players.
Let’s review the math. First we’ll add the three newcomers with their rankings:
- #55 – Newbie 1
- #66 – Newbie 2
- #72 – Newbie 3
After these insertions, all in the Top 75, Sam’s ranking changes from #75 to #78. Now we factor in the three hypothetical players who raised their stock.
- Jordan Timmons goes from #85 to #55
- Jesse Smith moves up from #78 to #68
- Logan Jones improves from #80 to #70
What does this do to Sam Thomas’ ranking? Unfortunately, Sam moves from #78 to #81. The numbers don’t lie.
Let’s face it: Athletes separate themselves all the time in every respect. For example, some kids grow. Some kids don’t. While being 5’2” isn’t a liability in the 8th grade it becomes more problematic by a player’s sophomore year. There’s nothing you can do about it, of course, but it is a recruiting reality that size matters. A ton.
A large number of kids tend to hit their stride in the 10th and 11th grade. Those whose growth spurt came a year ago frequently find their coordination. Kids who have invested in their skill development start to show the fruits of that labor against stronger varsity opponents. Others stagnate. Plateau. Level off. Whichever term you want to use, we often see early bloomers tail off and later bloomers take off.
So if a player on your team, or your own daughter sees their ranking go from #88 to #95, this is why it happened.
Tips to improve your chances of being seen, and therefore ranked, by Prep Dig:
- Compete in club and offseason events. In order to rank you, we not only need to know of you, we also need to see you play. Playing as often as possible increases your chances.
- Disclaimer: Playing in Prep Dig events does not guarantee you will be ranked, nor does it give you preferred placement higher in the list. Our scouts, however, are guaranteed to attend those events so it does increase your chances of being recognized, organically. To sum it up, attending Prep Dig events won’t get a player into the rankings but it will provide them with the best opportunities to showcase their skills in front of the right people at the right time.
- Send information to our scouts. They’re also on social media! You don’t need to ping them every month — in fact we advise against being overly communicative — but keep them up to date with your highlights and schedule by sending it to them via direct message.
- Excel on social media. Use your real name. Put your high school, club team, position, accurate size, and GPA in your bio. Link to your highlight videos. Pin your schedule.
I am already ranked or I’ve already been evaluated by your scouts. How can I improve my standing:
- Ultimately you are the common denominator in your recruitment. If you’re really a player, if you’re sharp when the pressure is on, if you’re putting in the work away from the public eye, your standing will improve and you will be recruited. Irrespective of our rankings, you will get recruited if you’re a college-level talent. Take care of what you can control and all of the rest of these tips are extra additions to the most important piece: your work ethic and ability to play.
How to use the rankings as a tool:
- Claim or create a profile on Prospect Index. This gives every prospect the ability to control their player profile. From fixing the spelling of their name, to the school they attend, to updating their college offers – prospects & their families will be able to do it all. Additionally, the Prospect Index will allow players & their families to provide accurate contact information that will be visible to college coaches across the country, making it easier for them to reach out directly if they are interested.
- Share a screen-shot of your player profile on social media! While rankings are not the be all, end all, they are a great database for college coaches and scouts trying to navigate the massive scope of the recruiting landscape. Signaling your ranking online to college scouts could help them understand that you should be on their recruiting board!
- When reaching out to college coaches, link your Player Profile in your email. We have plenty of college coaches who subscribe and are familiar with navigating our website. Feel free to link articles, social media, and videos our scouts have on you in your communication.
Frequently asked questions
- How did you leave so-and-so off the list?
We can only rank and re-evaluate the players we see, mostly through live viewing. The flip-side of this is that we're unable to see everyone. We try our best but it haunts us to know that there are capable players who are currently not in our rankings either because we haven't watched them or caught them on an off night. Because of this, we update our rankings 2 to 3 times a year to keep up with the pace of how often players emerge.
- Can I pay for preferred coverage or a spot in the rankings?
No, you cannot. Our list is based strictly on merit, not whether you signed up for a profile or participated in a particular event.
- Do players from certain clubs or teams get preference?
No they do not. A variety of clubs and teams are represented in all of our rankings. While playing for a more high-profile team will probably get you seen earlier and perhaps promoted more via the club's social media, it won't determine where you fit in the prospect pecking order. Also, there are juggernaut and A-list programs in every state — both high school and club. There's a higher bar to clear to achieve playing time at those state powerhouses. That reality isn't lost on our scouts and the best evaluation opportunities are when a player is performing against the highest level of competition. Player A may be a star, filling up stats-sheets. But if they're playing against relatively mediocre competition, that will be reflected in our rankings. The same goes for Player B who earns occasional minutes for the state championship team. If they show the capability to play against the best competition, even with limited minutes, they will be viewed differently than a substitute player in a less challenging situation.
- Our family doesn't live in a major city. Will my daughter be seen?
Most likely. Our scouts take pride in covering the entire state. The proliferation of online viewing options has definitely helped kids from the more remote corners of each state get seen earlier and more often. We are covering athletes in a variety of settings. Athletes no matter what their living situation is, it does make a difference to have a current highlight video that is easy to find for not only scouts, but for college coaches. Also, our scouts are expected to keep sources in hard-to-reach areas. Our network of observers has grown a lot over the years and we are confident that we are looking at the best players across the state.
- How often are rankings published?
Rankings are expected to be published 2 to 3 times a year for each state in our network of websites. We work diligently with our existing staff to stay on schedule with timely updates. In the few states where we don't have a team capable of ranking credibly, we're working to find a team of people to get their market up to speed.
- Why do you update so often?
Players emerge constantly. These are athletes in their teenage years where growth spurts, skill development, and playing opportunity occurs at varying timelines. To keep up with the rapid and random nature of player development, we feel that frequent updates are our best chance at accuracy. Humility also drives the frequency of our updates. We know that the rankings are never going to be perfect — that's an impossible standard and we cannot reevaluate every single player in the state between every update. Again, updating often gives us the best chance to keep up.
- Why don't you publish the names of all the people involved in the rankings process?
Our rankings are beyond the name of one person. The people who are publishing the list have sent the rankings list to other club coaches and other scouts within the market they are evaluating. We have leaders who compile the rankings, but no rankings list is published without a scout having gone through a process of receiving feedback on the rankings from others. However, we keep the names of those collaborators private as we believe anonymity breeds accuracy during this process.
- Does a player need to play club ball or year-round to get ranked?
No, but it definitely helps. Players who don't participate year-round are passing up the exposure opportunities — and the best exposure opportunities when it comes to volleyball. If you really want to play at the next level, you need to make every effort to participate in at least a few events. Think of it this way: Playing at your local high school is like a manufacturer that only sells its products at the local corner store. Playing club is like having a store at the Mall of America. More eyeballs equals more exposure equals better odds of being seen by the right people at the right time. Playing club and in other offseason events is also an indication that a player is serious about making it to the next level.
- How can you rank players past the top 20 or so in any given state?
It's quite difficult! While there is more recruiting information and viewing opportunities for players at the top end of each class, we pride ourselves on having the most comprehensive rankings available. Discovering and ordering players past the top tier is one of the greatest challenges our scouts face. But they're up for it! With our rankings, we have research going back the last five years where athletes who are ranked certain places within their state what level of college volleyball they play. However, the story beyond the ranking is always what is the best fit for the player. We have top ten ranked athletes go play at a local Division II school where they can play early and win a championship. We have top ten players who go to high academic D-III schools. We also have players outside of the top 50 who commit to a D-I school for a variety of reasons that all boil down to fit — size, campus atmosphere, location, and intended major. Overall, these rankings are a great way for college coaches to see where athletes are playing club, if they have switched high school, and if they have already committed.