USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Mike Adler was a 3-sport captain in high school who went onto play running back for DIAA Morehead State University in Kentucky. Mike is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
As you begin your recruiting journey, you’ll often hear a lot of talk about camp invites and attending camps at colleges and universities. But what does a student-athlete really get from attending a college camp? What should they expect? How do they know if they’re being recruited by that school? Camps can be expensive, so how does your family decide which camp(s) will benefit your athlete the most? Let’s look at how your student-athlete can maximize his or her opportunities before, during and after college camps.
Which camp(s) should your athlete attend?
It isn’t whether or not your student-athlete should attend a camp or combine, but finding the ones that offer the best chance for receiving an offer. First, start by considering camps at schools where your athlete has interest in attending. Next, you will want to determine if your athlete will be attending the camp as a “recruit” or a “camper.”
There’s a pretty easy way to tell–If your athlete gets a personal invite from a school’s coaching staff, it means they are on the coach’s radar and one of the select few invited to the camp as a recruit. It means the school has interest in your athlete and the coaches have identified them as a prospect and have already watched their film and/or seen them in-person and invited them to camp for a closer look. Now, if your athlete signed up or received a somewhat generic invite to the camp, they’re probably a camper, not a recruit. If you are not getting more personalized invites to camps, you should begin target more DII and DIII schools. Keep in mind, there is still value in attending as a camper. The purpose in that case would not be so much to get recruited, but more of an opportunity for your athlete to see how they stack up against other athletes and they may also get some great coaching advice on improving their game.
What your athlete should do with a camp invite
Always respond. Even if your athlete isn’t interested in attending that school, make sure they respectfully decline the invitation. Ignoring an invite is never a good recruiting move. Say your athlete gets a camp invite from a school they aren’t interested in and they don’t respond. What happens if that coach leaves that school and gets hired at a college that your athlete is interested in potentially going to? That coach may remember your athlete’s lack of response from their previous college, which in-turn, may turn them off from continuing to recruit your athlete. Your athlete never wants to burn any bridges.
Before attending a camp
It is always a good idea for your athlete to see if the school is seriously recruiting them before attending the camp. It often helps to make sure your athlete is good enough to play at that school. Have your athlete, their high school coach and/or their club coach email the coaches before the camp and send them their highlight or skills video. If the coach responds, they are probably interested in your athlete and the camp may be worth their while. If they don’t, that school may not have a real interest in recruiting your athlete. Also, if your athlete has questions regarding the school or athletic program, it’s on them to speak up and ask the coach directly. If they hear something they don’t like, or the chemistry just isn’t there, it may not make sense to attend that camp.
What your athlete should expect at the camp
Chances are there will be dozens, if not hundreds of student-athletes at the camp. As a result, it is very difficult to stand out. Your athlete must also realize there will be some of the best athletes attending from the area, state or even national level. If your athlete is going to a college camp to get better, great. If they’re going for exposure, this may not be the best avenue.
If a coach is evaluating your athlete at a college camp, make sure they know they aren’t being evaluated on ability alone. Coaches are looking at how they compete against other equal or higher caliber talent. They also want to see how they react to successes and failures. How your athlete interacts with their team and body language are also key things coaches take note of at camps. Your athlete’s attitude is almost as important as their ability and that can make or break their chances with that coach. The key is to show enthusiasm and confidence without coming off as cocky.
Camp’s over, now what?
After the camp concludes it’s up to your student-athlete to make the next move. It never hurts to reach out to a coach after a camp and thank them for the opportunity. Don’t let them be disappointed if a scholarship offer doesn’t come from the camp. Instead, have them use the coaching they received from the camp and apply it to their sport moving forward. Your athlete needs to be realistic, too. If they don’t hear from a coach after the camp, they’re probably not what that coach was looking for. Don’t let your athlete pass the communication plan to you. This is their process and a coach wants to hear from the athlete. You can guide your athlete and tell them what to say but let them take control. After all, they’re the ones who will be attending that school.