USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Exposure, exposure, exposure. That seems to be what every high school athlete and their parents are looking for these days. While I completely understand that thought process, what you should be focused on is the right kind of exposure. If you’re a Division I athlete with aspirations of playing for Alabama or Clemson, then exposure to a Division III college in South Dakota doesn’t make much sense. The same holds true if you’re an average student with average grades and test scores. Attending a camp at Harvard, or a showcase event with all the Ivy League coaches in attendance is not time well spent.
College recruiting has evolved over the last 20 years and there is no doubt that camps, showcase events and tournaments for travel teams are an important part of the college recruiting process. These type events have become popular because college coaches can see many potential recruits at one time, in one place and during their off-season. Given these facts, it only makes sense to have a complete understanding of how these events work, how to maximize your exposure (there’s that word again) and what factors to consider when deciding on a camp. Here’s my take on those 3 facts.
There are 3 types of camps
In my opinion there are really three types of camps: School Development Camps, College Hosted Camps and Third Party Camps (or tournaments). You really need to have an understanding of all three to be certain you are making the right decision about which camps to attend.
School Development Camps: These camps are geared toward the younger athlete and are primarily a way for college coaches to make a little extra money in their off-season. They do offer a way for an athlete to get some excellent instruction, get used to performing in front of college coaches and to visit a college campus they might be interested in. Attending these camps is great if they are within your budget, but understand that recruiting is not the primary focus.
College Hosted Camps: These are the camps held on a college campus by the coaches at the university. College coaches send hundreds of invitations to high school athletes and again, the camps help the coaching staff make a little extra income. Understand this: You are not necessarily being recruited if you get invited to a camp, unless you receive a personal invitation directly from a college coach. There may be legitimate recruits at these camps, but 99% of the attendees are not on the school’s “short list” of scholarship candidates.
Third Party Camps, Showcase Events or Tournaments: These camps or events are hosted by outside organizations and are designed to provide athletes with exposure to a broad group of college coaches and/or scouts. Most third party camps have hundreds of athletes participating. Attendance is usually driven by the number of college coaches that commit to being there. These camps are typically more expensive than the other camps, but if you do your homework, they can be beneficial.
How to maximize your exposure
Obviously, the best way to maximize your exposure is to be bigger, stronger, faster and have better grades than every other athlete at any camp you attend. Since that may not apply to you at every camp, you need to have a Plan B.
Plan B involves just a little work. Generally speaking college coaches don’t go to showcases and tournaments hoping to discover new talent. They go to these events to evaluate athletes they have identified as potential recruits and ones they already know about. Additionally, it is unrealistic to believe that any coach can watch and evaluate every athlete at a camp or showcase event. College coaches spend their time watching the athletes on their list of prospective recruits. For that reason, Plan B is to get your name on as many lists as possible before every event you attend and that is where a little preparation is helpful.
Do your research. Make sure that colleges you are interested in will be attending the events you are considering. Remember, if a college coach doesn’t know your name when he or she arrives, they probably won’t know your name when they leave. Therefore, several weeks before any event you plan to attend you should notify the coaches from the colleges you are interested in that you will be there. Hopefully, they will put your name on their list. Then, introduce yourself during the camp and thank them personally for the opportunity before you leave. Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they know you are serious about their program.
Factors to consider
There are many factors to consider when deciding on whether or not to spend the time and money on a particular camp. Here are the 3 things I believe you should focus on.
- Will you have a chance to be noticed? If you are considering a college camp or showcase event, you need to determine whether or not you will be able to stand out. How many athletes will be in attendance? Will the format be conducive to highlighting your skills? Is the camp appropriate for your current abilities?
- Which college coaches will be in attendance? Make sure that the colleges you are interested in/qualified for will be at any camp or showcase you decide to attend.
- Is the cost within the family budget? Some camps are more affordable than others. Spend your recruiting dollars wisely. Don’t forget to consider all costs including travel, meals, lodging, etc.
If you ask yourself these three questions before you commit to any showcase, camp or tournament your chances for the right kind of exposure will increase dramatically.
Here’s the deal
Camps, showcase events and tournaments can all be extremely beneficial if you are strategic about which ones to attend. Do your homework before pulling out your credit card. Don’t waste your time or money on ones that don’t make sense.