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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
High school athletes with aspirations to play in college have many decisions to make and most of them involve spending money. Showcases, camps and travel teams can be important in the recruiting process, but they can also be expensive. Some recruiting experts will tell you that all three are essential and some would argue they are not. The answer is somewhere in the middle.
College recruiting has evolved over the years and there is no doubt that showcases, camps and travel teams are an important aspect of the process. College coaches prefer these type events because they can see many potential prospects at one time. Also, these events typically take place when the coaches have time to recruit, not during their season.
These days it is not unusual for families to spend thousands of dollars on their athlete’s recruiting process. Given this fact, it only makes sense to have a complete understanding of how these events work, how to get the most bang for your buck and what will render the best results.
Showcases and Showcase Tournaments
First things first: Please understand that 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. If they don’t know your name when they get there, they probably won’t know your name when they leave.
Most showcase events and tournaments have hundreds of athletes participating. It is simply unrealistic to believe that a coach can watch and evaluate every athlete and they certainly can’t be at every game. College coaches have to be efficient, so they spend their time watching the athletes on their list. Therefore, the key is to get on as many lists as possible. To do that takes a little preparation.
Research each showcase you are considering and every tournament you are playing in. Make sure that colleges you are interested in will be attending. Then, reach out to the coaches at those schools expressing your interest in their program. Provide them with a link to your video, some information on your athletic abilities and your academic achievements. The contact information for your current coach would be helpful also. At least that way they know your name before they arrive. Then, follow up with the coaches shortly after the event.
Finally, don’t pick a showcase solely for exposure. Be strategic with your selections and factor in playing opportunities, coaching and the potential to improve.
School Sponsored Camps
School sponsored camps are similar to showcase events and believe me, the main purpose is to provide additional income for that particular college coaching staff. Understand this: You are not necessarily being recruited if you get invited to a camp. There may be legitimate recruits at the camps, but 99% of the attendees are not on the school’s “short list” of scholarship candidates.
You should also spend a little extra time researching college camps. Most colleges are not going to ask the coaches from their rivals to their camp. The University of Texas probably won’t be asking the Texas A & M coaching staff to attend their camp. So, just understand that the number of schools represented will most likely be less than at a showcase event. That being said, if you are interested in the college hosting the event, then attending that camp might be worth it.
Attend each camp for the experience of playing in front of college coaches, competing against quality competition and learning about the host school. As with showcases, reach out to the coaches before and shortly after attending each camp. Personal interaction pays big dividends.
Select, club or travel teams can certainly provide opportunities for exposure. However, the right team for you isn’t necessarily the best team in your sport. The right team is the one with a good schedule, good coaching staff and one where you will have an opportunity to play a significant role. Remember, off-season play should be about exposure, but it should also be about getting better. You have to play to be seen and you have to play to get better. You will accomplish neither if you are sitting on the bench even if it’s for the best team in the country.
When evaluating which travel team to select, keep in mind that a good coaching staff includes a coach willing to help in the recruiting process. A coach vouching for a player’s abilities and character can be a difference maker in that player’s recruiting journey.
The best two pieces of advice I can give you on showcases, camps and travel teams are to (1) do your homework and (2) develop a recruiting budget so you don’t spend the college fund foolishly.