Recruiting column: How to use camps & unofficial visits to get noticed

Recruiting column: How to use camps & unofficial visits to get noticed

Recruiting Column

Recruiting column: How to use camps & unofficial visits to get noticed

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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 college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

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The number 1 question we are asked by high school athletes is “How do I get noticed by college coaches?”  Obviously, the easiest way to “get noticed” is to be bigger, stronger, faster and better than every other recruit in your sport.  If you don’t have all that going for you, then you need to come up with Plan B.

As we’ve discussed many times, Plan B involves sending emails to appropriate colleges, connecting with coaches on Twitter and getting your current coach involved.  However, Plan B should also involve camps and unofficial visits.  Here’s my take on how to best benefit from camps and unofficial visits.

Camps

Where I come from, there are really three types of camps:

  1. School Development Camps: These camps are really geared to the younger athletes and are just a way for college coaches to make a little extra money.  They do serve a purpose by providing exposure for the school and giving the athletes an opportunity to learn from some college coaches.  Attending these camps is great if they are within your budget, but understand that recruiting is not the primary focus.
  2. College Hosted Camps: These are the camps held on a college campus by the coaches at a particular 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 received a personal invitation 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.

    If you are considering a college camp, you need to determine whether or not you will be able to stand out at the camp.  How many athletes will be in attendance?  Is the college sponsoring the event the right level for your current abilities?  If you find a camp where you might stand out and the cost is reasonable, then go for it.

    For the reasons described above, you should spend a little extra time researching college camps before pulling out your credit card.  Also, make sure you know which coaches will be in attendance.  Most colleges are not going to ask the coaches from their rivals to their camp.  The University of Alabama probably won’t be asking the Auburn coaching staff to attend their camp.  That being said, if you are interested in the college hosting the event then attending that camp might be worth it.

  1. Third Party Camps: The final type of camp are the third party camps or showcase events.  Most third party camps have hundreds of athletes participating.  It is simply unrealistic to believe that a coach can watch and evaluate every athlete at a showcase event.

College coaches have to be efficient, so they spend their time watching the athletes on their list.  For that reason, your goal should be to get on as many lists as possible.  To do that takes a little preparation.

Once again, do your research.  Make sure that colleges you are interested in will be attending.  Once you decide on a few, 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 before you leave, thank them personally for the opportunity.  Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they know you are serious about their program.

Remember this about any camp:  If the coaches don’t know your name when you show up and you don’t make it a priority to introduce yourself, they won’t know your name when you leave.

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Unofficial Visits

Unofficial visits can be used much the same way as attending a camp or showcase event.  The simple definition of an unofficial visit is anytime you (or you and your parents) visit a college and your parents foot the bill. You can take as many unofficial visits as you like.

Just so you will understand the difference, an official visit is any visit to a college that is offered and paid for by the university. You and your parents will have your transportation to and from the college paid for. Also paid for by the college will be your hotel, meals and entertainment expenses. Generally, you will receive three free tickets to that college’s home game the weekend you are in town. Each official visit can last up to 48 hours.  You are only allowed 5 official visits at the Division I and II levels.

Unofficial visits to colleges in which you have interest are a great idea and can start as early as you like.  Like the college sponsored camps you need to be strategic with your unofficial visits.  Make sure the program is a match for your abilities and you have a genuine interest in the college.  Then, alert the college coach that you will be on campus and if the weekend is not during a dead period then perhaps a short meeting might be possible.

While you are on campus, soak it all in.  Go to the Student Union, watch the team practice or play a game, take a tour of the campus.  Make sure you feel comfortable.  When you leave, you should have a feeling about how diligent you want to be pursuing that school.

Here’s the deal 

Getting noticed is going to take a little work.  There is no magic formula or clever Tweet that will put you on a coach’s radar.  If you aren’t being noticed by the colleges you are interested in, then use every method we’ve discussed and be persistent.  There really is no other logical choice.

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