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 and play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois and went on to play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes 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.
Which college softball camps offer the most bang for your buck? Softball camps, clinics and showcases can provide many benefits for student-athletes—hands-on skills training, exposure to coaches and the opportunity to check out a college you may one day attend. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Division I softball coaches find the majority of their recruits at camps.
To help you find solid options for camp season, NCSA has compiled a definitive list of every NCAA Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College camp in the country. This list of nearly 800 softball camps includes the date, division level, type, age/grade level and cost — potentially saving you hours of research.
Read more: Complete list of 2019 college softball camps
What are the three main types of softball camps?
Prospect camps: One-day prospect camps typically feature about 25 percent training and 75 percent evaluation over a period of several hours. Ranging from $60–$200, prospect camps are generally the most affordable type of college softball camp. In most cases, only the host school’s coaches and players will be attendance to lead drills and evaluate recruits. If you’re already on a coach’s radar, attending a prospect camp can be key for your recruiting progress. You can get to know the team and explore the campus to see if it’s the right fit. And if you’re a junior or senior, you may even get a scholarship offer.
Skills camps and clinics: The majority of softball camps are skills camps and clinics. Featuring around 75 percent training and 25 percent evaluation, some skills camps offer general drills and instruction for all positions, while others are more specialized and focus on hitting, pitching, catching and/or fielding. In most cases, softball skills camps range from 1-3 days and $200–$800. These camps are often overnight, and the higher price includes meals and room/board. Coaches from as many as 12 schools will typically be in attendance to lead drills and instructional sessions. Skills camps and clinics often include some gameplay for evaluation, but their biggest benefit is expert, position-based coaching.
Showcases and team camps: These camps put the highest emphasis on gameplay and evaluation. Ranging from $100-300 per athlete or a larger price for the entire team, these camps feature a series of scrimmages against other travel and high school teams. Showcases and team camps typically run 1-3 days and often include 10 or more college coaches in attendance. In many cases, these camps hold training sessions in the morning followed by scrimmages in the afternoon and evening. Looking to cast a wide net and get evaluated by multiple coaches at once? A showcase or team camp might be your best bet.
Read more: Best Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA college softball programs
Which 2019 college softball camp is right for you?
If you are serious about playing softball for a particular school, the head coach needs to watch you play in person. To get evaluated, you should attend a softball camp on that school’s campus or find another camp where their staff will be working. It’s common for Division II, Division III and NAIA coaches to volunteer at major Division I softball camps.
Read more: Things coaches look for at softball camps and showcases
When should you start attending college softball camps?
Softball camps are a great way to stay sharp in the offseason. It’s never too early to get hands-on training from college coaches and players. However, if you’re looking to get evaluated at a softball camp, 9th or 10th grade is a great time to start. According to NCSA data, more than 50 percent of Division I softball coaches begin evaluating athletes during their freshman year of high school, while an additional 33 percent start sophomore year.
Read more: 9 key questions in the softball recruiting process
How should you prepare for a college softball camp?
Bring all the essentials — you don’t want to look unprepared in front of college softball coaches. Make sure you have your glove, bat, cleats, batting gloves, helmet, cap/visor and running shoes. You should also bring water, snacks, sunscreen, a towel and anything else you might need. The camp website will often include a packing list as well.
Follow up after the camp
After the camp is over, remember to follow up with the coaches in attendance. Thank them for the opportunity and ask for feedback on things to improve. To continue the conversation, give them updates whenever you have something noteworthy to share — an updated skills video, your latest academic transcript and any new verified stats are all great reasons to reach out.
Read more: 5 steps to emailing college softball coaches