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.
The college recruiting process can be extra challenging for athletes who compete in a spring sport. While athletes who play fall and winter sports have plenty of time to focus on the process after their season ends, the timeline is tight in baseball, softball, track and field, lacrosse and tennis. After all, as your season is winding down, the contact period deadline of July 31 is fast approaching. You can’t afford to waste any time. You and your parents need to recognize the urgency and put together a summer game plan well in advance.
Plan your summer ahead of time
If you’re serious about playing your sport at the collegiate level, it’s important to ramp up your recruiting efforts at the end of the school year and your spring sports season. The deadline for college recruiters to make contact includes two full summer months. During this time, there are plenty of opportunities for college coaches to see you perform and evaluate you. While the full contact period runs from March 1–July 31, coaches don’t have much time to look for recruits while their own season is in progress.
It’s important to understand the timeline involved in being chosen for a “select” summer sport such as baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field. In most cases, these teams hold tryouts in the fall before the scheduled season. Some may even have you participate in “fall ball” or indoor sessions for sports. If you miss the cutoff date for the tryouts, you should contact the coach or organization to see if they can send someone to evaluate your athletic ability during a spring sport event. Many coaches will make exceptions for a talented performer.
Read more: Starting the Recruiting Process
Join a club team
For many reasons, participation at the high school level is necessary if you want to play the sport in college. In addition to playing the sport and getting proper coaching, a high school coach can point you in the right direction toward college possibilities. However, competing on a team during the summer can give you a distinct advantage. You will likely face stronger competition on an event-to-event basis than you may face during the high school season. This can be an eye-opener for college coaches in attendance and may help you create a better recruiting video to send to colleges.
Take advantage of camps and showcases
Camps and showcase events are in full swing during the summer months. These are excellent opportunities to supplement your regular summer league participation. So, which camps and showcases should you attend? While there are many options available, here are five factors to consider:
- Cost – This is likely at the top of your parents’ list of concerns. For example, if you know you are not likely to play Division I softball but have the skills to compete at the Division II or NAIA level, you may want to concentrate on a camp hosted by a lower level school. In many cases, Division I camps are in the highest demand and cost the most.
- Skills Camp – Looking to improve your sport-specific performance? You may think attending a camp run by a top-tier collegiate program is the best choice. Is it? Do some research to see how many players are attending and compare this with the number of instructors participating at the camp. You don’t want to be a number. You want the best learning situation available.
- Prospects Camp – This is distinctly different from a skills camp. Many colleges will hold a specific session for prospects. At some schools, only invited players will be part of the camp. At others, such as lower-tier D1s or smaller universities, this is a way for coaches to possibly find someone flying under the recruiting radar.
- One-On-One Sessions – These are generally private lessons for a particular skill (track and field sprinter, jumper, thrower, e.g.) and are not connected with a university. There are many ex-athletes conducting one-on-one sessions nationwide. Other similar private lessons are available for athletes wanting to improve their performances in baseball, softball, lacrosse and tennis.
- Showcases – Prominent in baseball, softball and lacrosse, showcases are privately sponsored events which charge a participation fee for individuals/teams to compete in front of college coaches. The fee includes a guarantee of playing in a specific number of games and most will provide a list of college programs which will be in attendance.
The length of the camp is another important factor. You’ll have to choose between a one-day clinic or a multiple-day camp, which includes overnight accommodations and meals. Look into the history of the camps, the location and how organized the camps or showcases have been in the past.
If all of this seems to be a bit daunting, keep in mind that you’re not alone. Be sure to talk things over with your parents and your coaches—they can provide much-needed support and guidance throughout the process. This is also where NCSA can give you a boost. Take a minute to build your free recruiting profile to get on the radar of thousands of coaches year-round.