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. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches and parents 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.
In the college recruiting process, there are several different methods that coaches use to find recruits, including getting recommendations from high school and club coaches, using talent-identifying services and recruiting tools (like NCSA), searching Twitter for athletes who have received offers from rival schools and simply being contacted by athletes. But in that mix is also running and attending university camps and showcases, an important part of the college recruiting process. But what does it really mean when you get invited to a camp or showcase, and how should you respond to an invite? Read on to find out.
Not every coach is going to show interest the same way
Between all the recruiting questionnaires, camp invites, phone calls, emails and direct messages, it can be difficult to figure out if a coach’s interest is authentic or not. Obviously, if you haven’t heard from a coach at all, then there likely isn’t any interest there. On the other end of the spectrum, if a coach has been calling, texting or DMing you, that shows some good interest from the coach. And if you’ve been invited for an official or unofficial visit, you’re likely an important recruit. So, the first step is to figure out if your camp invite is generic or not so you can gauge whether attending camp is worthwhile.
Is your camp invite generic?
This is a bit trickier to figure out. You’ll have to determine if your invite is generic or specific enough that it’s inviting you directly. This can be difficult to do because sometimes coach emails that look generic are actually showing interest. That’s because a coach working at a big program could be sending correspondence to 100 different recruits and doesn’t have time to make each email specific. It’s important to note if a coach includes personal contact information, like a cell phone number. That’s usually a good sign of showing interest.
Recruit vs. camper
The fact is that many schools use showcases and camps as a money-making enterprise. Can attendees learn valuable skills and improve their game at a camp? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean they’re also being recruited. Attendees that received generic invites are usually “campers” and are mainly there for skills development, as they are not being actively evaluated by a coach. Meanwhile, “recruits” have received a personal invitation from the coach or coaching staff and are being evaluated at the camp or showcase. In order to make sure you’re a recruit, you’ll have to establish a line of communication with the coach.
Communication is key
It’s not a good strategy to start signing up for every camp or showcase in the country. Coaches tend to invite a lot of athletes to their camps and they simply don’t have time to notice recruits they aren’t already looking at. That’s why you shouldn’t hope to get “discovered” at a camp—instead, you’ll want to have some type of communication with a coach in advance of their camp. When you receive a camp invite, you should always respond. Try to get a conversation going so that you can make sure you’re on the coach’s list of players they’ll be evaluating at camp. Try sending (or have your coach send) your highlight or skills video, and if the coach responds that probably means they have some interest. Additionally, you’ll always want to follow up after camp. It’s a good way to stay on a coach’s radar and possibly receive some feedback that can then be used to improve your game.
Attending camps can be a great opportunity for your recruiting journey and you’ll want to learn the ins and outs of camps before you attend. Use this guide to gauge if going to a camp is worth your time and always focus on communicating with coaches.