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Making the summer college camp circuit work for your recruiting process

Many families inquire as to the effectiveness of attending college athletic camps for the purposes of getting recruited. Some people will have you believe that college camps are a waste of money if you are trying to get recruited and others believe they are the best thing since sliced bread. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Most college camps are run for a few purposes: (1) to provide the coach, staff, and program with some additional income and (2) to provide a venue to see several hundred players who may be interested in attending your school and playing for your program. There are other coaches that simply love coaching and run camps as a benefit to local athletes and the community because they enjoy passing on their knowledge to younger students but let’s stick with the first two.

A summer camp for a college coach is an easy way to see several hundred players in one place over the course of a week. Not just to see them play but to meet them and learn about them as a person. The summer for a college coach is the time of the year when they are free to really recruit at camps, tournaments, summer games, and showcases and they take full advantage of the summer in any way they can. During their season, they are not really afforded the opportunity to attend your high school games because they are playing their games at the same time.

With that being said, it’s extremely important to be realistic about certain camps. Many kids sign up for camps at schools they have no realistic shot of playing at and they then wonder why they weren’t recruited after the camp. This sometimes has a residual affect as they tell future families not to waste their money attending camps for recruiting purposes because “you won’t get recruited!”

There are several important steps you as a potential recruit need to perform before you start signing up for camps at colleges.

The first step is to identify this school as a school you “might” like to attend. If you honestly don’t have any interest in a school, then going to that camp for the purposes of trying to get recruited doesn’t make sense. If you want to go for skill-building purposes, then that is up to you.

The second step you need to take is to identify whether your skills would allow you to play for this particular program in the near future. If you are a 170-pound linebacker, attending camps at Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State won’t get you recruited by those programs to play linebacker. This is a fact of life that some people don’t want to accept and they keep attending camps at colleges they won’t be able to play for. There are 1,100 NCAA schools and your ability to find a program where your skills match up will in the end be the most important recruiting task you can perform.

The third important step is communicating with the college coach. Many people simply sign up for camp, run past the coach for a few days and then expect a phone call a few weeks later from the coach because they scored a bunch goals at camp. Some college camps may have 100 players or multiple sessions so if the coach doesn’t know who you are or that you are interested in their program, they simply may not notice you the way you want to be noticed.

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If you call the coach before the camp and begin to build a relationship with them and communicate that their school is a place of interest for you, you will have a far better chance of being noticed by that coach and making the camp circuit work. But you have to do some research on the school and program first and you have to be realistic about your athletic skill. It doesn’t matter if you attend 1 camp or 100 camps, if you cannot realistically play for that school, the camp circuit might not work for you. If you find schools and programs that better fit your skills and desires, and you communicate with the coach prior to the camp, you will have a far better chance of getting recruited via a summer camp at a college.

At the end of the day you have to realize that the coach may only be recruiting 5 or 10 players a year and may already have recruits in their pipeline or committed, so the odds of you simply being discovered at a camp are not always in your favor. There is a process that needs to take place before you attend camp. We also know that virtually every college coach we have spoken to places a great deal of emphasis on their college camp each year and sees it as a valuable tool in allowing them to see athletes and allowing athletes to see them and we have met many players who have all benefited from attending college camps.

There is also a hidden benefit to some camps. Many college camps have other college coaches working at the camp. A rule of thumb is that two colleges that compete for the same type of recruits will not work each other’s camp, but many D1 camps have D2 and D3 coaches working and vice versa. This allows you the opportunity to be seen by other coaches from other schools where you might be a better fit at and we have met several players who were discovered by coaches working at an entirely different camp.

A college camp is one step in the recruiting process and requires some research and communication with coaches on your part prior to the attending a camp. You may find you are getting many camp flyers in the mail or personal requests from college coaches you are speaking to. It doesn’t mean they are recruiting you, but it’s an opportunity to possibly get recruited.

View it as an opportunity to expand your skills, meet some new players, get a sense of your ability, and as a way to be seen by college coaches.

Making the summer showcase circuit work for you

Players looking to broaden their exposure in the college recruiting process will often turn to showcases. These one or two day events offer high school players the opportunity to display their skills to college coaches and are a way for coaches to prospective recruits display their skills. While showcases offer can offer exposure to a larger number of schools in one place, a college coach will rarely recruit from a showcase performance alone, but use that event to decide if they want to pursue certain players further. One of the challenges of showcases is that despite the attendance of many colleges at a given event, a certain recruit might not have the skills or academic background to play or gain acceptance to several of the schools in attendance.

While you may be “showcasing” your skills to 30 colleges in one day, realistically, a recruit might be only to play at 4 or 5 of those schools based on their ability. Rather than attending random showcases, it is important to evaluate your ability as it may apply to different colleges in the area and then try to determine what colleges will be attending a given showcase. Northeastern University assistant baseball coach James Pinzino approaches showcases as follows. “Showcases have become an important recruiting tool because of the numbers of players we can see at once. However, a player’s ability to compete, particularly in the pressure of an important game, is a huge component of success at the college level. The only way to evaluate this is to see players compete in real games where something is on the line. So like video, we use showcase performances as a tool to decide who we want to pursue further!”

Many families attend showcases hoping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it’s not that simple. Simply showing up, hitting a few home runs or 3-pointers probably will not get you a scholarship offer the next day!

So here are some tips to help you use showcases in the recruiting process.

1 – What colleges are going to be attending? As I mentioned above, there may be 30 colleges at a given showcase, but if your academic record or athletic skills do not warrant acceptance or recruitment to 25 of the schools in attendance, then you will not get the benefit of showcasing yourself to the 30 schools in attendance. Do not focus on how many schools, focus on what schools! More on this below!

2 – What facilities are being used? Some showcases take place on multiple fields. A coach cannot be in two places at once, so if you are on field 1 and the coach is one field 2, you might not get the benefit of performing well.

3 – Is the event a multi-day event? Some coaches do not attend the second day because they have seen what they need to see in day one.

4 – What drills and/or tests will be required. Will there be any weight lifting tests or running or agility tests that you can prepare for in advance? We have heard instances of 60-yard dashes being run on gravel or high grass which hadn’t been mowed in two weeks, now 80 recruits have a slow 60 yard dash time listed on a sheet of paper.

5 – Communicate with college coaches prior to the showcase. In step 1, we recommend trying to find out what colleges will be in attendance at a given showcase. In order to accomplish this, you often need to perform some type of communication with college coaches prior to the showcase. While coaches have different rules as to when they can communicate with you via phone (at the D1 and D2 level), they can respond to email and they can receive your calls at any time. Trying to find out what showcases a given coach/school will be attending is an innocent way to introduce yourself to a college coach. I don’t want to get into researching colleges at this point as that is an entirely different and long topic, but a simple email or phone call saying “Coach Stevens, my name is Dave Smith, I am completing my junior year at Town High School and am interested in continuing my baseball career at the college level and am interested in your school and program. I am trying to plan my summer recruiting activity and wanted to inquire as to what showcases if any you will be attending this summer?” Coaches like to recruit good athletes, but they also like to recruit athletes that want to attend THEIR college. It is important in the recruiting process that you indicate to college coaches that you are interested in their program time and time again.

6 – Follow up with coaches you are in communication with prior to the showcase. Finding out what colleges might be in attendance in step 5 above and following up with college coaches are two different things. In this scenario, you have developed a prior relationship with a college coach through previous recruiting activity and in this case, you are communicating with the college coach that you are attending a specific showcase that he/she is attending and that you look forward to meeting them and speaking to them personally! The goal here is to one, alert the college coach that you are attending a specific event that he/she is attending, and two, that you are being proactive about your recruiting process. If the coach is interested in watching you perform and you have developed a prior relationship with them, they will be more apt to watch YOUR showcase performance amongst all the other athletes in attendance.

7 – Manage your actions and emotions. Several years ago, I met a coach who attended a baseball game to see a particular recruit. The coach arrived prior to the game and saw the player with his shirt off talking to a bunch of girls when he should have been getting ready to play the game. The coach packed up his stuff and left. Coaches watch and notice everything, so conduct yourself accordingly. Run hard, accept feedback, don’t take plays off, don’t berate your fellow athletes, don’t style a home run and so on!

8 – Follow up with college coaches after the showcase. You are as much a part of the college athletic recruiting process as the college coach is. You have dreams and desires and will be paying for college, so it is important that the decisions you make about college are made for you, not by someone else. If there is a particular school you are interested in, you need to communicate that to the college coach to move the process to the next step. If the coach is interested, they will most likely tell you. And, if the coach is not interested, they will most likely tell you. You don’t want to string them along and they do not want to string you along. Following up with the coach after a showcase performance will get right down to it. They may want to learn more about you, they may request video, they may tell you they want to see you play more, or they may tell you they have other recruits they are evaluating right now but to keep in touch. Getting a NO from a coach may be devastating to you, but it’s simply an indication that you need to focus on other schools. In reality, getting a no is a good thing, it tells you where you might be at in the recruiting process and frees more time up for you to research other colleges that might be a better fit! If there isn’t a match right now, do not burn any bridges with that college coach. That coach might have a list of 50 other players they rank higher than you, but 49 of those players might fall of that list for one reason or another over the next 5 months. Thank the coach for their time and tell them to keep in touch if anything in their recruiting process changes!

Showcases are not magic; they are one recruiting tool that you can use to increase your chances to be recruited. College coaches really need to see you play in person in some capacity, but seeing you play in person in a showcase is not the beginning or end of your recruitment. It is important to evaluate your abilities, evaluate different colleges and communicate with college coaches as to what they look for and what their needs are and then find way to display your skills to them. Don’t simply show up at a showcase hoping to be noticed or recruited by any college.