by Catharine Aradi

While many key elements of recruiting and the college search process have remained relatively stable over the past ten to fifteen years, there are some key elements that have changed--or at least shifted-and these are things parents definitely need to know. I looked at one element in my September-October article. Now, let’s look at another.

College coaches have always held camps, generally designed to raise funds for their programs. Occasionally, coaches would identify prospects at these camps, and they would decide to watch them over time and perhaps consider as prospects for their teams. These days, however, camps have become a primary scouting or recruiting tool for many college coaches.

I often hear from coaches that they scout off campus less than they used to, and instead, focus more on running camps.  For the college team, this is a win-win proposition. They make money to help offset program expenses, they can travel less, and they can see a lot of players in one place over the course of months or even years.

Unfortunately, the camp as a way to recruiting is rarely a win-win proposition for the player. I know of families who have spent thousands of dollars flying their players around to camps at top college programs, and all the players ever come home with is a tee shirt.  What too few parents seem to understand is that at the end of the day, when a camp is over, the college coach running the camp will walk away with the names of a small handful of players that he or she has decided were the top performers on that day or that weekend. And while a mom or dad may believe that their player had a great camp-and indeed, she may have done quite well-if the coach in charge hasn’t been wowed, that will likely be the end of it.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not criticizing camps in general. On some occasions, they can be lucky opportunities for players, particularly if a lot of coaches attend. But here again, there are certain factors that will contribute to any given player leaving the camp with colleges interested in her.

Keeping in mind that your “wow” factor is determined by the coaches and not by you--e.g., it’s the coach who goes “wow” when he/she sees you as opposed to you going “wow” when you see the college name. If you attend a camp where coaches from different types of colleges are scouting, you have a much greater chance of impressing someone.  If you’re at a camp run by a top D-I program, and you’re not necessarily a top D-I prospect (in the coach’s eyes), you’re not going to get anything out of the camp beyond a fun experience.

Your likelihood of being recruited after a camp increases somewhat in direct proportion to your performance at the camp, but mostly in direct proportion to identifying the types of schools where you could actually make an impact. I’m not suggesting players avoid camps. I think it’s a great idea to go to any camps at local schools, particularly if they compete at different levels--e.g., Div. I, Div. II, Div. III, etc.  If the cost is reasonable and you can get there without spending any extra money, these camps will be fun, and might put you on a coach’s recruiting radar.

However, once the cost of attending a camp passes $500 and includes air fare or a ten hour drive plus hotels and such, you might want to ask yourself what the odds are you will be among the top five or six athletes at the camp. And if the answer isn’t too your liking, consider putting that money in the bank for travel expenses that will present themselves whenever you have the opportunity to go work out with the team at a Div. II or NAIA school that’s shown it’s definitely interested in recruiting you.

Camps may now be a major recruiting tool for college coaches, but before you invest your life savings in them, look for other ways to increase your visibility as well as chances of finding the college that best fits your needs! A camp should be only one of the weapons in your recruiting arsenal!

Watch for the final installment of this series in my next article!

**NOTE: In 2018, the NCAA voted to create new, stricter Div. I recruiting guidelines.  These essentially prohibit all recruiting contact with prospects by Div. I coaches priort to Sept. 1 of the junior year.  For more information, please visit my Recruiting News page or the NCAA website.  The 2018 edition of my book also explains these changes.!

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