Should You Go To College Camps?

“I went to a college camp last week but they didn’t seem to notice me.” This is not an unusual statement. We used to hear it a lot. Fortunately, we are hearing it much less often from our students because we have tried to change their expectations somewhat.

First question: Are college camps good for recruiting? Yes, sometimes, perhaps. Why so vague? Because each of these can be an appropriate answer. Remember that the first objective of most college camps is to make money for the coaches. This is an important part of their income. Many coaches do not get a big salary. Without camp income they would have a hard time staying in the game. So, they search for good numbers to help make each camp as profitable as possible.

Do not get me wrong. They will look at prospective players. The problem comes when there are so many kids at the event that the coaches cannot get to know any of them. In a case like this, you need something that really gets their attention.

The other problem comes when you go into a camp without knowing if the school is recruiting your position in your class. If they have filled that slot, it is going to be almost impossible to get their attention. They have limited roster spots, scholarship money is limited, and they have to keep the recruiting numbers fairly even in each class. Most schools would be very happy to have about 5 great recruits in each class so they can reload the lineup each year. If they have ten recruits in a certain class, this becomes a huge problem for many reasons. When all of these kids graduate, the numbers would be down for the following year or two, kids do not get enough playing time to be happy, their budget limits how many kids they can travel, and coaches can’t spend individual, quality time with that many players.

Another issue comes when coaches have invited a couple of specific kids to camp who play your position because they are seriously interested in them. Many times they see a kid in a tournament and love the way she performs. They are convinced she has the tools they need. Now, they want to get to know her, see if she can make adjustments, and see if they feel that she will fit into their philosophy. Perhaps, at that tournament, they saw a lot of other colleges showing interest in those kids so they feel the need to move quickly on them. They are so focused on those recruits that they have little time to look at you unless you stand out in some way.

What are some reasons coaches might be drawn to you? You must have something that gets their attention. Is it your speed, amazing movement on a pitch, competitive fire, or did you do something extra to spark interest? What are those things? Do you play on a travel team they really respect? Do you have great stats at a level that makes you potentially valuable? Perhaps you sent a video that clearly showed your abilities to perform in impressive fashion. Have you been corresponding with them?

A couple of other tips. Smaller schools often recruit more heavily based on things they see at camps. A smaller college may not have the budget to cross the country looking for recruits. Sometimes they will not waste a lot of time looking at a real star because they feel they will lose her to a school with more money, better facilities, or a stronger conference. If you show up at their camp, suddenly they get excited.

One thing I tell students is to go to the camp to watch the coaches and how they interact. Remember, however, that this is a camp, so often they are extremely nice. Don’t read too much into their behavior. This also gives you a chance to compare yourself. How high is the bar, where am I falling short, and what factors do I see that get the attention of coaches? Sometimes you don’t go to a camp to get recruited, but to learn what it will take to get recruited.

Rarely does a school make you an offer because of your performance at a camp. The exception comes when they have already watched you at games and have done a lot of homework on you. Normally a camp only tells them if they want to follow you. The only way a school can be pretty certain of your skills is to see you in action at a real game. A lot of kids look great at camps, but they are not competitors. In a game they can get two strikes, but just can’t finish the job because they don’t have that signature pitch. Perhaps they get rattled.

Not only does the coach want to see how you do in games, but they need to know it was against the kind of competition they face in their conference. A lower class of travel ball tells them nothing. You can look great at a camp, but if you play in little tournaments against weak competition, only the smaller schools and lesser programs will have time for those games. College coaches can only recruit a certain amount of days each year, by rule, and that is further reduced by their availability due to other conflicts. So, they must choose tournaments where they have enough talent to see several of their prospects play.

Finally, realize that you and the coach are on very different pages. Having been to many, many camps, we see dozens of kids with the same thought: “Oh, I really want to play here. I will be really nice and maybe they will choose me”. And, we see coaches with a different question everywhere we go: “Is there someone at this camp who is good enough to dominate in our conference? Can she strike out that All-American we face from a certain team? Could this kid take us to the Regionals and win?” You may be the best player at the camp, but if the answer is not a resounding “yes” to these questions, the odds are not in your favor.
Believe it or not, we always suggest that our kids go to a few camps. Know why you are going and understand what you want to gain from the experience. Going to the right camps, going for the right reasons, and preparing in the right way can make the experience far more enjoyable and productive.