by Taylor Barton
In the “Recruiting Tips” prior to this, I’ve addressed a number of issues. In this “Tip”, I wanted to discuss something that I feel kids and parents are really screwing up on. I want to talk about the summer college camp tour. I see kids attend the wrong camps for the wrong reasons every year, and suffer down the road as a result. Hopefully with this guidance, you’ll be able to avoid the pitfalls many others have fallen into.
Colleges typically hold their summer camps in June, anywhere from the 15th thru the 30th. The problem is that most of them are at the same time. So kids can’t just make a list of college camps they want to attend and go to all of them. A lot of times, kids have to choose between a couple different schools on the same dates. What I want to accomplish with this write up is to help recruits and their parents be as effective with their time, effort, and money as possible when choosing what college camps to attend.
The 1st thing I want to do is address some of the problems, then I’ll give my advice on how to handle them.
An issue right off the bat is that it costs a lot of money to attend a college camp in the summer. I don’t necessarily mean the price of admission that a particular college charges for their camp. Some are definitely very expensive, others are very affordable. What I’m referring to is the cost of everything else. If a kid wants to go to camp at USC for example, most times a parent is going to want to travel with them. So that means you have to budget for at least 2 people, and if it’s both parents 3. Let’s add up the cost of all the expenses. Airfare from anywhere in the Northwest to L.A. and back is going to be a couple hundred bucks. Let’s say $300 for the purposes of this story. Camps are generally a couple days, so that means you’d have to get a hotel for a couple of nights. Again, hotels vary in cost but let’s just average $150/night, and say you stay for 2 nights. For a father and son to travel to USC’s camp, they are paying $900 just for the airfare and hotel. Now, they have to get a rental car. For arguments sake let’s say it costs $300 for the rental car and gas for the trip. The total is now up to $1,200. Camp admissions vary, but say it’s about $100(that’s on the low end). We’re now at $1,300. There are also other expenses to add. When a kid attends a camp that is full contact, if they don’t bring their own helmet and shoulder pads, they have to rent them from the school. Another $100 added to the admission. $1,400 is the total now. Add another $200 for food and gear(most people buy some apparel with the school’s name or logo), and our total is $1,600. And that’s just for 1 camp, at 1 school! Most kids want to attend a few different camps in the summer, so you can see how the price just adds up.
Let’s talk about another issue. There are a lot of the camps that are at the same time. Let’s say OSU, WSU, and Utah all have camps on the exact same dates and a kid really wants to attend all of them. This is a situation that happens to kids every year, and they aren’t sure what to do. What a lot of them do is try to attend all 3 by formatting a travel schedule that manages to squeeze them into each camp for a day or less. Some kids have actually attended the morning session of 1 schools camp, and then flown somewhere else and attended the evening session of another schools camp. Then they catch a red eye to make it to the morning session of the 3rd school’s camp. The kid and their parents think it’s great, because they were able to attend each school’s camp. In theory, they are correct. But in my experience as an athlete, and now helping kids on an annual basis, this is the worst thing they could’ve done.
Another issue comes down to the choice of schools that kids and their parents want to attend. When I ask a kid what college camps they want to attend, or ask a kid and his family to give me a list of college camps they plan to attend, I generally get the same answers. It’s Oregon, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, ASU, and so on. Most of the time I just laugh to myself, because that kid has no chance of ever actually being recruited by those schools. Now, I want to be clear about something. If a kid just wants to go to a camp to get a t-shirt with the school’s name on it, and take a picture in their stadium and with their coaches, then that’s fine. But if they’re attending that camp because they actually want to get recruited and are trying to get a scholarship offer, they’re just wasting their own time and money.
And finally, before I give my advice on how to do this the right way, I want to talk about my final issue. Kids and parents will head out to a school’s camp without ever talking to any of the coaches, informing them they’re coming, or doing research on what that school’s needs are. An example is last year I had a kid and his guardian attend the Boise State Camp. The kid did incredible from the multiple sources I spoke with, including the coaches on the BSU staff. The kid really expected that he’d receive an offer at the end of camp, and when it didn’t come, they were upset. They felt like he was the best player at his position there, and did so well the coaches should have noticed. The problem however, wasn’t that the coaches at BSU didn’t notice him. They watched him and loved him. The problem was that at his position, they were only offering 1 scholarship, and they had already offered and received a commitment from a kid earlier in the year. So it had nothing to do with how he performed at the camp, he was essentially “drawing dead”.
So I’ve talked about 4 major issues in choosing and attending college camps in the summer. The first is cost of the trip. The second is the conflicting dates of all the camps. The third is the practical choices of the camps that are chosen. And the fourth is doing research before attending a camp.
As far as the costs of camps go, if you have money and that’s not an issue for you, congratulations. But if you don’t, you are already limited in what you can or can’t do. As far as the overhead for a camp that I mentioned above, there’s not much you can do about that. But what you can do is pay attention to my advice about issues 2-4, which will ultimately make the money you spend be as efficient as possible.
As far as camps overlapping and trying to make 2 or 3 of them at the same time, don’t do it. In the example of the kid who tried to attend all 3 camps in 2 days, he ended up not getting an offer from any of them. If you’re going to a college camp where their coaches are there watching and evaluating everything you do, you need to be at your best. That means rested up and focused. If a kid hasn’t slept because he just did a morning session, then caught a flight into town and hopped in a car and drove to camp, got out and started working out, he’s not going to be at his best. That means, he probably won’t impress that staff enough to receive a scholarship offer. So instead of stretching yourself thin by trying to cram a whole bunch of camps into a little bit of time, do the opposite. Pick out 1 camp and attend that one fresh and focused. Give yourself the best chance of looking your best, which ultimately gives you the highest likelihood of getting an offer. And if that school does offer, the likelihood that the other 2 will offer goes up dramatically. So essentially, if you play your cards right, you could end up getting 3 offers because of the 1.
As far as practical choices of camps, be reasonable. If you haven’t received any offers and it’s the summer heading into your senior season, you’re probably not going to get an offer at Oklahoma’s camp. Schools usually don’t like to be the 1st to offer a kid anyway. And from most coach’s perspective, if the local schools haven’t offered a kid, why should they? If you’re on the bubble with the D1 schools, attend a few of the D1aa schools camps. I promise you that if a kid has offers from Montana, Portland State, and Idaho State, he’ll be a lot more likely to get an offer from Utah than if he doesn’t have any offers at all. It’s like that old saying in baseball, “Swing for a single and take a homerun”. Work your way up to the Major D1 schools, not the opposite.
And last but not least, do your research. The example I gave of the kid that went to Boise State’s camp. All they had to do was contact a coach on that staff thru email, face book, or phone call and tell them his position and ask how many spots they have. If you’re a RB and they aren’t signing any RB’s in your recruiting class, then you’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and money. If they are only signing 1 and already have a commitment, again you saved a lot of time and money. However, if they say they’re going to sign 3 RB’s and don’t have any commitment’s yet, then that’s a great camp to attend. And you’re also killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Along with finding out it’s a camp worth attending because of the scholarship openings, you’re also in contact with a coach who now knows you’re coming out there. You can get his contact information and send him your hudl or youtube highlights to watch. Now, when you get out there, he’s seen your film and you know who to look for and who to talk to.
I know this was a long one, but I really hope it was worth your time to read. Believe me, these decisions can make or break your recruiting process. And if that’s the case, let’s do it the right way and help you achieve and reach every dream and goal you have.