Dear Coach Bryant,

I’m wondering whether to send my high school sophomore to a sports camp or showcase this summer. There are a lot of options out there, and I can’t figure out which ones are best from a recruiting standpoint. I also don’t know how many weeks he should tie up at these events.

Is there some sort of rating system for sports camps and showcases? Are the expensive ones more likely to get my son seen?

Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead,

Since youth sports are a big business, you are wise to be careful. Some camps are simply money makers for organizers; there is no rating system separating the good ones from the bad. It’s also unwise to rely on other athletes’ experiences, since new camps/showcases pop up all the time. What was true two years ago might not be true this summer.

That’s why I advise athletes to assess a camp/showcase according to its competition level, its coach-athlete ratio, and its coaching attendees. The best way to make such an assessment is to consult coaches from your son’s targeted colleges. To ensure he can compete, be honest about your son’s current level of play. If he’s a good fit for what they’re seeking, ask about coach-athlete ratio. If that checks out, make sure the coaches from the schools your son is targeting actually plan to attend the camp/showcase. While an organization’s website might list specific coaches as past participants, it might have been a decade since they made their one-time appearance.  

Here’s a basic summary of what athletes — and their parents — need to know:

  • Consider it Optional.  Athletes can be recruited without attending a showcase or camp. You don’t have to pay big bucks to get seen. 
  • Pinpoint your focus. Don’t devote weeks to these events. If your son chooses to participate in showcases or camps, I suggest he do no more than three.
  • Research options.   Each sport structures its camps/showcases differently. Ask the coaches at your son’s targeted colleges whether there is a highly-regarded private operation that consistently brings in quality coaches. If they recommend such a private camp, you might want to consider that option. Otherwise, I typically favor college-sponsored camps over private camps.
  • Confirm competition levels.  Many college coaches run beginners’ summer camps to supplement their income. Since those events are not recruiting camps, the “sponsoring” coach may never attend. Similarly, you don’t want your son attending a camp/showcase where all the participants play at a level far exceeding his abilities. It’s important to know whether a camp is appropriate for your athlete’s competition level.
  • Communicate with coaches.  Talk with the sponsoring college’s coach about each camp/showcase you’re considering. Ask if he/she plans to attend. Ask about the coach-student ratios. Ask if it is a good competitive fit. Ask if he/she recommends it as a good place to be seen. Ask how many of his/her players have attended in the past.

The Reality

It pays to carefully evaluate sports camps and showcases. Some of these opportunities may help students get the “feel” of a specific campus or program. Some may help build skills. Some may serve as unofficial “tryout” sessions. However, neither students nor parents should consider them absolutely necessary. Athletes should never pay a coach to learn about that coach’s sports program – it’s the coach’s job to provide that information for free. While camps and showcases might be a good summer option in some situations, athletes and their parents should thoroughly research any opportunity before signing up.

Keep Planning Ahead,
Amy