At the conclusion of my Volleyball Recruiting Education Talks at events with NCSA Athletic Recruiting, I usually receive a question about college volleyball camps. I have written about college camps in Inside College Volleyball, but as this is the time to make plans for the summer, I thought it good to share my omnipotent thoughts on college volleyball camps.
There are three instances in which I believe attending a college volleyball camp makes sense.
1. If you like the Kool Aid - This is when a specific university has an emotional draw for the VolleyPSA or VolleyFamiliy and the volleyball camp presents an opportunity to spend time on campus. I will use Texas A&M as an example (and it is a positive example because TAMU is one of my dream jobs, but I have such respect for Laurie Corbelli, I can't wish her anything but tremendous success). There are so many Aggies in Texas (sounds like the start of a joke....) that the opportunity to be on the A&M campus, to live life for a spell as an Aggie, to play Volleyball, to be in the facilities, to get a camp t-shirt and hang out with the Aggie Volleyball team is a wonderful experience. The same example can be made about Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida and a hundred more schools. This is what I call a volleyball camp social experience.
2. The skill training is very good. There are any number of volleyball camps where the campers will receive outstanding skill training and improve as volleyball players. This camp example has no easily defined pre attendance characteristics. Some of the best skill camps I have seen are at small non-Division I schools, while some of the worst skill camps I have seen can be at power conference programs. The key with these type of camps, is that the skill sets are clearly defined and demonstrated, and then the campers are being coached by quality camp coaches who are focused on player improvement. Some erroneously think that physically demanding camps are the way to go, or camps which have a zillion repetitions make you better. I can't completely agree with these two thoughts because there are plenty of camps which can teach poor skills and bust your spandex doing it.
3. Volleyball program evaluation. When I say evaluation, I mean the PSA's evaluating the collegiate volleyball program and not the other way around. In this instance, if a VolleyPSA has it narrowed down to just a couple of programs and either has scholarship offers or is realistically expecting scholarship offera, and just can't decide on a school/program, then a collegiate camp provides the opportunity to evaluate the program longer than on an unofficial visit. A PSA can better see the personality of the coaching staff, the behavior/conduct of the collegiate players both on and off the court and the facilities which will be used by the volleyball players. Coaches are very good about presenting their best, pretty face during unofficial visits because we don't have to keep it on very long if it is not our true look. But, keeping up the facade over the course of a multi day camp is another situation.
I absolutely don't believe in collegiate camps as a recruiting exposure vehicle simple because only one program is going to see the PSA play. In a broad statement, it is disingenuous for collegiate volleyball programs to use recruiting potential to increase their summer camp numbers.
College volleyball coaches know within 10 minutes of watching a PSA play at a club tournament if that player can help their program; it is a yes or no litmus test. After that initial viewing, any additional time spent watching a PSA is to rank them within their program's recruiting database or to show facetime at a tourney.
Of course, there are those unique instances where a PSA gets discovered at camp, but with today's club volleyball schedule and the ability of coaches to travel or use technology, we are talking Las Vegas odds of this happening and you have spent your Las Vegas vacation money for camp!
When you are considering how to spend your summer volleyball camp allowance, please take a moment to consider the above three instances; please do not fall into the bait and switch of recruiting used to drive up camp attendance. Collegiate camps are not cheap; I know because I ran them for 15 years.
If your camp desires do not clearly reflect one or more of the above examples, you would be better served to use this camp registration fee to buy gas for unofficial visits or consider private lessons with a recommended coach.