With summer upon us, comes college volleyball camps (and for that matter, volleyball camps of every shape, size, angle, classification and cost).
If you have read Inside College Volleyball, or heard me talk with NCSA Next College Student Athlete, then the remainder of this article will just be a timely reminder.
When it comes to college volleyball camps, absolutely do not use this as your recruiting outreach effort and I strongly caution you to not use camps to even supplement your recruiting process. Why?
1) I ran college volleyball camps for many years, so I know of what I speak.
2) The NCAA rules allow colleges to send camp information to a Prospective Student Athlete (PSA) at any time. So, freshman and sophomores can get camp information from any school (NCAA all division through JC's).
3) College coaches will often (but not always) allude to some recruiting aspect in their camp outreach to you, "we would love to evaluate you at camp", "camp is a great opportunity for you to meet our coaches and see our facilities", "we have an elite camp where our top recruits attend each year"; this is all window dressing to get you to sign up for their camp.
4) Do the math; average of 3 scholarships per year available (considering DI) and how many players attend camp? 70, 100, 300?
5) Do the big math; the college programs have just spent the spring going to national club events and evaluating hundreds if not thousands of recruits for their scholarship needs. College coaches, especially DI and well funded DII/NAIA programs know right now if you are good enough to help their team; they don't need you at camp to evaluate.
6) Camps are expensive! Take that money and make unofficial visits to those collegiate programs which have communicated with you or that you believe would be a good fit athletically, academically and socially.
7) Camps are Disneyland, they are not the real world of collegiate athletics. Camp is fun, the training is not too intense (no matter what you think or have been told), the coaches are smiling and laughing, etc. Being a collegiate athlete is intense business with big time demands and pressure to perform; that is not the same thing you will experience at camp.
And now, you are asking yourself...."are college camps worth attending at all?" Yes, I think college camps can be great for 2 specific reasons:
1) It is a volleyball vacation! College volleyball camps are still summer camps and the summer should be fun!!! A chance to be on a college campus for a few days, play/train in the same facilities as the collegiate athletes, meet different players other than your club or school team, experience the student union, recreational facilities, book store, etc. For example, Sooner Born and Sooner Bred and when I die, I will be Sooner Dead...universities run strong in families and this is a change to go to that alumni campus, get a cool shirt, and drive the Boomer Sooner!
2) For elite level training - This can be a bit difficult to discern, but some college camps provide great skill development. You are learning from professional college coaches (this is a full time job for them, hence their profession), you are receiving maximum repetitions, you get instant feedback on your skills, etc. All too often, families think that giant state university, who is ranked in the Top 10 must have the best camp because their program and facilities are so good. Think about the numbers; there are 4 college coaches at that program (head, assist, assist and volunteer assist), and maybe the camp can bring in a couple of JC or DII/NAIA coaches to help. But, if it is a huge camp, say with 15+ courts, the camp is not going to find 20+ elite level college coaches. The reality is, your PSA may well be coached by a walk on Opposite from Waxahachie, Texas!
Of course, there is always the exception to the "don't use camps for recruiting" mantra, wonderfully and overwhelmingly argued at the top of this great post:
1) If a school has only seen video of you play, and was not able to see you play in person. This usually happens if a school you are interested in is not in your region (you live in Arizona and you are interested in a DII school in South Carolina). If this attractive school has been constant and sincere in their interaction and recruitment of you, and you have the financial resources to attend, then and only then, is this the exception. BUT, there is a difference between one letter/email saying "come to camp because we want to recruit you" and a months long communication.
In closing, be conscious about your goals and expectations when you consider signing up for college camps.