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Recruiting Camps…good, bad, or indifferent?

Every season our older, more advanced students, mainly pitchers, ask the same question: Should I register for a recruiting camp? This is a much more complex issue than it would appear, especially since my answer will likely be different for pitchers than for hitters and fielders.

For those who do not know, recruiting camps are almost always attached to special tournaments for advanced travel ball players and are an opportunity for individual athletes to showcase their talents in front of local, regional or national college coaching staffs.   These “showcase” tournaments are the primary avenue for NCAA coaches to fill their rosters.  As you can imagine these opportunities are not to be taken lightly.  In future posts I will go into greater detail on how to conduct yourself should you be fortunate enough to attend one of these camps/tournaments.

If a hitter/fielder is invited to participate in one or more of these camps it is, in my opinion, an opportunity that should not be passed up.  The simple reasoning is that in a game situation, a hitter may only get one at bat and a fielder may get no chances in the field during the time a coach for a college you may be interested in is watching the game.  Unless you happen to be a well known “stud”  the amount of time most coaches will spend watching any one game will be limited.  They generally have several roster spots to fill and a lot of prospects to see in a relatively short recruiting season. For a hitter/fielder the recruiting camp format may be the only chance for the individual athlete to be seen performing multiple swings at the plate and taking multiple reps in the field.

For pitchers, however, the answer is not so simple.
To a great extent, the success of any college program is going to be determined by how well that coach recruits for the eight foot circle  No offense hitters and fielders; that’s just the way it is.  That being the case, most coaches will spend a greater amount of time, during a game, evaluating a pitching prospect than waiting for a hitter to get her turn at the plate or a fielder to have a ball come her way.  The pitcher, being involved in every play, is much easier to evaluate in game situations.  Given these realities, let’s take a look at  three important facts to consider when determining whether a pitcher should participate in a recruiting camp or not.

Fact #1: Coaches probably eliminate more pitching prospects in a recruiting camp setting than they choose.

Given the small window of time each coach has to identify, evaluate and pursue players, they will often prepare a list of potential recruits and eliminate as many as possible from that list so as to have more time to spend at games focusing on the “higher ups” on their lists.  The recruiting camp format is a great tool for that elimination process.  As a pitcher if you have made a coach’s list, do everything in your power to get the coach to see you in a game.

Fact #2: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Unless you are capable of being at your best while standing in a line with a dozen other girls, wearing a number taped to your back, moving from station to station demonstrating different pitches with no real hitter in the box, do NOT  put yourself in that position.  It is not impossible that you could be so  impressive that the coach will make it a point to follow you to a game, but it is  more likely that you  will simply blend in with the crowd, or worse.

Fact 3:  Rushing the process rarely produces the best result. By NCAA rules, you technically cannot be approached, as a recruit,  until July 1st AFTER your high school junior year is completed.  Since no coach will be counting on you to play for their program until you are out of high school, be very careful of when you allow yourself to be seen.  I have 14 and 15 year old students who are asking if they should participate.  I have never seen a 14 or 15 year old who is NOT better when they are 17 or 18.  If a 15 year old makes a bad first impression because they are not experienced or proficient enough, that may be the impression that endures with those coaches who see her.

Recruiting camps are big business.  You and your parents as well as your travel ball coaches must be savvy enough to know when an athlete is ready for prime time.  As a hitter/fielder, when you feel you are at your best emotionally and physically, a recruiting camp is a great way to showcase your talents.  For pitchers, if you are on a team that is good enough to be invited to the tournament, make every effort to force the coaches who may be interested, to see you on the field. In addition to demonstrating your physical skills, a coach can also take notice of your enthusiasm, leadership qualities, and how you deal with pressure. Most of these attributes may go unnoticed in a recruiting camp setting.

About the author

Phil

Phil Schonberg is a co-founder of Fastpitch Power, inc. He teaches all aspects of fastptich softball, specializing in windmill pitching and coaches' training.

1 comment

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  1. Siobhan

    Hi Phil,

    This is such a great perspective. I have to ask a question however, that pertains to the current travel softball in NJ and maybe southern NY. 16U is not really competitive and many players move straight from 14U to 18U- in our area, the 18U teams are mainly showcase. So my daughter- who is a freashman with a Dec ’97 bday has to move up- what type of team shold she look for if it may be premature for her to be seen by college coaches?

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