As spring comes student athletes across the country will be flooded with various brochures and letters inviting them to camps and combines. Some camps can be extremely valuable, and others can be a complete waste of valuable time and resources. However, combines can be seen in a completely different light. Almost every single student athlete can greatly benefit from attending a combine.Why? A college coach depends on certain measurables to take some of the guess work out of recruiting. Coaches also want to look at objective measurable indicator like height, weight, strength and speed numbers the same way they look at an athletes GPA and test scores. The problem is that while these numbers seem very clear cut, they are often the exact opposite.
In most circumstances athletes supply coaches with data that they simply can’t trust. Families may have the best of intentions while reporting numbers that are slightly fudged to help give their athlete an edge, but they actually end up working against themselves. A family decides to add one inch to a player’s height to seem like a “true” shooting guard. Another family shaves .2 seconds off of a 40-yard dash to show “breakaway speed.” Still another adds a few pounds to a squat max assuming the athlete will be able to make that sort of gain in the months ahead. You get the idea. Suddenly an objective statistic becomes just another overstated and meaningless number.
Other families think the solution is to supply information from a high school coach.
Sadly, the college coaching community has become jaded to the point where they won’t even accept verified data from a high school coach. Some coaches think they are doing their athletes a favor by giving them a slight boost. However, this type of fudging can only hurt the athletes and can even lead to an entire high school being labeled “untrustworthy.” Even a coach with the best intentions of supplying accurate data will have to overcome the stigma of providing a result that could be unintentionally manipulated by a number of factors like wind, timing equipment, etc.
High school athletes work extremely hard for the opportunity to go and play in college. In addition to the hours spent playing and practicing their sport, they go to great trouble contacting college coaches. They are constantly calling, mailing and emailing trying to find ways to get film and an athletic resume to college coach. Unfortunately, all of that effort could be wasted if the college coach can’t trust the numbers he receives. If he is unsure of an athletes speed on film and he can’t trust a 40 yard dash time there is a chance that the recruit in question will move to the bottom of the board.
For that reason I suggest athletes in every relevant sport attend a combine (especially football). Nike, Adidas, Schuman, Under Armour and other companies all host combines across the country. They are usually only one day long and relatively inexpensive. The results from these combines will be as close to 100% accurate as possible. Even, if a surface is slow the playing field will be even for every athlete in attendance. Plus all the results are published online so that college coaches can verify information about athletes.
As a bonus these combines can lead to increased exposure for athletes. While Division I coaches are barred from attending that doesn’t mean that their eyes and ears aren’t present. Numerous recruiting “insiders” will be eagerly watching for elite athletes that are not yet identified as major prospects. Great performances can often lead to invites to elite level exposure camps.
Recruits should know that there are two types of camps exposure camps and University camps. Exposure camps are a chance to gather top performers to compete against each other to identify “the best of the best,” a huge benefit for athletes competing in lower division levels against unrecognized talent. Conversely, University camps are a chance for coaches to tryout players they are already recruiting. Keep in mind that very few if any athletes are actually “discovered” at these large camps. You should make sure you are attending camps where you have a realistic chance of being evaluated.
Combines can help players get more realistic about the level they can compete at in college. Far too many athletes aren’t focusing on schools that are a realistic fit for their athletic abilities. By attending a combine athletes can get a first hand look at the other athletes in attendance and get a chance to see how they stack up against the competition. Once an athlete has a clearer understanding of where his measurable match up, he or she can focus on the right types of schools.
Combines also publish historical data online. An athlete can compare their combine numbers directly to the high school results from today’s college stars. If they think they are good enough to play at a major Division I program they can look at the direct measurables to get an honest opinion. Again, the numbers don’t lie!
Of course no coach would ever suggest that recruiting is as simple as looking at a few numbers and making a snap decision. That is why it’s also important for recruits to understand that coaches won’t hand out scholarships strictly based on a 40 yard dash time or an extra inch in the vertical data. They have to understand that verified data is only one of the first steps in the process. Coaches will always place the bulk of their decision answering the simple question, “Is he good enough to play for my team?” Obviously, watching a recruit play will be the biggest factor in answering that question. Still, I would encourage athletes to make sure that they give college coaches every opportunity to evaluate their talent with on as many objective scales as possible.