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Your Guide to College Camps, Combines, Showcases and Other Events

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College sports camps, combines, tournaments and showcases can sharpen your skills and help you gain exposure to college coaches. The more chances a coach gets to evaluate a player, the more likely they’ll recruit them. NCSA’s guide explains what you need to know about recruiting events, including when and why you should attend them. Get insider tips from NCSA’s recruiting experts below and find a recruiting event near you.   

Find recruiting events near you

Insider tip: Did you know that college coaches can send you camp invites directly through NCSA? Create a FREE recruiting profile today!

Breaking down the different types of recruiting events

The types of recruiting events you can attend vary by sport, but here are the main 4 categories: 

  1. Camps: At the middle school and early high school level, camps are focused on fundamentals and skill development. As you advance, exposure-style camps hosted by colleges or third-party organizers get you in front of the very people you need to impress, college coaches. Sometimes, these camps can be invite-only. 
  1. Combines: A series of sport-specific conditioning drills and tests that assess an athlete’s speed, strength and overall skill (e.g., the 40-yard dash for football). You’ll receive verified stats and measurements that coaches trust. Combines do not typically require an invitation and are mostly attended by third-party organizers to help you get exposure to college coaches. 
  1. Showcases: Oftentimes, invite-only events that allow you to showcase your skills in front of multiple college coaches, recruiters or sports media analysts at once. These events usually include both sport-specific drills and actual competitions. 
  1. Tournaments: Put on by third party organizers, tournaments give college coaches a chance to watch top recruits compete against each other over the course of a game or match. Some coaches can also be found recruiting at club tournaments

How do you choose which camps, combines, showcases or tournaments to go to? 

Your time is limited and the cost of attending multiple events in one season can really add up. You’ll want to be strategic with the ones you choose to attend. To decide which event is right for you, consider the following factors:

Be honest with yourself about your own playing abilities and attend events that target the schools in your desired division level. For example, if you’re D3 level player it doesn’t make sense to attend camps at a D1 school with D1-level recruits and college coaches.

Insider tip: Underclassmen, focus your event efforts on camps that target skill development and work towards getting quality minutes at the varsity level. There’s no real need to attend an exposure style-event like a combine or showcase at this grade level. Coaches are focusing most of their recruiting efforts on upperclassmen at these events.

For more help on figuring out which camps, combines and showcases to attend, watch NCSA’s Director of Regional Recruiting–and former D1 and professional football player–Julian Jenkins explain how to choose the right event, how to prepare for recruiting events and how to build relationships with college coaches.

Do you have to get invited to a camp or combine?

Technically, no. Most camps and combines are open to all high school athletes and do not require an invitation. College coaches send out camp invites to make them feel more exclusive. However, just because you receive a camp invite doesn’t mean you are automatically a top recruit. Camps help financially support college programs, so college coaches will do what they can to boost numbers. It’s up to you to be smart about which camps and combines to attend based on your skill level and schools of interest.

Sometimes, elite showcases and sponsored camps can be invite-only, but they are mostly for top performers. You must be recommended by your high school coach or a sports media analyst to score an invite to these invite-only events.

How do you respond to a college camp invite?

Maintaining an open line of communication with college coaches is a key element in the college recruiting process. If you plan to attend a college camp, letting the coach know you’ll be there is a good way to get on their list of recruits to look out for during the camp. If you don’t plan to attend, thank them for the invite and let them know where they can watch you compete in the future. 

Insider tip: Never ignore an invitation to camp! If you aren’t interested in attending, respectfully decline and thank the coach who invited you. Your behavior in these small moments leaves good impressions on coaches who might someday work at a program you’re interested in!

Tell college coaches which events you plan to attend

For most sports, you should be ready to attend exposure-style camps, showcases and combines the summer before your junior year. There’s nothing worse than hoping to be evaluated at a camp only to find out that none of the coaches on your target list were there to see you play. To make sure they have a chance to evaluate you in-person, let them know which events you plan to attend.

As you continue to build your relationship with the coaches, ask which events they plan to attend and if their program plans to host a summer camp. This is an easy way to find out whether a coach plans to evaluate you at an upcoming event and shows you’re interested in being recruited by their program.

The Message Center on the NCSA mobile app

Inside Tip: Did you know you can communicate with college coaches from the NCSA app? With the help of your Recruiting Coach, create and manage custom email templates and sort your incoming college coach emails by camp invites, requests and more. Download the NCSA app in the App Store or on Google Play to get notifications when coaches message you.

How do you get noticed at college camps?

The first step to getting noticed at a college camp is to reach out to the coach beforehand and let them know that you’ll be at the camp. This will help get your name on a list of recruits to watch. Then comes the fun part – performing well and standing out! Performing well at a camp or combine isn’t an automatic guarantee that you will be recruited. There have been times of unknown student-athletes wowing coaches at a camp and getting an offer shortly after, but know that coaches are evaluating the whole package. A camp superstar with poor academics and a bad attitude is not likely to make it to the college level.

To put yourself in the best position to succeed at a camp or combine, follow these steps.

  1. Before camp: Send a quick email to the coach a few days before camp to remind them that you’re going. Make sure you’re in top physical and mental health leading up to camp to perform at your best.
  2. During camp: Give it everything you’ve got while you’re playing! Coaches are evaluating much more than your athletic abilities. That means your attitude when you’re off the ball, your demeanor when grabbing water or picking up equipment, and the way you talk to other potential recruits. Learn how you can demonstrate your coachability to college coaches.
  3. After camp: Send a thank you email or text to the coach letting them know you enjoyed your time at camp. Mention a specific interaction you had with the coaching staff or current players to personalize it. Then head over to social media and post about your experience. Tag the coach and sports program’s handle and be sure to include any photos, videos or positive takeaways from the camp

Do college coaches attend camps outside their own school?

Absolutely! NCAA D1, D2 and D3 college programs will host camps on their campus, but offer coaches from other division level schools to come help run camp and evaluate recruits. Learn more about how college coaches choose which camps to attend and recruit from.

How do you know if there will be college coaches at an event?

If you are attending a camp for the hopes of getting college coach exposure, you must do your research! Before you register, look on the camp website to find out whether there will be college coaches in attendance. You can also reach out to the camp director or coordinator directly to confirm the list.

If no coaches are in attendance, it doesn’t mean the camp can’t benefit you in some way. It just means it won’t get you college coach exposure. Understand your recruiting goals to choose the best camp for you.

Insider tip: For DI and DII recruits, make sure the event you’re looking to attend is not during a quiet or dead period. Learn more about the NCAA’s recruiting calendars.

How do college coaches recruit at tournaments?

At a typical sports tournament, teams across the country come together to compete against elite competition. Tournaments during a sport’s NCAA evaluation period allow college coaches to see their top recruits compete in person. But how do college coaches approach recruiting at these big tournaments? Get insider knowledge from former D3 head coach Pam Monnier on what the process for recruiting at tournaments looks like for a college coach and what you should do as a student-athlete to stay on a coach’s radar.

Following up: The critical last step

Your work doesn’t end after you return home from a camp or combine! Following up with a coach after you attend their university camp or receive new combine numbers is key to staying on their radar and building your relationship. Ask the coach directly if they had a chance to evaluate you and if they have any feedback to give you. It’s OK to ask where you stand in their recruiting class after they’ve had a chance to evaluate you in person.

Insider tip: If you took new video of your performance at a camp or combine, now is a good time to update your highlight video and let coaches know!

Keep contact rules and calendars in mind when reaching out to coaches.

Conclusion: Recruiting events are must

Sports camps, combines, tournaments and showcases offer you the opportunity to develop your skillset, gain exposure to college coaches and sometimes explore a school’s campus. Visit the events page for your sport for more advice on which specific events to attend! Create an NCSA Recruiting profile to receive and respond to college camp invites. Build your free recruiting profile today

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While you’re here, we invite you to educate yourself on the recruiting process. Here are two of our most popular articles:

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