Football Camps, Combines and Showcases: Find the Right Event, Get Recruited
College football coaches and football recruiting experts agree that attending football camps, football combines and football showcases is crucial for getting recruited. There are a couple main reasons this is the case. The high school football season overlaps with the college season, making it tough for college coaches to find the time to watch athletes compete in person. Plus, high school football teams only play once a week, making the window for evaluations very small. When coaches do have the opportunity to visit high schools, they tend to stick to the powerhouse programs with whom they have already developed relationships. So, football camps and football showcases are often the only way that college coaches can watch recruits compete in person.
But between the football camps, combines, one-day evaluation camps, showcases, and more, how are athletes supposed to know where to go and when? Better yet: How can these events make a difference in an athlete’s recruiting? We created this guide to help athletes better navigate the confusing world of football recruiting events.
What to do before you attend a football camp, combine or showcase
To get an insider perspective on football camps and combines, we talked to Coach Joe Leccesi, a four-year starter for Saint Xavier University and offensive line coach at that campus. Here are some of Coach Joe’s tips to know before you go:
- Be realistic about your skills. These events are supposed to show off the athlete’s talent. However, if they aren’t ready or a fully developed football player yet, football camps can do more harm than good. Athletes shouldn’t attend a crucial event like a one-day evaluation camp before they’re ready to compete against top athletes.
- Do your research. Certain events require specific preparation. If an athlete is going to a combine to get their football stats, practice the 40-yard dash. If a recruit is going to a camp and will be doing one-on-one’s, they should grab a teammate beforehand and practice. Research, practice, prepare.
- Can’t attend? Let the coach know. If a recruit received a football camp invite but they are unable to attend, they should reach out to the coach, thank them for the opportunity and politely let the coach know they won’t be able to make it. The athlete should try to arrange another time for the coach to watch them compete or they can send the coach their most recent highlight video to view.
- Build relationships with coaches. While athletes are at a football camp, junior day or skills-building camp, they can’t forget to use those opportunities to connect with coaches in person. Even if it’s intimidating, they must make it a point to introduce themselves and, for extra bonus points, hand the coach their athletic resume.
Football combines: Get your verified football stats
You’ve probably seen clips of famous NFL players running the 40-yard dash or exploding off the ground in the vertical jump. That’s what athletes will do at their next football combine. Football combines are typically open to all high school football players, and they take athletes through NFL-style drills designed to showcase their athletic ability. Drills include:
- 40-yard dash: Two runs, fastest time recorded
- Shuttle run: Tests athlete’s lateral quickness and explosion
- 3-cone drill: Tests athlete’s ability to change directions at a high speed
- Vertical jump: Measures lower body explosion and power
- Broad jump: Tests athlete’s lower body explosion and strength
Football combines are usually hosted by third parties—like the Rivals adizero Combines, hosted by Rivals.com—and college coaches will not be in attendance. However, they are the best way to get verified football stats, which coaches do look for when recruiting football players. Once a recruit has completed their combine, they should send their verified numbers to college coaches they’re interested in and update your online recruiting profile.
Insider tip: Athletes don’t need to attend every football combine available. Coach Joe recommends getting tested at a combine at the beginning of the off-season. If athletes feel like they’ve improved a lot over the course of a year, they can go back one more time that year to get updated numbers.
Football camps: Show off your football skills in front of college coaches
If athletes want to show college coaches what they can do on the field, a football camp could be the right opportunity for you. “College football recruiting camps are going to be a huge, easy way to build a relationship and talk to college coaches. Coaches want to see how recruits compete and see their intangibles,” explains Coach Joe. There are a few different types of football camps, each with a slightly different purpose:
- One-day evaluation camps: Reserved for VIP recruits, college coaches typically invite only their top recruits to these football camps. Expect to compete in combine-type drills and 7-on-7 or 1-on-1 challenges. Before going, athletes should make sure they’re at full health and ready to compete against the best of the best.
- Football showcase camps: These invite-only events are reserved for the best football players across the country. Most of the time, they will be hosted by third parties—such as Rivals 3 Stripe Camps. Athletes attend football showcases to get media coverage and build their online presence.
- 7-on-7 camps: College coaches will host 7-on-7s to see recruits’ techniques, have them learn the playbook and system, and see how well their recruits compete against other college-bound football players. Third-parties also host 7-on-7 camps to give football players a chance to continue playing football outside of the college season.
- Specialist camps: For kickers, punters and long snappers, specialist football camps give athletes in these positions an opportunity to work on specific techniques and receive instruction geared toward their unique position. These might be hosted by college coaches, but most often, they’ll be held by third parties like the Rubio-Sailer kicking and long snapping camps.
- Development/skills-building football camps: Almost exclusively for underclassmen, these football camps give young football players a chance to get highlight film, develop varsity-level skills and get a taste of college during position-specific drills, one-on-ones and smaller group instruction. Members of the coaching staff will likely be in attendance, scouting out young recruits.
Be warned: when athletes go to a camp, they not only need to leave it all on the field, they need to make sure that the college coaches at those camps are actually recruiting them. If a camp invite is part of a larger conversation with that coach, it’s safe to say that the athlete received a more personalized invite.
Football camps infographic
College football junior days: An unofficial visit with other recruits
Junior days have become popular with football programs, but how coaches use them has changed over time. Think of them like taking an unofficial visit with other recruits. Usually, programs allow recruits to bring their parents and/or current coach. Most—but not all—junior days are invite only, and they often indicate that you’re relatively high up on a coach’s list of recruits. Some colleges will keep a list of junior day football dates on their website, so athletes can check when they are coming up.
The coach will show all the recruits around the campus and the football facilities. Then, athletes will likely have the opportunity to meet with members of the coaching staff—such as position coaches, nutritionists and academic advisors. Finally, the head coach might sit down with each family to talk about football. This is the family’s chance to ask any questions they have about the school, the football program, the training regime, academic support that athletes receive, and more. Bonus: Recruits might even be able to watch a home game!
While junior days used to be open to a large pool of recruits, they are becoming more and more specialized. Most programs are now using them to really get to know top recruits who are on the cusp of getting an offer. For athletes who have received a junior day invite, they can make the most of this opportunity by preparing themselves ahead of time. Athletes should research the school and the football program, and make sure they have a response prepared in case they do get an offer during the visit.
The follow-up is the most important part
Athletes should ride the momentum of their football camp, football combine or junior day by following up with college coaches. The athlete should send coaches they’re interested in their updated stats and add them to their recruiting profile. They should also be sure to thank the coach for the opportunity and ask for feedback on what skills to work on.