Girls cheering from sideline

Every year, student-athletes participate in summer camps, combines, tournaments and showcases to sharpen their skills and gain exposure to college coaches. College coaches value the opportunity to evaluate a player multiple times on video as well as in person. Attending these types of events can be a crucial step in your recruiting process, but they can be costly and time consuming, so make them worth your while.

Breaking Down the Different Events

The types of events you can attend vary by sport, but here are the main categories for volleyball.

  • Camps: For younger athletes who are in middle school or just starting high school, a fundamental or skill-specific camp (ex: hitting, setting or passing camp/clinic) is a great option. These camps can accelerate your growth on a specific skill and offer training from an expert coach. For athletes who are heading into their junior or senior year of high school and are already in contact with a few college programs, focus on attending camps on a college campus. You will get the experience of being coached by those college coaches, and you can visit campus, tour the town, and possibly meet an academic advisor.
  • Showcases and Combines: These events are typically held to test a student-athlete’s athleticism and skill level. They involve specific conditioning drills that assess speed, strength and overall skill (ex: height, standing reach, vertical jump). Many showcases and combines include position-specific court drills as well as game play. Some even have live-streaming capabilities.
  • Tournaments: Tournaments during the summer, like the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships, are great opportunities to play top competition in front of college coaches. There aren’t as many recruiting restrictions in the summer for college coaches.

Athletes and families should plan to find the right college camps that fit their budget and schedule. Search NCSA’s (Next College Student Athlete) list of volleyball camps, combines and other events to find opportunities near you. Pick your sport to get started: Women’s Volleyball, Men’s Volleyball, Beach Volleyball.

How do I choose a camp, showcase, or combine to attend?

Most camps, showcases and combines will let anyone attend, but that doesn’t mean you should attend all of them. Your time is limited, and the costs add up. Plus, you need to be honest about your own abilities.

By the time you’re ready to attend these events for recruiting purposes, you should have your list of target schools, and ideally be in contact with the coaches at those schools. As you build your relationship with the coaches, ask them which camps and combines to attend. That way, you will know ahead of time that the schools you’re interested in will have a presence. There’s nothing worse than hoping to be evaluated at a camp only to find out that none of the coaches likely to recruit you were there. Learn more about how to communicate with college coaches.

Volleyball recruiting tip: If a recruit receives a volleyball 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.

How do I get noticed or recruited at a camp?

Athletes typically do not get “discovered” at college camps, and performing well at a camp or combine does not guarantee that you will be recruited. There are certainly instances of unknown student-athletes “wowing” coaches at a camp and getting an offer, but more often, coaches take a much longer and more holistic view when evaluating potential recruits.

However, to put yourself in the best position to succeed at a camp or combine, make sure the coaches you want to notice you will be there. Be proactive! This can be as easy as sending a quick email letting coaches know that you will be attending their camp and are looking forward to learning from them.

Then, give it all you’ve got while at the camp, but be aware that coaches are evaluating much more than your volleyball skills. Every moment at a camp or combine is fair game for assessment, such as your attitude when off the court, your demeanor when grabbing water or picking up equipment, and the way you talk to other campers. Learn more about the differences between coachable and uncoachable traits, and how you can demonstrate your coachability to college coaches.

Don’t forget the follow-up!

Athletes should ride the momentum of the program they choose by following up with college coaches. Send coaches an updated recruiting video, as well as any new stats from the event. Update your recruiting profile, thank the coach, and ask for feedback on what skills to continue working on.

What is the parent’s role at a camp or recruiting event?

College coaches understand that parents play a pivotal role in the recruiting process and often attend these events to support their student-athlete. However, parents are often surprised to hear that college coaches don’t just evaluate student-athletes at recruiting events—they evaluate parents, too.

Here are some tips for parents on what to do and not do at recruiting events:

  • DO act like someone’s always watching. Whether a parent is in line at the concession stand or sitting in the bleachers, they should act as if a coach is always around—because they most likely are. In these moments, a parent’s behavior becomes a reflection of their entire family, including their athlete. Even if an athlete isn’t interested in getting recruited by the coach or coaches running the event, coaches have a widespread network, and word travels fast.
  • DON’T be a helicopter parent. It’s a phrase that’s often used by coaches to describe parents that are (or appear to be) overbearing or intrusive. Coaches don’t like to see parents coaching their athlete from the sidelines, complaining to or with other parents, or even worse–yelling at coaches or officials about playing time or about a certain call.
  • DO know the rules. We see it happen all the time: a parent approaches a coach at an event only to be cut off or ignored completely. Rest assured that the coach isn’t being rude, they’re likely just following NCAA contact rules. There are times throughout the year when coaches, depending on their school’s division level, can watch athletes compete live but aren’t allowed to talk to them or their parents in person.

At the end of the day, a college coach is recruiting the athlete, not the parent, but a parent’s bad attitude or unsportsmanlike actions can also end up hurting their athlete’s chances of getting recruited. Parents should make sure they’re making a good impression for themselves and their athlete.

Whether you are getting ready for the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships or preparing for a summer camp, always put your best foot forward. Camps, combines, showcases and tournaments can be great way to show off your skills and get recruited, but be proactive, research programs, communicate with coaches, and always follow up with a thank you.

For more information or to start a free volleyball recruiting profile with NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) visit the NCSA website.

About the Author: Sue Webber is a former college volleyball player for the University of Illinois and former collegiate coach at the NAIA and Division I levels. She is the event partnership director for USA Volleyball partner Next College Student Athlete, which helps guide athletes through the college recruiting process.