It is that time of year to start planning for summer. And with summer comes summer soccer camps. In this week’s post, we are looking at choosing a good soccer camp for soccer players from a D3 perspective.
The first thing to remember is why coaches run soccer camps in the first place. I have run camps before and they are a lot of work, take a lot of time, and can be a pain in the neck. So the reward for my time and effort is to get paid! Some coaches can make a ton of money with camps and that is their sole purpose of doing them.
The other reason coaches will run camps is for recruiting. The environment at a camp is much different than a tournament or game. First, coaches are allowed to talk to players at camps! This is unlike tournaments where, per NCAA rules, coaches have to wait until the tourney is over and you have been released before we can talk to you. (As an aside, coaches can say hello and exchange pleasantries at competition sites, but anything more than that is not supposed to happen.) At camps, coaches can talk to players as much as they like and get to know who you are as a person. Since the environment is not as competitive, players are more relaxed and comfortable talking. Plus we get to watch you practice and play.
For you as a player and a parent, you have to determine why do you want to attend a camp. Is it to get noticed by a specific D3 college coach? Are you looking to get college level instruction? Do you want to try to compete against other college bound soccer players? Are your friends going and they want you to come too? Or are you bored and need to kill some time in the summer? All valid reasons to attend a camp.
There are a ton of groups that run camps in the USA—- Nike, Coerver, Dutch Soccer School, UK Elite, state associations— so there are lots to choose from. But how to choose?
First, referrals are always great. Talk to family or friends about their experiences. They may know a local coach who runs a great camp that does not get well publicized. Or they may have been to a huge camp and had a terrible experience. Find out!
Another great resource is the Soccer Camp Guide website—http://www.soccercampguide.com/index.html. This website may not be the most glamorous, but it has extensive content on soccer camps all across the USA and is sortable by state and date. Some may be out of date, but I do not think there is a more comprehensive site devoted to soccer camps.
The best place to start is with a particular college that interests you. Go to their website and see if their coach is running a camp. If so, give the coach a call and ask what is the format of camp. Is it focused on skill development or is the coach just using it to identify players to recruit? Make sure that it matches what you are looking for. If the school it self is not offering a camp of its own, pick up the phone or send an email asking the coach if they will be working at any camps hosted by other institutions. You will often find that college coaches will hire other college coaches to work their camps.
Lastly, check with your state soccer association. In my neck of the woods it is the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (http://www.epysa.org/default.aspx). They have both day camps and resident camps, mostly geared towards younger players but some for older players, and these will usually focus on player development and not recruiting you to college.
The bottom line is you need to do your homework to find a good camp that has what you want. There are a lot of options for soccer camps across the country, some more expensive than others. Talk to your friends and family, research online, call some college coaches. Most importantly, find out about the camp before signing up for it and make sure it has what you are looking for.