While Division One football recruiting is a ballyhooed process that plays out in the public eye today, NESCAC football recruiting remains one that happens in relative anonymity. More than a million high schoolers play football at their school, and many of them harbor dreams of playing in college. Most of them haven’t heard of NESCAC schools or would not consider playing at the Division 3 level. NESCAC coaches have to identify from this vast crowd of candidates those who qualify academically and athletically. A crucial part of that process happens in the summer at camps all across the country. Coaches spread out over the country to go to as many camps as possible and catch a glimpse of players in action.
Most of the camps happen in the northeast and are hosted by colleges. Every NESCAC school holds a camp over the summer which differ from most of the other camps out there. All of them are one day camps that are usually just in cleats and shorts. The camps are very specific in the sense that there are only coaches there from that particular school. The Amherst camp is run exclusively by Amherst coaches and players, for example. Camps at non-NESCAC schools run for multiple days and have many different college coaches there. Camps at Ivy league schools are multiple day affairs that have many hundreds of kids in attendance.
The amount of football that happens at these camps varies, but given insurance concerns, none of them are full contact. Linemen camps are built around drills and competitions that often carry little relevance to games. Skill players do drills and also play games of 7-on-7 which reward players who are comfortable in space. In general, summer football camps are better as vehicles for recruiting than improving yourself as a football player. Primarily, these camps serve to show off an individual’s athleticism above all else. While the instruction can be very good, most of the camps have too many athletes for the coaches to concentrate for too long on any individual. The amount of repetition is also not nearly as high as at regular practices because of the amount of athletes. In my opinion, based off of personal experience, the NESCAC camps were the best at football instruction. Each position group worked exclusively with one coach so that he could start to get an idea of each respective kid’s strengths and weaknesses. Most NESCAC camps are capped at much lower numbers so each athlete gets to play more than at bigger camps.
While coaches are the ones tasked with finding players, the onus is almost always on individual high schoolers to reach out and make first contact. Even if you go to one of these camps, getting noticed by a coach is hard to do just by your play. Consider that while the New England Elite Camp had 150 coaches there, there were also 1200 players. Unless somebody make an incredible play or possess exceptional speed, a coach is not going to come up to him. In the NESCAC recruiting process self-promotion is crucial. Letting a coach know by email or Twitter that an athlete will be at a camp beforehand will allow him to concentrate on him and gain a fuller perspective of that person’s ability. Talking to coaches after the camp is over is also considered good operating procedure. Coaches are just as interested in how you are as a person as how you play on a hot summer day.
All of this adds up to the fact that camps are not really going to make you a much better football player. Essentially you are paying money for access to coaches. This is truer the bigger the camp. The biggest camps will give each individual almost nothing in terms of instruction, but the benefit of them is that if a kid is proactive, he can meet with many coaches and express his interest. Camps are especially useful for players from around the country who will not be able to visit many colleges during the school year for overnight stays. Being able to go to the school for a day and meet some coaches can tell a kid a lot about a school. For a prospective college student-athlete, these events can help you achieve your goal of playing at the next level. But the preparation for the camp – i.e. notifying coaches – is almost as important as your actual performance on the day itself. So, recruits, do your homework if you want to make the best of your opportunity.
While it sounds funny that camps really aren’t about the actual football, the camp structure makes sense. Football coaches understand games are won not by the best looking athletes, but the best football players. In the NESCAC they know that they have to recruit the best possible person and not simply the best football player. At camps they prefer the kid who shows good attitude, hustles, and comes across as a put-together young man when they have a conversation. Not many kids will become NESCAC students because of their performance running around in July playing something reminiscent of elementary school football at recess, but going to camps is a critical step along the road of recruitment.
Link to Article: NESCAC Recruiting - Football Recruiting Summer Camps