by Steve Gans
The following is an excerpt from Win the College Soccer Recruiting Game: The Guide for Parents and Players, By Steve Gans.
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I won’t keep you in suspense: Just like the highlights video, attendance at some carefully selected college soccer Identification Camps is generally a necessary part of the recruiting process. The next few chapters will discuss ID Camps in depth, and importantly, will outline the traps for the unwary.
It is first important to know that all ID Camps are money makers for college soccer coaches. In many cases college soccer coaching contracts involve a salary (often relatively modest) for the coach, and as well a provision allowing a coach to supplement his/her income through the revenue (or at least revenue sharing) generated by a school’s ID Camp. Also, in the case of the private ID Camps not run by/in connection with a particular college(s), the main motivation is profit, and involves payments to the attending coaches.
That said, though money-making may be the main motivation behind the ID Camps, at many of these camps there can be a chance for your child to be “identified” on the path to recruitment. Your task is to sift through which ID Camps actually can provide that potential real opportunity, and which cannot/do not.
The majority of ID Camps are held in the summertime, but it is important to note that with their growth and proliferation, versions of them are also run in certain instances in the wintertime and the spring (on weekends and during school vacation periods). ID Camps are open and marketed to high school rising 9th graders (i.e., the summer following eighth grade) through 12th graders. Other than that age group span, there are generally no necessary qualifications to attend these camps. Thus, as long as one can pay the fee for the camp, they are welcome to attend.
Indeed, I have been to some ID camps with my sons, the attendees of which included club players, non-club high school players, and some players who did not seem to play organized soccer at all (it seems that the parents of these latter participants might have misinterpreted the purpose of the camp, thinking it was a summer activity camp, or it seemed to make sense for another reason). Given that backdrop, the competitive quality of these camps is often very uneven.
And yet, given the college soccer landscape and practical realities, ID Camps are generally a necessary element of the recruiting effort. As college soccer program recruiting budgets are relatively limited, you can never be sure that the coaches from the college of your child’s dreams will see them play enough (indeed, if at all). Thus, ID Camps can offer your child another (and in some cases the only) opportunity to be viewed by college coaches (and given the ability to pick the ID camp, hopefully the particular college coach(es) of their hopes).
That said, even if an ID Camp is legitimate in that it is sincere about finding recruits at the camp, as no program selects all of its recruits (most programs recruit about 6 players per year) from ID Camps, and given the vagaries of these camps (e.g., sheer numbers of players, uneven quality of play, games occurring on adjacent fields), it is not an easy task to earn a recruiting offer from an ID Camp.
Despite those dilemmas, for the reasons stated, attendance at an ID Camp should be a serious consideration. The question is precisely which ID Camp(s) to attend, and when to attend it/them.
(In the book's next section, "Choosing the Optimal Identification Camps," I summarize the types of these camps as I see them — College Specific, Specific College Plus a Few, The Amalgam, The Bloated Amalgam with commentary about the pluses and minuses of focusing on/attending them.)