Keys to Making the Most of Summer Sports Travel
It’s that time of year again. Time to map out the summer athletic travel circuit.
Gone are the days of the family loading up the wood paneled station wagon and driving cross country to Wally World. For families of student-athletes, summers are now largely built around showcases and tournaments – travel ball baby!
But for what? Ultimately it’s a matter of “keeping up with the Joneses” and the constant pursuit of the magical college scholarship.
About ten months ago in the grocery store checkout I overheard someone talking about their summer travel plans to meet the demands of their young baseball player. “Next week we are headed to Atlanta, and the week after that Denver, and the week after that Orlando, and the week after that Timbuktu for cardio training.” Ok, I made the Timbuktu part up, but you get the point.
For many sports, travel ball has become a necessary evil. For athletes in volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball, field hockey, and pretty much every sport but football, the summer has become a key time “to get noticed” in the minds of many parents. And, even in football, the advent of 7-on-7 camps and tournaments has become a lightning rod of conversation and controversy.
A better bet for football players is to attend instructional camps hosted by universities. This is a sure-fire way to get in front of coaches and receive an honest evaluation of their athletic ability and college potential. Most importantly, working with college coaches provides a great opportunity to improve their skills and become better players.
What most families do not realize about tournaments and showcases is that the vast majority of the college coaches on hand are there to scout a player who is already on their radar, and the kid usually knows it. The rest of the team members who fill in the rosters can only hope that by association they will be “discovered.”
To be fair, at times, that does indeed happen, particularly with lesser-known collegiate programs. But, I don’t recommend reliance on this “needle in the haystack” approach. Instead, if you are looking to “get noticed” this summer, my advice is to get on the radar first, before the travel begins. By doing so, the summer camp/showcase/tournament becomes a second or third impression with a college coach and greatly reduces the reliance on random “discovery.”
How do you do that?
- Decide what part of the county is the best fit for you and focus on it. Don’t go to Atlanta just because there is a large event there. Go to an event in Atlanta because there are colleges in the area that interest you.
- Visit the websites for area colleges and complete the “Prospective Student-Athlete Questionnaire.” This provides the college with your essential information and lets the coaches know you are interested in attending their school.
- Research college rosters for your sport. Rosters filled with juniors and seniors mean more potential scholarship opportunities in the near future, while rosters loaded with freshman and sophomores may not.
- Contact colleges in advance to let them know you are attending an event in their area. Whether they plan to attend or not, be proactive and set up an unofficial visit to experience the campus firsthand (you can take as many unofficial visits as you like, whenever you like). Keep in mind, strict recruiting contact rules might prevent a college coach from returning your call/email, but there is no rule against you contacting them.
- Be prepared to market yourself at the event. Create your own recruiting profile and always have multiple copies with you. Your profile is your college prospect resume. It should include your academic standing (including your core course GPA), athletic accomplishments, civic activities, personal contact information and your coach’s contact information.
Finally, remember to also focus on creating memories, not just chasing college exposure. Visit each city’s historical landmarks, try the local cuisine and plan excursions to mountains, beaches or lakes.
In other words, don’t let the process consume you. Get back to summertime fun! Load up the wood paneled SUV, program the GPS, and enjoy playing the sport you love.