Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Football Camps, Combines and Showcases (Part 1)

Why is participating in football camps, combines and showcases important in the football recruiting process? Participating in football camps, combines and showcases is a must today for athletes who are looking to enter the recruiting process with an advantage over other prospects. The most important reason to participate in such events is exposure. College coaches are always looking for new talent. Football camps, combines and showcases are great avenues for connecting college coaches and talented athletes.

Part 1 will discuss competitive football camps, combines and showcases offered through organizations other than colleges. Part 2 will discuss instructional football camps offered through college programs and private organizations.


Part 1 – Competitive Football Camps, Combines and Showcases Offered Through Organizations Other Than College Programs

When my son first came home and told me that he wanted to compete in a combine, I was totally clueless about what he was talking about. A combine? Hmmm… The word doesn’t even give you any clues as to what it may mean in connection to football. A football combine, pronounced (k m b n ), is a showcase during which football players complete physical tests in front of football analysts for evaluation purposes. Per the NCAA rules, college coaches of DI programs are not allowed to attend activities devoted to agility, flexibility, speed or strength testing like off-campus camps and combines. Analysts serve as the college coaches’ eyes and ears by evaluating players and providing feedback, usually by write-ups.

Before participating in a combine, athletes, high school coaches and families must research the agencies offering the events. There are a lot of organizations offering combines and showcases that cannot truly provide athletes with early exposure to college coaches. Such organizations are usually smaller in size, have very few analysts and usually lack legitimate sponsorships.

Last year as a sophomore, my son participated in his first combine. As a family we researched the various camps, combines and showcases and found that the National Underclassmen Combine (NUC) would best serve our purpose: exposure. Unfortunately while participating in NUC he was injured during one of the events. (I will discuss this point later.)

Quinton Alston @ National Underclassmen Combine – May, 2009

The series of tests given during a football combine may vary depending on the organizing body. From my research, the most popular tests are the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, 3-cone drill, and broad jump. Most football combines also include positional drills and some kind of one-on-one competition. Good performance in a combine could result in an athlete getting invited to elite showcases or camps. Additionally, top performing athletes are usually acknowledged at the conclusion of such events.

Here is a short video of this year’s National Underclassmen’s combine held at Matawan High School on April 25, 2010. Included are pics of athletes who won awards in the freshmen division. NOTE: I am not affiliated with any outside organization; therefore, I am not promoting one organization over another. I am only sharing a video of a combine that my family recently attended. My son did not participate in this year’s event. We attended the combine to support the other Timber Creek football players and to take advantage of a networking opportunity.

National Underclassmen (NUC) Combine - April 25, 2010

Over the last few months, my son was invited to several invite-only showcases and camps. Again, we researched the organizations offering the events and selected showcases and camps that would provide the biggest opportunities for exposure to college coaches. Consequently, my son made quite a few connections from his participation in the events. Below is a video of one of the events in which he participated:

Rivals Showcase - February 20, 2010

What No One Tells You…
1. Most football camps, combines and showcases are NOT free. Even many of the invite-only events charge fees for athletes to participate. Be very careful to research the organizations prior to submitting any payments. Most organizations will not provide a refund should you change your mind about participating.

2. Once you’ve found a legitimate camp, combine or showcase, take advantage of early enrollment discounts. Be mindful of the associated deadlines.

3. While at the events, network, network, network. Usually legitimate events are loaded with knowledgeable and well connected people. Athletes and their parents should work to meet as many people as possible in the inner recruiting circle. Remember, WHO you know is just as important as how you play the game!!

Parent Networking Video – April 24, 2010

4. Bring nutritious snacks and beverages to eat during these events. Camps, combines and showcases usually last for several hours. There are no guarantees that the events will offer food or drinks for purchase. In my experience when concessions are offered they are usually rather costly.

5. Remember that organizers running such events are typically the bloodline contacts to college coaches. Be mindful to follow instructions and fully participate in the activities while displaying a positive attitude. Prospects and their families are always under the microscope during the recruiting process.

6. Athletes must take these competitions seriously. While earlier I mentioned that a good performance could get an athlete invited to an elite event, the opposite could also be true. I personally know a high-profile prospect that had a few bad performances at recent showcases. As a result, analysts wrote unfavorable evaluations about him. The athlete was initially projected to be a 10-15 D1 offer kid. To date, the athlete only has one D1 offer which he received before the events took place. (Since it is still early in the recruitment process, I will keep an eye on this situation and update the blog later.)

7. VERY IMPORTANT – During your research period make sure that you understand what will be required. Participants should know the events that will take place during the competition. For example, you need to know if the competitors will be required to run the 40-yard dash, complete the broad jump, throw the powerball or display positional skills. I recently talked to several athletes who showed up at an event without any knowledge of the day’s activities. As a result they were unprepared. A couple of them didn’t even bring the proper attire in which to compete. Don’t make this big mistake!

8. VERY IMPORTANT – Train, train, train for the competition. Many athletes show up to these events without receiving proper training. My family experienced this first hand. We thought that my son already knew the proper techniques for running a 40 or completing a vertical jump. In reality, he didn’t know the tricks of the trade! The most minor adjustments in a prospect’s technique could gain valuable inches or seconds.

Quinton Alston SPARQ Training – February 2010

9. VERY IMPORTANT – Know the prior stats and work to outperform them. Many camps, combines and showcases post the results of prior competitions. Research the performances for athletes that won or scored high for your position. Before my son went to compete in the NUC, we checked out the prior year’s stats for the linebacker who had the best showing in his class. My son set those stats as the stats to beat when going into the competition. As a result, he did very well and was invited back for the invite-only session.

10. VERY IMPORTANT - Show ‘em what you got! By this I mean that you not only have to be serious about the competitions but you have to go hard the whole time. Reputable camps, combines and showcases usually have the best of the best competing. Everyone gets beat at some point or another. Keep your head in the game and make adjustments to your play. If you don’t you may walk off the field with some of your best skills un-shown.

Badger Sport/Next Level 7 on 7 – February 27 & 28, 2010

In my opinion, competing in camps, combines and showcases is a great way to get a prospect’s name out to a wide-range of college coaches. One thing to remember is that as with most activities associated with the sport of football, one runs the risk of injury. Like I noted above, my son experienced an injury while competing at a combine. Consider all your goals and options when thinking about competing off-season. Make sure that the benefits of competing outweigh the risks.

The most important thing is that the athlete is healthy and able to compete at his fullest potential during the regular football season. College coaches place the highest weight of evaluation on a prospect’s ability to perform on the field. Camps, combines and showcases are bonus plays that offer a competitive edge.

Just my2cents for now….

(Added 4-29-10: My son's injury was very minor, a tweaked hip flexor. Reader thanks for asking!)

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