The Winter Showcase/Camp Dilemma

‘Tis the season to be anxious.  Or is it?  Invitations to winter showcases and college clinics populate email boxes… impossible for players and parents to ignore.  It is common to experience “panic mode,” and think about ways to get ahead on the timetable.  Juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen hear about the kid who just committed to a Division I school.  Parents think “My kid isn’t that different.  Why not him?”  Dad says “Let’s plan school visits!  We will take Johnny to a camp at ABC University, then we can go to XYZ University.”  Some families plan elaborate trips and tours of college campuses during the winter “off-season.” Does this sound familiar?

So what are the realities and myths of winter showcases and “camps” as colleges call them?  And does attendance actually move the process forward?  The answers are not absolute, but there are important considerations that include myths and realities.

Four Considerations for Attending a Winter Camp

Rich Gedman at Catching Clinic

Our organizational position is that Ruffnecks attending too many clinics is not necessarily productive.  This view is supported by the very same college coaches who send these invites to our players.  They tell us that they prioritize seeing our teams during the summer.  In some cases, they plan to see a prospect during the high school season… usually near the end.  Consider the following:

  1. Is the player presenting himself at a winter clinic at the peak of his preparation, ability, and performance?  If not, does it help or hurt?  Is it better to wait for in-season proficiency?
  2. Does the player possess a skill (tool) that provides an “eye-popper” for the coaches in attendance (speed, velocity, explosive bat)? It is demonstrable at a winter clinic?
  3. The inverse of #2 is the risk that a player diminishes his value by testing poorly in one of the skill sets measured at the clinic. For instance speed, quickness, a poor BP, or other measurements unknown to the participants.
  4. What is the “snapshot” impression the player wishes to leave with college coaches?  They will be nice, but what will they remember?  Does attending really “move the needle” on the recruiting timetable with college recruiters?

The reality of #3 is a very real risk.  A player can cross himself off of lists at camps by testing out poorly on the agility and speed elements, particularly if there is not a visible, “loud” tool to present.  There is a lot to consider regarding winter camps.  Our suggestion is to stay home and attend the local ones (if any): Boston College, Harvard, Northeastern, or select a D-III of interest.

Just because you are contacted does not mean you are on the school’s short list

Players in programs like ours make their way onto many lists.  These lists are harvested from a variety of sources.  The two most common sources are the personal roster information required for certain tournament entries, and direct communications between our organization and college recruiters.  We regularly share contact information for all our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

Reality #1
Players can no longer show up, unannounced, and visit a Division I college coach, prior to September 1st of their JUNIOR year in high school, even if you are just visiting the school.  This does not apply to Division III schools.  Technically, Division I college coaches cannot initiate contact or respond to contact from freshmen and sophomores.

Exception: The college coach can respond with an invitation to a camp at the Division I college or university.

Reality #1A – You are thinking…
There is that 2021 grad from East Somewhere, GA (or even Massachusetts) who has verbally committed to a Division I school.  We know this from talk, rumors, “through the grapvevine,” or from the “prospect list” we saw on a baseball website!

Recommendation: Stay grounded on Reality #1.

If You Want to Attend… Which Ones?

Experience suggests that a player should stay close to home unless there is a real, purposeful, and meaningful, recruiting opportunity at a specific college somewhere outside the region.  In other words, that school really wants to see YOU!  And they will let you know… often through our staff or your high school coach. So let’s cut right to the chase for Ruffnecks players.  There are three, local, college winter camps that might be beneficial and are worth considering:

Boston College Winter Prospect Series: December 27-30
Link to BC Winter Camps

Harvard Crimson Baseball Academy
Link to Harvard Winter Camps

Northeastern University Prospect Clinics
Link to Northeastern Winter Camps

Expectations & Objectives

Frankly, players should attend winter clinics with a mind-set of instruction and development.  Exposure is great, but try to get better.

Myth:
The winter prospect camp will create exposure for me with Division I schools.

Reality #2
Temper your expectations: Exposure to Division I coaching is limited to the host school.  NCAA restrictions do not permit Division I coaches to coach in winter clinics and camps other than their own.  However (and this is valuable), the coaching and instruction is often staffed by Division II and III coaches who are not under compliance restrictions from the NCAA.  There is good exposure to Division III coaches if that is among your objectives.

Myth:
Attending a camp provides an opportunity for coaches to get to know me.

Reality #3
This is true.  But Division I coaches are still restricted from building a narrative with you unless you are a junior.

Suggestions & Research

Coach Gambino Address Team - BC Summer 2018

Boston College Mike Gambino is clear and transparent about what winter camps are all about for him and his staff.  “If a kid wants to make an impression, we want to see how he takes instruction.  Our camps are instructive.  We get to know kids over time.  And we understand the value of muti-sport kids who can’t attend and even those who do attend while there are focusing on a winter sport.”  Gambino and our staff are consistent in what the primary objective should be:  Development and Instruction. Participate to get better.

Accordingly, we suggest players do homework on clinics and camps before registering and spending the money.

  1. Research the curriculum or hourly/daily “plan” for the clinic.  Is it posted? Can they send it?
  2. Does the activity consist of work/drill stations?  Are they productive for you?
  3. Is the camp developmental?  What tests do the coaches conduct?
  4. If you are a pitcher, what is the plan and how best can you prepare?
  5. IMPORTANT: Does the camp provide a written evaluation or “report card” at the end?  You should ask this question and know the answer.

Of course, be patient with yourself if you attend.  In most cases, you are not as big, strong, and developed as the players who play at the collegiate level.  The college coaches know this and have experience in assessing potential and projectability.

Summary

The best clinics are instructional.  Staying local keeps the cost down, and builds self-awareness. If you are looking to build a narrative, understand that the coaches of these schools are in close contact with our program… Another reason to stay local.  Best of all, continue your off-season workout program and move yourself forward in strength and purposeful preparation for playing a demanding schedule this spring and summer.  Best of luck and health in 2019!