Whether you believe it or not, the spring season might be starting to give the fall a run for its money as the most exciting time for high school football. Of course, nothing can replace the Friday night lights, the fans, and seeing effort and talent reflected on the field. But, when it comes to your own personal success in the game of football, how you handle and promote yourself between your last game of the season and summer camp can mean the difference in where you play next.
Football camps big and small have become the events where serious recruits and talented second-string players can move the needle for college scouts and coaches. And from February to June, you better be networking and making the most of what camps and the coaches there can offer you heading into your next football season.
Football camps have only grown in popularity over the last decade and have become a stage where individual players can showcase talent, coachability, and leadership skills away from their high school coaches and teammates. Events like Elite11, The Show by NextGen, and a few other All-American camps have in some ways replaced the stats gained through a high school football season. For a talented few, they’ve even been the difference maker between playing college football at the Division-II level and receiving interest from a few of the best Power-5 programs.
But before we get into what helps an athlete gain that interest and exposure, it’s important to understand how a football camp works and how each different group is involved.
What is a football camp?
A typical football camp is usually a one-or-two-day talent identification event where the best high school football athletes in the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes are invited to display their talent and learn from experienced trainers and coaches. Throughout the day, athletes are separated into position groups, compete in drills, listen to advice from coaches, and reenact real game scenarios in order to add context for recruiters.
A typical camp could range from a hundred to several hundred or even a thousand athletes. Because of the size of the talent pool and the number of coaches needed to help and evaluate those players, it is essential for athletes to maintain a game mentality and pay attention in order to succeed and differentiate themselves.
Very few football camps come without an up-front cost to attend or travel expenses, which is why each one should be taken seriously as an investment in the future of the athlete in the sport.
What do high school athletes get out of a football camp?
As we stated above, football camps have quickly evolved into one of the most important aspects of college football recruiting where athletes can gain exposure and learn from coaches and trainers who have been through the process before. A football camp is a cornucopia of talent where individual athletes attend in order to be analyzed and ranked by coaches and scouts.
Through a variety of individual positions drills like passing, route running, blocking fundamentals, and defensive work, players from every part of the field are able to learn and develop quickly with other top players in their region.
There are also valuable metrics that are measured and recorded helping players with speed, strength, and explosiveness to shine above similar athletes in their position. These activities include the 40-yard-dash, the 5-10-5 drill, shuttle runs, vertical jumps, and others. Similar to how the NFL Combine works, these drills are essential to how football athletes are assessed and every player should not only practice these but work to always be developing these skills. These drills can help a relatively underrated player stand out quickly at a camp and gain a reputation as the leader among the group.
Along with these drills, football camps also offer one of the most important opportunities for high school athletes - another opportunity to compete in a game setting. Through one-on-one matchups for wide receivers and defensive backs or offensive linemen and defensive rushers, athletes are able to show college coaches and scouts how they match up to the talented players across from them.
The mini battles may seem repetitive in the scheme of the whole day but within each one, evaluators are able to reinforce some of the intangibles that are so difficult to assess in a live game setting or on film with limited context. Most high school football players are not facing off against the best talent in their region in a typical game during the fall season, so head-to-head dills or 7-on-7 games essentially add film and game experience college staffs love to see.
Because of the competitive atmosphere and real-time coaching athletes receive, football camps have become an essential part of the recruiting and development processes that coaches and scouts at the next level pay attention to.
What do coaches, trainers, and scouts get out of a football camp?
Football camps are a huge part of the evaluation process for college football recruits. The real-game scenarios, metrics, and athlete relationships that are collected in the course of a one or two-day football camp are essential to player rankings and organization before the fall football season begins. Essentially, the in-person football camps that happen from February to June offer an insight into which players are worth watching when the high school football season begins in August. If you miss your chance to shine in the spring, it might take a record-setting performance in the regular season for you to get attention from scouts in the regular season.
Another major reason why football camps are so important for coaches and trainers is that the offseason is the only time they get to meet players outside of their how area and impart their knowledge to the next generation of football athletes.
If you are from a small town or not connected to coaches and trainers on social media, it is very rare that you will cross paths with them unless they are coaching the opposing team in a regular-season game. Coaches love the way football camps bring exciting talent to them and offer an opportunity for everyone to wear the same color jersey and network.
Football camps also offer a way for those trainers and coaches to find new clients to work with throughout the rest of the year. Most of the major Power-5 recruits work with an individual position coach who can help them develop away from their school-organized practices. The sooner you can meet these coaches and seriously think about how you are learning and developing at your position, the more likely you are to succeed and be talked about among these scouts and coaches.
What do colleges get out of a football camp?
A huge portion of high school athletes who are recruited to major college football programs don’t earn their spot on the team through high school game film. It certainly helps to put up stats, but these coaches want to see how hard you work off of the field, how athletic you are without your pads, and what kind of metrics you record when everyone is watching.
You can succeed without attending these camps, but it makes the process that much harder. College coaches need multiple opinions and proof of your competitiveness and athleticism. These camps and the dozens of trusted coaches and scouts there offer valuable info to those who decide which athletes will earn a scholarship offer.
Another reason colleges love football camps is the way in which athletes are put into uncomfortable situations and forced to react. Without the speed of a normal game or the pads to conceal how a player really moves and uses their body, scouts and college coaches are able to get a view of an athlete that game film doesn’t offer.
Football camps are as much about revealing an athlete's football IQ and the way they react to new systems as they are about showcasing athleticism. When you play within one offense for an entire football season, coaches rarely get to see how you function in a different system. Football camps allow them to get a glimpse at whether you would be an asset to the way their team plays the game.