Are you ready to dive in? Summer camps are one of the best ways you can spend your summer. Use summer camps to…
- Play tons of volleyball in just a few days
- Have a lot of fun
- Make some new friends
- Play your favorite sport in the summer! What’s not to like?
I highly encourage you to find at least a couple of high quality summer camps in your area. If you have the time, budget, and desire to play more than that then sign up for even more! Most high schools will run a summer camp, but I suggest you look for other opportunities in addition to what is offered at your school—either at other high schools or local universities. Playing for different coaches and different players from your high school team will give you new perspectives on how you play and is a great way to make friends.
Can you attend a camp run by another high school? You bet! I did this every year of high school thanks to the thoughtful and welcoming coach (and friend), Deanna Meyer. She had a great program and brought in great coaches from local universities—do a little networking and look for similar opportunities in your area.
So, let’s talk recruiting. Summer camps run by universities are a massively powerful recruiting tool and a major opportunity for you to
- Visit schools and get a feel for what their coaches, players, campus, and facilities are like
- Show coaches your skills for an extended period of time
- Develop a relationship with coaches and players
- Receive lots of feedback and improve your game
- And, as always, make new friends!
Believe it or not, but coaches cannot call you over the phone as a Freshman or Sophomore! You can always call them, regardless of your age, and you should definitely call them to tell them you’re coming to their summer camp! Attending a summer camp is a crucial opportunity to connect with coaches as a younger player and will be one of very few opportunities to communicate with them in person. So don’t miss it!
To be honest, even though NCAA communication rules get less strict the older you get, the same advice goes for older players. If you are an unsigned senior, you must attend summer camps.
What can you expect at a camp? Summer camps are typically run by the coaching staff, players, and often alumni or other highly qualified people in the local volleyball community. They almost always take place at the university and can run for a day or two up to an entire week. Campers typically commute from home or stay in the dorms on campus, which can be a fun way to get a feel for what living on campus during your freshman year could be like.
Summer camps are like a small window into the overall mental health of a college program. On top of running the camp (for up to hundreds of participants), coaches continue to take care of all of their other departmental and program responsibilities. It can be an overwhelmingly busy time for the players, especially as they balance summer classes and team workouts with running the camp.
How do the coaches and players treat each other during a time when everyone is busy balancing so many responsibilities? How do they talk to each other at the end of a long week and when they think no one else is listening? Pay attention to how they treat you and the other campers, especially the younger ones who require a lot of energy from the camp staff. The way coaches and players treat each other (and you) is a good indication of what kind of environment the program has overall.
How can you make the best impression possible at your next summer camp?
- Listen. Any time a coach’s mouth is open, yours is shut and you are paying 100% attention.
- Watch. Pay 100% attention during every demo.
- Get over your fear of failure. You can’t play for an entire week without making mistakes. Take action on feedback from your coaches immediately, even if that means making some mistakes until you figure out new techniques.
- Communicate. Be engaged, ask questions, and encourage others. During live play, be the loudest player in the gym—when you’re in the middle of a rally or drill, there is always something to say.
- Hustle. College athletes have to be able to sustain an extremely high work ethic for twelve months of the year. Showing your coaches that you can do the same for a weeklong camp will go a long way in communicating to them that you’re ready for the next level.
- Have fun. You genuinely need to enjoy yourself at camp. Otherwise, why go? Being yourself, having fun, and helping the campers around you to do the same will not be lost on your coaches.
- Be curious. Ask questions off the court about what it’s like to attend the university or what it’s like to play for the program. Show genuine interest in the players and coaches and ask some of the questions that matter to you.
I think it’s worth noting that the first scholarship offer I received was extended to me at the end of a weeklong summer camp. My recruiting relationship with that school had existed for a couple of years prior to that offer, but the timing of the offer was not coincidental. I can’t emphasize how important of a recruiting tool summer camps are!
To finish up, don’t forget to keep a little healthy balance and perspective in your life. Summer is also an important time to rest, relax, take a little time away from volleyball, and participate in other athletic activities, so be careful not to overdo yourself during this period. You don’t get that same luxury during high school volleyball in the fall and club ball in the winter/spring!