These camps are usually one day and hosted by a given college’s coaches and players.
You’ll get run through a series of drills and evaluations since the main purpose of these events is the player assessment of potential recruits.
Prospect camps are usually only hosted by one school. They’re also more beneficial if you’ve already made contact with the coach of that school and have a real interest in spending 4-5 of your formative years there.
These camps range in price from $60-$200, but for many players, they’re a key component of the recruitment process.
The investment could certainly be worth it, but we’ll explore this in more detail shortly.
Skills camps, also referred to as clinics, are the most common type of softball camps overall. Such camps may be focused on developing all skills or specific ones like pitching, catching, defense, etc.
Some colleges will host a series of clinics, with one day devoted to pitching, the next day to defense, the next to offense, and so on.
These camps focus less on player evaluation and more on instruction. For those events that last longer than one day, the program might also provide food and lodging for participants.
These overnight camps are great for checking out campus facilities, but they’re also more expensive. Such skill camps can be between $200-$800.
Another more recent type of event is often called a combine or "athletic testing."
At these events, you’re tested on things like running speed, agility, grip strength, hitting exit speed, and throwing velocity. You won’t usually find college coaches at pure combine events.
The purpose of these events is getting your key softball data verified, so you can send it to coaches when you reach out to them.
That said, as technology has become such an integral part of our game, with college coaches relying heavily on performance metrics to inform recruiting efforts, combine-like tests are now being incorporated into all of the college softball camp types that we’ve covered so far.
#What Are the Benefits? Is It Worth Attending College Softball Camps?
College softball camps, clinics, and showcases have several benefits, most notably for players who dream of playing college ball (and perhaps even the Olympics one day?).
There are three main reasons for attending camps:
To get college-level instruction and gain insight into how collegiate athletes train.
To see where your skill and development levels are compared to your recruitable competition and to the current college athletes you hope to replace.
To meet with college coaches or to demonstrate skills in front of coaches you’ve already made contact with.
Keep in mind that it’s only older players, ages 13-18, who have recruitment goals with these camps.
For younger players, ages 7-12, the focus should be entirely on instruction and overall improvement.
Unlock your ballplayer’s full potential
Find the perfect vetted coach to build a solid foundation or take your player's skills to new heights.
One of the biggest benefits of college camps is showing your softball skills to coaches. If you’re serious about playing softball in college, then attending these camps is highly recommended.
If you have a particular school you’d love to play at, going to their camp or clinic is all but a must.
Colleges do use these camps to generate revenue for their programs. In the interest of keeping it unfiltered, we’d add that much of the profits made from hosting these camps are often used to pay the otherwise unpaid assistant coaches on a college’s staff that the school, unfortunately, can’t afford to compensate.
Still, many college coaches do also see these camps as an essential part of the recruiting process. And they do use them to get to know the players they’re interested in better than they can through other channels.
As stated, knowing your goal is a big part of choosing the right softball camp.
Are you looking for training and improvement?
Then skills camps and clinics are a better fit for you, especially if you’re at an early phase of the recruitment process.
Skills camps and team showcases can also be worth looking into if you don’t have a specific school in mind yet.
At these camps, you often have the chance to meet several coaches at once and compare their coaching styles.
If there’s a school that you have your heart set on playing for though, then prospect camps are usually your best option. You can interact with the coach, take a tour of campus, and learn if this program is really the one for you.
A prospect camp is also an opportunity for the coach to evaluate you more closely – as ideally, they will have already seen the skills highlight reel video you sent them beforehand and possibly seen you play in travel tournaments.
Ensure that you’re attending the right camps for the right reasons, as they’re not cheap. Travel time and lodging are also financial factors to consider when choosing a camp.
If you’re not sure where to start looking for softball camps, this list from the NCSA is a great start.
Don’t just go to random camps without purpose, always have a personally stated and known objective for attending.
And conduct some research on the college or university as a whole before deciding on their softball camp:
Does this school have the major you’re interested in?
Is it far from home? Is that a good or bad thing?
What is campus life like?
What year is the starting _____(insert your softball position here)? And how to I measure up to her?
You can find out more about colleges once you visit them, but know the basics before going.
Also, various college coaches that we spoke to mentioned that ballplayers who demonstrate knowledge of the college, its history, or the backgrounds of their coaching staff are really helping separate themselves from the pack.
You still need the skills, but researching and retaining such information shows coaches that you’re personally invested in your own future and serious about their program – and these signals among all the noise of your competition go a long way.
Not to beat a dead horse, but if you want a college coach to notice you at a camp or clinic, you must contact them beforehand.
In practice, this means sending an introductory email often with a highlight reel video attached.
Increase your chances of having a coach respond by personalizing the email, too.
You should familiarize yourself with the coach and their staff. What are their names, and what is their playing or coaching background?
This preemptive research doesn’t mean much if your skills aren’t to the correct level for that school, of course.
But, again, during phone or in-person conversations with coaches, showing that you care enough about your own journey to do this kind of homework can only help your cause.
It also shows coaches that you are mature enough to take this transition into college seriously, and that you are genuinely interested in their program specifically – not just fishing for any scholarship money you can get, regardless of its source.
🧢 Pro Tip: Follow the head coach, assistant coaches, and even the athletic trainers for your dream schools on social media – especially on Twitter, because that’s where they tend to hang out.
Not only will following coaches on social media help you get to know their names and backgrounds better, but it also may provide you with great insights into their personalities and coaching styles, so you can see if they are a match with your own preferences or needs.
Finally, while following them online, the program’s trainers or current players may drop valuable information on the types of exercises and equipment that their strength and conditioning programming focuses on, along with specific physical expectations that they place on their athletes.
Taking note of these details allows you to perfect those exercises, master that piece of equipment (barbell, kettlebell, etc.), and train to meet those physical expectations.
Not only will this prepare you for your freshman year at the school, but it can even help when you are pre-signed, while attending that college's camps years earlier.
While at the camp, if a coach or current college player asks what you do for training and you describe the same types of exercises and equipment and programs that their athletes are subject to every day, you are demonstrating how well you will fit into their program – which is incredibly important.
When you’re at the camp or clinic, you should be in full self-marketing mode.
You don’t have to be fake and act like someone you’re not. Just keep in mind that nobody else can make you look good except you.
Be polite, friendly, and hard-working. Confidently introduce yourself to the coaches and staff, as well as the other participants.
Try to speak with everyone as much as possible, to show how personable you are. Many coaches report poor attitude as one of their recruiting “deal-breakers.”
Don’t forget to look and act the part at the camp, too.
Dress in uniform, bring all your equipment, and, of course, hustle everywhere. This is how serious softball players should always conduct themselves at games, practices, and tournaments, but it’s especially important at recruiting events.
And as one coach put it, “Do your homework before you intend on attending a college camp or clinic,” adding that players “should be in communication (expressing interest, updates, schedules) way before they show up to a camp.”
Others said that “Camps vary by schools and players,” and that if you’re interested in a certain school, camps are “a great opportunity to see the campus, meet the coaches, players and see their facilities.”
Most parents and coaches agreed that players who want to pursue college softball should attend at least one camp, if not more.
To see what else coaches have to say about camps and showcases, check out this video from NCSA: