To paraphrase the great John Wooden, "I am giving my opinion not advice." The following are a few opinions that I wish to share with the many club coaches and parents trying to navigate the club waters. Most of these topics need an entire blog but I will attempt to keep them brief. I will break them down into multiple blogs entitled "Opinions".
1. Exposure Events- Simply put, go where your team will be seen. Having college caliber kids is the key to having your team seen! College coaches livelihood depends on delivering kids that can help them win. If your team has players that will help a college program win, coaches will follow. Good exposure events can be put into a couple categories, big and effectively small.
- Big Events: I have attended a few big events as a coach and fan. I have coached in Battle in the Boro, Battle on the Bayou, Big State Flava Jam and PBR Super 64. These events have hundreds of teams. I have also attended Nike Nationals as a fan. The common denominator in these events is the impressive amount of coaches. An event like the Boro can have 200-300 plus scouts easily. While 200 scouts sitting court side in one facility is eye opening, the key to befitting from the coaching presence is having good players. Good players will play well enough to win a game or two. The more you win, the better the competition gets. The better the comp gets, the more college prospects participating in the game. More college prospects results in more college coaches viewing the game. I have been on both sides of the big event game; coaching a young and unheralded team and coaching a heavily recruited team. I have paid the hefty fees that accompany most big events only to play in front of hardly any scouts. I have also played in front of an average 50-60 scouts for an entire event. If your team lacks established relationships with tournament directors and does not have known players, it may be a tough nut to crack when attending big events.
- Small but Effective Events: Again, I have been to numerous small events. Events such as Cali Summer Games, Texas Classic, Peach State Summer Invitational. The Cal Summer Games and numerous Peach State events routinely have 100 plus coaches for 32 team event. This breaks down to 3 college coaches for every club team. Bigger events basically have a 1 to 1 ratio, with the established teams monopolizing most of the college coaches. I have had great success, on a scout per game basis, while attending smaller events. A key factor in attending a smaller event is schedule flexibility. Most smaller event features exhibitions games. These games are a huge benefit to up and coming teams. The 60 plus coaches that I played in front of in a big event like Battle in the Boro, was easily matched with the 60 or so coaches at our exhibition game at last years Cal Summer Games. One of the major benefits of attending smaller events is that coaches tend to sit on lessor known teams for extended periods of time. In the Blueprint for instance, some local teams played in front of a couple dozen coaches. Some of these teams have attended bigger events and played in front of no more than a handful of coaches.
So which is the better, big or small? Again, it is determined by additional factors including your teams talent and reputation. I would suggest a smart mix of big and small events. Here are a few events that are good, IMO.
PBR Super 64 (great facility, organized, comp, coaches, media)
Battle in the Boro (great comp, amazing amount of coaches, media)
Big State Flava Jam(great comp and coaches, media)
Small but effective:
Cal Summer Games (100 plus coaches, location, facility)
Peach State- Real Deal in Ville (100 plus coaches, good facility, media coverage)
Texas Classic (40-50 coaches at one facility)
I have heard good things about the following events:
Deep Soth Classic-Big-( tons of coaches, great comp)
USJN 16u- Big- (huge number of coaches, great comp)
End of the Trail-Big-(coaches, organized)
2. Camps/Clinics: Camps and clinics can be a terrific tool for players in the recruiting process. I have seen both sides, effective and useless.
College Camps- For long, these have been called nothing but "money makers" by many in club basketball. I do not totally agree with that sentiment. Many college camps consist of two groups, elite recruits and payers. All camp attendees must pay to attend camps, however, all campers do not receive the same attention from the staff. Usually, the payers are delegated to a separate gym in larger camps. These "payers" are not really on the radar of that particular school. The other group, the elite prospects, are the attention getters. They are usually already on the coaching staff's radar and received invites. My opinion varies in regards to camps. They are beneficial in many ways. They will give perspective real quick. If a kid attends a camp and gets no attention, it is an unbiased way of a parent(club coach) learning that their kid is not as elite(good) as they think. Again, a college coaching staff is not going to have an elite prospect on campus and ignore them. Attending college camps also can allow players to size themselves up with other recruits, take an extended look at the coaching staff and see the school facilities. Here is a common theme at camps, OFFERS. The majority of players that I have coached have received offers from attending camps. However, all of these players were previously being recruited by the institutions that offered them. If you are in the "payer" side of the gym, getting very little attention from the head coach or top assistants, you may want to adjust the level of your expectations from that particular school or conference. If you are treated in this way at multiple institutions, I would not continue to throw money away by attending college camps.
(side note: Many club coaches are paid handsomely to work(deliver their players to) certain camps. Be aware! I would ask for a list of camp counselors before attending college camps. The club coach working as a camp counselor and his/her kids will expectantly receive a lot of attention from the coaching staff. If your child(player) is competing for attention against the working club coach's players, good luck in getting it! Some coaches pander their kids to as many college camps as possible in an attempt to set up a job at the collegiate level. Plan accordingly!)
Clinics(Scouting Services)- When playing the rankings game, clinics can be a must. Many clinics such as Nike Regional Skills Academies are well attended by scouting services and ranking publications. While getting ranked may not be all that important in the recruiting process, it can aid in recruiting. I have had players attend clinics where they left such an impression on scouting services that they increased their reputations nationally. Consequently, their status rose higher in the rankings that college coaches purchase from scouting services. Believe it or not, many college coaches use ranking/scouting services to find prospects. On a personal note, two top 5 programs began to recruit my kid on word of a scouting service. Of course, recommendations only go so far. Players will have to validate the scouting service recommendations. Again, no reputable college coach will jeopardize their job giving a ride to a player that can not get it done on the word of a talent scout.
If a clinic is strictly a skill set clinic, there are plenty of reasons to attend. Getting better is always a good thing.