Utilizing Camps to Build a Public High School Talent Pipeline
One of the challenges of coaching high school sports is the lack of control over the pool of incoming talent. It’s in no way like college, where a coach can recruit outside the area to fill gaps in the roster. So aside from hoping for the best, how can a coach stabilize their pipeline of incoming talent? For starters, the coach must look ‘upstream’, much earlier than high school. And one way to do that is to running camps to generate a talent pipeline.
Why is this More of a Challenge Today?
Student athletes today are making sport interest decisions (and commitments) way before they get to freshman year of high school. There’s a separate conversation to be had on whether that is a ‘good’ development, but regardless: it’s the current reality. Any consideration of trying a new sport ends if it conflicts with an activity that they have previously committed to. For instance, take a player who has invested in club soccer starting at age 10 or 11 – that is a significant 4-5 year commitment before even starting high school. Without even weighing the pros/cons, it would surely be a difficult decision to take on a conflicting sport at that point.
So What is a Coach to do?
One excellent idea that we have seen from clients at NetCamps is to consider sponsoring/running a grassroots youth camp in the offseason with the sole objective of generating excitement for that sport in general. Sports camps provide a great opportunity for young individuals to learn about a sport, practice the skills involved, and interact with other players who share a similar interest – in a very low pressure environment. And they can be very low commitment to the parents as well – certainly less than signing up for a full season to try it out.
By participating in a camp, individuals can develop a deeper appreciation for the sport, which is reinforced by increased excitement and enthusiasm. Camps often offer them a variety of activities and positive opportunities to engage with the sport in different ways, such as through games, competitions, and challenges. Moreover, camps can also help to build a sense of community and camaraderie among participants as they work together. And the last thing they do is plant a ‘seed’ in the player regarding the future – “this is fun and if I stay with it I can eventually play it in high school!’.
So while the point of this post is not to suggest that it is an easy fix, instructional/introductory camps can be a very powerful tool for generating excitement for a sport early. And while not every attendee at the camp will continue to play the sport, some will – and they will likely end up roping their friends into trying it too.