Soccer Camp - Which One is Best?

How has COVID-19 affected summer soccer camps?

Unfortunately, many summer soccer camps have been canceled. In fact, the NCAA has forbidden all Division I and II coaches from in-person recruiting through May 31st, and that could be extended.

However, you can still find quite a few summer soccer camps that are still operating as scheduled, for now at least. Of the summer soccer camps that haven’t been canceled, most of them aren’t requiring you to put any money down when you register. Be aware, though, they often require a credit card and will start automatic payments at a later date.

Since all spring showcase tournaments were canceled due to COVID-19, the summer soccer camps that are running represent the only chance to be evaluated by college coaches until at least November! If it’s safe, sending your son or daughter to a summer soccer camp could be a great opportunity.

Is going to a soccer camp even necessary?

You already spend a lot on soccer: club fees, uniforms, soccer cleats, showcase tournaments, hotel stays, flights, and the list goes on - not to mention all your time! Playing for a club team and going to the best showcases is enough to get recruited, right? The answer is...well, maybe.

Playing college soccer could be the most meaningful, life-changing experience your son or daughter will have as a young adult. Yes, earning a college degree is incredibly valuable, but playing college soccer provides him or her with a family of coaches and teammates, an exclusive alumni network, and extensive training for the real world in areas such as discipline and time management, working as a part of a team, leadership and management, and communication.

So, is going to a soccer camp necessary? No. But, do we strongly recommend it? Yes! These days, it’s rare that a player gets recruited without attending a single soccer camp, and we recommend your son or daughter do everything possible to make his or her dream of playing college soccer a reality.

What are the benefits of attending a soccer camp?

Attending soccer camps has become an integral part of the college recruiting pathway for several reasons. There are three main benefits of going to a soccer camp:

  1. Exposure for the Player - When your son or daughter goes to a showcase tournament, there is zero guarantee that any college coach, much less a specific coach, will see him or her play. By going to a camp, he or she increases, and perhaps even guarantees, the chance of exposure to a particular coach or coaches. See Soccer Camp Factor #1 - Coaches in Attendance below for more details.

  2. Exposure for the Coach - At showcase tournaments, college coaches often only watch half of each game, if that, limiting their ability to fully evaluate your son or daughter. In a camp setting, however, not only do they get to evaluate over a longer period of time, but they also get to work with your son or daughter directly. Being able to preview that working relationship is invaluable to college coaches.

  3. Development - Anytime your son or daughter plays soccer is an opportunity for development. Many soccer camps boast a staff of highly qualified and experienced coaches. Training with and playing for such coaches can help your son or daughter prepare for the college soccer game.

Why play for a club and in high school if soccer camps are so great?

It’s very important to note that attending soccer camps cannot replace all the benefits of playing club and/or high school soccer. Training on a regular basis and playing in consistent games is absolutely necessary for your son or daughter to reach his or her potential.

Why attend showcase tournaments if soccer camps are so great?

It’s also important to note that college coaches prefer being able to evaluate your son or daughter not only in a soccer camp setting, but also with his or her club team. Your son or daughter will naturally be more comfortable playing with his or her teammates, in a system, position, and style of play that he or she is used to. Therefore, it’s ideal to attend both showcase tournaments and soccer camps.

What type of soccer camp is best for college recruiting?

Not all soccer camps are geared towards college recruiting. Some soccer camps are focused more on fun and/or development. The soccer camps you’re looking for usually have a couple identifiable characteristics:

  1. They have words like “ID”, “Elite”, or “Showcase” in their names.

  2. They are limited to high-school-age players.

Soccer ID camps (or elite soccer camps or showcase soccer camps) are soccer camps that are focused on providing campers with exposure to college coaches. College coaches either work or attend the camps to watch and evaluate players.

For the remainder of this article, we’ll use soccer camp and soccer ID camp interchangeably.

What’s the difference between an independent soccer camp and a soccer camp associated with a school?

In short, not much. A soccer camp that’s associated with a school is actually a separate company, usually owned by the head soccer coach, so it’s technically independent as well.

Such soccer camps are naturally more closely tied to that school and that soccer program, but that doesn’t mean other coaches won’t be in attendance. Independent soccer camps staff their camps with coaches from various schools.

What factors should I consider when choosing a soccer camp?

With all the options out there, and the cost involved, which soccer camp(s) is/are right for your son or daughter? There’s no one right answer that applies to every player, so you have to look at his or her own personal situation and take the following aspects into consideration.

9 Factors to Consider when Picking a Soccer Camp

  1. Coaches in Attendance

  2. Campers in Attendance

  3. Interest Level

  4. Location

  5. Cost

  6. Format

  7. Length

  8. Number/Combination

  9. Summer Soccer Camps vs Winter/Spring Soccer Camps

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Soccer Camp Factor #1 - Coaches in Attendance

The main point of attending a soccer ID camp is to be evaluated by schools that are of interest. If your son or daughter hasn’t already done so, make sure he or she completes Steps 1 & 2 of our 7 Steps Along the Recruiting Pathway to build your list of schools.

The number of coaches attending a soccer ID camp can range from one to more than 75. While being evaluated by 75 coaches sounds great, it’s doubtful that every coach will actually see your son or daughter play, so more isn’t necessarily better. Generally speaking, the fewer coaches in attendance, the more each coach will be able to evaluate each camper.

The biggest question to ask yourself when it comes to coaches in attendance is, “How many of these schools are on my son or daughter’s list?”. If there are 75 coaches at a soccer camp and 25 of them are on his or her list, that’s an incredible opportunity! Sure, maybe not all 25 coaches will see him or her play, but he or she is bound to get in front of a good amount of them. On the other hand, if only two schools are on his or her list, you’re better off choosing a soccer ID camp with 20 coaches and the same amount (two) on his or her list.

How do you find out which soccer camps each coach is attending? While scouring every camp website is one option, we recommend taking a more direct and efficient route: ask the coaches! Your son or daughter should shoot them an email to let them know he or she wants to get in front of them at a camp, and the coaches will respond with the ones their staff is attending.

To save even more time, use our Recruiting Dashboard. You’ll get the email address of every NCAA Division I, II, and III coach, along with space dedicated to keeping track of which coach will be at each soccer camp.

Another important factor to keep in mind is the role of each coach at the soccer ID camp. It’s rare you’ll see many head coaches at a soccer camp. Top assistants are even uncommon. For the schools your son or daughter is interested in, look into which coach is attending. The more important the role of the coach, the more impactful the exposure will be.

Soccer Camp Factor #2 - Campers in Attendance

Like the number of coaches at a given soccer camp, the more players there are, the less individual exposure your son or daughter will get. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd among 500 other campers, and it’s impossible for coaches to see and evaluate that number of players. However, generally speaking, the more campers there are, the more coaches there will be.

If your son or daughter is early in the process and has a long list of schools, attending a large soccer camp could be a good idea. On the other hand, if he or she has a narrow list and needs to ensure exposure to a specific school, try to avoid the possibility of him or her not being seen.

Soccer Camp Factor #3 - Interest Level

The level of interest (a) your son or daughter has in a given school and (b) that school has in him or her is a critical factor to consider when determining which soccer camp(s) is/are the best fit.

Attending a soccer ID camp can be a great way to guarantee evaluation by a certain coaching staff. If your son or daughter has completed Steps 1 & 2 of the 7 Steps Along the Recruiting Pathway and used our Recruiting Dashboard to tier schools, then make sure he or she goes to camps that provide exposure to Tier 1 schools.

It’s important to know that most college soccer programs use soccer camps to make money (at least in part). If your son or daughter has already started emailing coaches, he or she has undoubtedly received multiple soccer ID camp invitations. Do NOT take these camp invites as an expression of interest. If the invite looks generic and doesn’t say anything about having already seen him or her play, it’s probably the same email they send to everyone who contacts them. Not sure if it’s genuine interest or not? Ask!

Soccer Camp Factor #4 - Location

There are several factors to consider when it comes to the location of the soccer camp(s) you choose:

  • Getting There - How easily can your son or daughter get to the soccer ID camp? How much will it cost to get there? Do you have friends/family in the area that can help with transportation and/or housing?

  • Setting - Is the soccer camp at a college so your son or daughter can experience life on campus? Is it at a college he or she is interested in?

  • Area/Region - Is the soccer ID camp located somewhere that interests your son or daughter? Can he or she visit other colleges before/after the camp?

  • Safety - Where will your son or daughter be staying during the soccer camp? Dorms? Hotel? What’s the area like around the housing? How will he or she be getting around?

Attending a soccer ID camp is not just about exposure to coaches and being evaluated. Ideally, your son or daughter should get exposure to schools and programs that interest him or her as well. Where a soccer camp is located plays a big role in your son or daughter’s ability to do that.

Soccer Camp Factor #5 - Cost

Given the opportunity that soccer ID camps present, you may want to send your son or daughter to as many camps as possible. Unfortunately, soccer camps can be expensive.

You can generally expect the price to increase as the number of coaches in attendance increases. The duration of the soccer camp, which we’ll discuss in a bit (Soccer Camp Factor #8), plays a role as well. The longer the camp, the more expensive it usually is.

Weigh the cost of a camp with the opportunity it presents. Let’s look at an example...

Soccer Camp 1

  • 75 coaches in attendance

  • 25 schools represented that interest your son or daughter

  • 500 campers

  • $750 registration fee

Soccer Camp 2

  • 25 coaches in attendance

  • 3 schools represented that interest your son or daughter

  • 250 campers

  • $650 registration fee

In the example, we recommend Soccer Camp 1 over Soccer Camp 2 because it provides a significantly better opportunity for only an additional $100.

INSIDER TIP: Take advantage of early bird specials! Most soccer camps increase in price as time draws nearer to the date of the camp. So do your research early, and you’ll save money!

Of course everyone’s financial situation is different, so you have to factor in your own scenario when it comes to cost. Keep Soccer Camp Factor #8 - Number/Combination in mind when considering cost.

Soccer Camp Factor #6 - Format

How a soccer camp is run can have a big impact on what your son or daughter gets out of it. Most soccer ID camps will group players into teams, train those teams, and the bulk of the camp will be full-sided, 11v11 games. That format is usually the ideal environment for coaches to evaluate your son or daughter.

College coaches often coach the teams, which allows them to get to know your son or daughter better, while he or she gets the opportunity to experience their coaching styles. Try to find out if campers are coached by one coach throughout the entire camp or if the coaches will rotate.

Rotating allows for exposure to more schools, but your son or daughter may just have one coach he or she really cares about. If that’s the case, your son or daughter should ask to be put on that coach’s team. Keep in mind that coaches talk about players, and your son or daughter will have the opportunity to approach any coach he or she wants during the camp, so don’t panic if he or she isn’t coached by a coach whose school interests him or her.

Since your son or daughter will be playing with a group of players he or she probably doesn’t know, it will be tough for him or her to show his or her best. However, if teams stay together throughout the soccer camp, he or she can develop some cohesiveness with the other players and perform better as time goes on. Most soccer ID camps keep teams together for the duration of the camp, but it’s worth asking to make sure and for your son or daughter to mentally prepare either way.

Soccer Camp Factor #7 - Duration

Soccer camps typically last one day, two days, or four days. For soccer ID camps with only a handful of college coaches and limited number of campers, one day is enough. Your son or daughter will get plenty of exposure, likely both in a training and a game environment.

When considering larger (in terms of the number of campers) soccer camps, your son or daughter will want the extended time to have the opportunity to get in front of as many coaches as possible. Also, attending multi-day soccer ID camps usually means spending the night on campus, which gives your son or daughter a better picture of life as a student-athlete.

Soccer Camp Factor #8 - Number / Combination

As we discussed before, it’s tempting to send your son or daughter to every soccer camp because of the opportunities they present. However, there are of course limiting factors like time, money, and fitness. So how do you decide the number/combination of soccer ID camps your son or daughter should attend?