The Truth about Exposure
In this chapter, we discuss the various avenues available to athletes to getting exposure with college coaches. Understanding how these pieces work and fit together is key to getting the results you want - and saving money in the process.
Four Tips for Making ID Camps Work for You
Make no mistake: college ID camps are big money makers for colleges. Nearly every college from Division III through FBS runs some form of annual football ID camp, and some run multiple camps each year. They invest significant marketing dollars to entice high school players to attend, and many do under the impression that the coaches are interested in seeing them play and workout - which is sometimes the case, but more often not.
The truth is, most college camps aren't designed for identifying new recruits. The college running the camp usually already has their list of guys they have evaluated and are interested in and have personally invited, and they will focus a large portion of their attention at the camp on those players. How do they move? Are they really as big as they say they are? Are they sincerely interested in our program.
For those athletes that have not been personally invited by the coach, the odds are long that they will be noticed, in part because even if they play well, the coaches are focused on their previously identified target group. It is rare, though not impossible, for an athlete to be first discovered at an ID camp and offered a spot.
Our Camp Recommendations:
Should You Attend a Combine?
Combines can help you. Or they can hurt you. It depends on your situation. Before deciding to attend a combine, an athlete should answer one question: am I a combine athlete?
What is a combine athlete? Can you jump out of the gym? Bench 225 pounds 30 times? Run a 4.4 40 yard dash? If so, attending a combine will play to your strengths.
A lot of college coaches today are metric-driven. They will analyze height, weight, and speed prior to watching film. While combines verify those metrics, they do a poor job of representing how an athlete performs in game or with pads on.
If you are a young athlete or otherwise don't have great metrics, a combine will not help and may put you at a disadvantage. In other words, if your physical stats don’t really do justice to the quality of player you are, then your film will probably be a better representation of you. A lot of athletes who ultimately earn scholarships are not combine athletes.
The main point here is, if you don't have great metrics to showcase at a combine, then let a college coach fall in love with your film. Some players excel at in combine numbers, while others show their quality on film.
The Seven-on-Seven Phenomenon
Seven-on-seven leagues and tournaments are a new phenomenon taking the football community by storm. We have received numerous questions about whether participating in seven-on-seven is good for athletes.
In terms of exposure and recruiting, seven-on-seven really does not provide any substantial direct assistance. College coaches are not actively attending seven-on-seven tournaments to evaluate athletes. College coaches need to see how an athlete performs in a football game with pads on.
There is an exception to this general rule. If you are in a situation in which seven-on-seven film would showcase you competing in a position you normally don’t play, playing seven-on-seven and filming your play could help in the recruiting process. For example, if you are a tight end in a wing-T offense and you’re primarily blocking all season, seven-on-seven film will allow you to show a college coach your catching, ball skills, and route running he wouldn’t get to see in your game film.
However, there is one very clear benefit to seven-on-seven for all athletes. It will improve your game. More reps and more practice are always great! As with any contact sport, additional competitions mean incremental risk of injury.
Recruiting Exposure Services: Sound Strategy or Waste of Money?
You see these services everywhere. They urge athletes and parents to create profile, which they boast they can get in front of real college coaches, thus increasing exposure and the odds of landing a spot on a college team. All for a fee.
Do these services work?
The original concept seemed like a good idea. In theory, it seemed like a win-win for coaches and athletes. Athletes fill out a profile and get exposure with multiple coaches. Coaches subscribe to the service and get access to a searchable database of athletes.
In practice, though, all football profile hosting websites are obsolete. All, that is, except for Hudl.
Hudl's Quiet Take-Over
Hudl is the platform used by high school, college, and professional football teams to house and share game video. Founded in 2006, by 2012 Hudl had racked up an impressive list of market share statistics (from a 2012 interview with Hudl’s CEO):
After seeing the treasure trove of game film and athlete profiles swell to include virtually all US high school football programs, Hudl launched a new service called Recruit to give college coaches access to this video for their recruiting activities.
Bear in mind, the single most important factor in getting recruiting for football is film. Two-hundred-thousand-dollar scholarships are handed out all over the country primarily over film. And Hudl has all of it.
How does a high school athlete get into this database? If your high school is among the 95% of high schools that use Hudl, you’re already in the database, and you have free use of the tools to go in and create your profile and highlight film (since your school’s athletic department pays Hudl)
With profiles and video of nearly every high school football player in the country in a single location, Hudl’s Recruit database has quietly become the college coach’s one-stop shop and the undeniable #1 profile hosting website for coaches. With virtually all athletes’ data and film in a single location on Recruit, why would a coach search a third party website that athletes have to pay to get into?
Here’s another aspect to think about from a coach’s perspective. If I receive an email from a high school athlete, I like to see a link to the Hudl profile, since this is the recruiting system I already subscribe to and use day-in, day-out. A link to a video and profile on another platform is usually much less convenient, since now the information is in a completely different system and unfamiliar format, and I typically have to go through additional steps to pull in missing information.
Not many people outside the coaching world realize how quickly this has consolidated. Technology in combination with Hudl’s market dominance is dramatically changing the recruiting tools landscape. Our goal here is not to disparage the dozens of football profile hosting websites. We are here to educate athletes and their families. Do not hold high expectations of increasing your exposure with current college coaches by paying to list your profile in a third-party website, regardless of how much they try to tie scholarship success to being listed in their database.
At the same time, don’t confuse profile hosting websites with active scouting services that perform objective professional evaluations and share them with college coaching staffs. These scouting services are usually free to the athlete, but offer no guarantee you will actually be evaluated or your evaluation shared with a college; these trusted scouts only promote athletes they are willing vouch for with their reputation. At AthleticOutlook, for example, we partner with various scouting services so that we can get athletes we’re working with into the evaluation pipeline of scouts that are working in a particular geographic region or with specific schools on the athlete’s target list.
The key point here is this: athletes should be extremely cautious about any invitation to pay to put their information on a website in order for it to be seen by college coaches. Coaches use Hudl for searching for and evaluation athletes, an very few find any value in using the dozens of other paid profile-hosting services.
What About Paid Evaluation Services?
As we touch on in the section titled How do you get a read on where you stand, an objective third party evaluation is one of the most valuable pieces of information you can possess in the recruiting process, if it is performed by an experienced college coach. Experienced coaches don’t come free, but their time and knowledge is worth paying for.
An objective evaluation helps ground your objectives and refine your targeting, which saves time and money in the long run because it enables you to focus your search on a smaller list of target schools, and avoid traveling to unhelpful camps or unrealistic schools. It often injects realism into the picture, which positively impacts recruiting outcomes.
The best evaluations are ones that are based on the same metrics and evaluation criteria college coaches look at when recruiting for their schools. This requires a detailed review of the athlete’s game film by an experienced college coach - the same type of film evaluation used to make scholarship decisions. We point this out because there are numerous services out there promising free evaluations, but these are almost always a gimmick, usually to get you on the phone for a sales call for a paid profile-hosting service. A quality evaluation by an experienced coach will never be free. Quality evaluations are done by experienced coaches and they take time. And an experienced college coach’s’ time is valuable.
Evaluations as a Way to Improve Your Game
When a coach performing an objective evaluation can go beyond evaluating and provide film-based coaching to the athlete, the value increases significantly. One of the largest shortcomings we see in most athlete’s approach to the recruiting process is the lack of attention paid to simply raising an athlete’s level of play. The single most important thing you can do to increase your chances of playing at the next level is to simply get better!
Most athletes we work with at AthleticOutlook have never experienced the power of film-based coaching, and so can’t fully appreciate the link between this kind of coaching and recruiting success. In fact, an experience college or pro coach watching you in your game film can see and help you correct the little things - misreading situations or poor technique - that can make a huge difference in your game. These things often make the difference between getting to play at the next level or not.
The duo of evaluation plus coaching is what we believe is the best combination for ensuring optimal recruiting outcomes because it helps an athlete understands where he stands, enables him to better focus his recruiting activities, and gives him the knowledge of what he can do to improve his game, all of which work together to maximize the chances that the coaches will be interested. This is the very foundation of our approach to recruiting at AthleticOutlook.