Football camps are a big part of the recruiting process. With thousands upon thousands of prospects attending these camps looking to improve their recruiting chances, it is important that you have a sound plan for how you will achieve at camp. In this article, I will give you nine surefire ways to make your camp experience a success. Follow these steps and watch yourself move closer towards your goal of earning the college football scholarships that you desire.
Set Clear Goals
Define your goals for the camp, whether it’s improving specific skills, showcasing your abilities, or earning a spot on a team. Setting clear and realistic goals will provide you with a sense of purpose and motivation. Goals are like maps, they provide a sense of direction. This makes everything that you do during the camp meaningful. When you are heading to a destination, you don’t just drive on any street or make any turn. Every turn and street has a purpose and that is to get you to your destination. This is the same with goals.
Spend time visualizing yourself performing well at the camp. Imagine yourself making key plays, executing techniques flawlessly, and displaying confidence. Visualizations help build mental confidence and familiarize yourself with success scenarios. Another thing that visualization does is giving you the sense of having done this before. When you have played something out in your mind so often, when the moment comes it feels natural. It’s almost like you get a sense of “this is supposed to happen.” Sometimes, without that element, the moment feels awkward and your mind can sabotage the moment because it is not ready for it. Visualization is prepping your mind for success so that it does not reject it.
Develop a Positive Mindset
Cultivate a positive mindset by focusing on your strengths and past successes. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and maintain a can-do attitude. Surround yourself with positive influences and teammates who uplift and support you. This is a key element that a lot of camp goers fail to embrace. 95% of the time you will experience some kind of failure at camp. Keeping a positive mindset keeps the failure from taking over and ruining the whole event. You will get beat in a 1-on-1s, you will slip in a drill, you might turn the wrong way. Delete that and get positive about the next rep. A big part of what is being evaluated at camps are the mental attitude of the players. Coaches know that this is a big factor in a player’s success as they move to the next level.
Manage Pre-Camp Nerves
It’s normal to feel nervous before a football camp, but learning to manage those nerves is essential. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your mind and body. Focus on positive self-talk to alleviate anxiety. One other big thing to do is realize that nerves are normal. Don’t feel like you are the only one who’s nervous. Embrace the nerves and trick your mind into believing that you love the nerves. Eventually, you will truly begin to love it. Many people get nervous going on a roller coaster. Once they are off, they are thrilled and off to the next ride in the park. A famous American President by the name of Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” Recognize that you won’t die at camp, so no matter what happens, you will be stronger after the camp.
Review the Playbook
If you have access to the camp playbook or any relevant information, review it thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the terminology, formations, and concepts that may be used during the camp. Having a solid understanding of the playbook will boost your confidence and help you make quick decisions on the field. Sometimes playbooks are a part of longer more involved camps. Other camps like recruiting camps don’t have playbooks typically. However, they do have drills and instruction. The drills and instruction can all be found online at places like YouTube. Familiarize yourself with the different drills that are run at the camps. Formulate a plan on how you will perform at your best in those drills. This gives you a leg up on the next camper that hasn’t done this and will be figuring things out as they are happening. Preparation is key.
Football camps often involve working with new coaches, teammates, and systems. Visualize yourself adapting quickly to new coaching instructions, adjusting to different schemes, and building rapport with teammates. Mentally prepare yourself for the potential challenges of adapting to new environments. This is another element that coaches are evaluating especially at college camps. Coaches notice how you take instruction and communicate with them as well as with other camp goers. This gives them insight into what kind of teammate you will be. If all other things are equal between you and another prospect, your ability to show adaptability may result in you getting the offer or MVP over him.
Embrace the Learning Process
Football camps are great learning opportunities. Approach the camp with a growth mindset, embracing the chance to absorb new knowledge, refine your skills, and receive feedback from coaches. Adopting a mindset of continuous improvement will help you stay motivated and open to learning. This is the best thing that you get out of any camp that you go to. While many evaluate the camp by whether or not they made the all camp team, got invited to the super event or received an offer, those who evaluate a camp by how much they learned tend to do better in the long run. The NFL is littered with guys who did not get MVP at camps or weren’t invited to All Star Games after participating in a showcase. Development is power and you should seek that first.
Focus on Effort and Attitude
Rather than fixating solely on outcomes, prioritize effort and attitude. Give your best effort in every drill and practice session, and maintain a positive and coachable attitude. Coaches value players who demonstrate a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. Effort and attitude = dog. Guys who refuse to give up impress coaches the most. A coach knows that you will often find yourself down in a game. Having as many guys on the roster that refuse to fold means that you have a real chance to come back in a game or during a season when thing aren’t going well. Furthermore, scouts at a recruiting event know that these type of players tend to succeed too. Guys with effort and a positive attitude often figure out ways to win in any situation. You can’t put a price on that.
Stay Mentally and Physically Prepared
Ensure you get enough rest before the camp to maintain mental and physical freshness. Eat nutritious meals, hydrate properly, and engage in light physical activities to keep your body primed. Being physically prepared contributes to your mental readiness. It would be a shame to do all of the things above and fail because your body did not hold up. Fuel your body the right way so you can complete the mission. If you don’t have enough gas and water in your car for your trip, you’re never going to get there. Make sure you are in good shape before the camp and that you have provided your body with the nutrients needed for the intense level of competition. Some camp goers will crap out because they didn’t eat, ate wrong or failed to drink enough water both before and during the event. That sucks for them but is great for you. Move ahead when they can no longer carry on.
Remember, mental preparation is an ongoing process, so continue to reinforce these strategies throughout the camp. By focusing on mental readiness, you’ll be better equipped to perform at your best and make the most of the opportunities presented during the football camp. Most often, the little things have more of a meaning than camp goers think. Remember that you are performing in front of experienced individuals who have seen what it takes to reach where you want to go. Sometimes what you don’t think is important ends up being super important to the people running the camp. Follow all of these steps and take nothing for granted. You never know who’s watching and what they are looking for. Excellence in all things should be your motto.
Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years most recently for 5-A State of Florida Champs American Heritage. He runs All Eyes DB Camp a defensive back training company located in South Florida IG: @alleyesdbcamp. Wilson’s oldest son Quincy plays in the NFL for the New York Giants and his younger son plays cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals.