Posted on June 4, 2013
By Charles Boehm
Summer soccer camps have grown into a multi-million-dollar – perhaps even billion-dollar –business across the United States and Canada, with young players and their families forking out serious time and money in search of fun, friendship and skills development when school is out of session.
For talented high schoolers seeking camps to help them advance closer to their college soccer dreams, it’s usually even more intense. Prospective recruits have to get on teams playing in top leagues and showcase tournaments where top programs scout, or line up to attend camps at their preferred universities in the hopes of making an impression on the coaching staffs. Or both.
Bill Casey experienced this ritual as a “soccer dad” with his older daughter Mary, a goalkeeper from Centreville, Va. who eventually carved out a successful college career at the University of Maryland.
“Get on a really good team, play in really good tournaments and then you do the ‘peacock’ thing, you send your email out and try to get them to recognize you and come watch you play a game, or half a game – and hope that during that half of that game you’re playing the best game you’ve ever played,” Casey recalled in a conversation with SoccerWire.com. “The other way is to go to the summer camp of the schools that you’re interested, and hope that out of the group of 300 kids that they’ve bought in for that summer session, that you get recognized and brought up to their elite team and get to scrimmage in that night game.
“So if you don’t stand out right away, you’re not going to get seen very well. You go around to that camp, if you’re interested in two or three schools, you’re going to pay $400 or $500, maybe $600, and go and spend four days away from home here, spend four days away from home here, spend four days away from home here and you’ve dropped $2000. And I was getting tired of that.
“There’s people spending tons of money on this stuff, and there’s a whole lot of bad information out there as far as what the process is, and should be like.”
So when it came time for Mary’s younger sister Elizabeth to tread the same path five years ago, Bill thought he might have a better idea of how to most effectively and efficiently connect her with college scouts.
“Quite honestly, we created this camp, this idea, out of selfish necessity,” he said. “We decided, let’s bring the mountain to Mohammed rather than the other way around.”
Working with veteran Northern Virginia youth coach Steve Smith, Casey reached out to players and families they knew, contacted coaches across their region and charted a path through the complex landscape of NCAA regulations to create his own camp, one that brought college coaches and aspiring college players together in a much more intimate, productive setting.
“We do a three-day camp, and each day there are two different [college] head coaches there,” explained Casey. “We limit the size of the camp to 40 participants, broken into two groups” for two-a-day training sessions followed by scrimmages, giving each player time to experience what life might be like under each coach’s tutelage.”
Lunch was provided between fields sessions, and served up with talks from the coaches on recruiting, the rigors of NCAA soccer – and on the final day, parents were invited to a Q&A session.
“Over the course of three days, they get the opportunity to work with six head coaches,” said Casey, “and they get to really get a sense of what that coach is like, because they’re on the field being trained by that coach, listening to his words, watching his demeanor. And the coaches have the same opportunity – information that they can’t get watching them play a game at a tournament.”
Casey found himself with a bevy of impressed participants on both sides of the equation, so year by year, the camps – and their reputation – grew.
“It was a big hit,” he said, “so the next year we did it again. By that point my daughter was recruited and heading off to college [at George Washington University], but I realized that there were other parents out there that were suffering the same thing that I had gone through. So we decided that we would continue it, just as a service to those other parents who are out there who just don’t know.
“We kind of built a reputation with some of the [college] coaches out there. They knew we were putting a good product together and they wanted to participate.”
The same can be said for the families of the prospective college players at the events Casey and Smith would eventually name Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Soccer Camps.
“The whole concept of the camp was just an outstanding idea, bringing in the collegiate coaches and allowing the players an opportunity to be seen by those coaches and just get a taste of what the coaches are looking for when they reach the next level,” said Randy Tomayko, a Stafford, Va. resident whose daughters Dayna (a rising sophomore at N.C. State), Jenna (an FC Virginia player set to graduate in 2014) and Erica (who plays her club soccer with the Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association) have all attended MACSC sessions over the years.
“It helps out the parents a lot, who really don’t know the whole process of recruiting, timing and expectation,” he added. “And even the level that your children are playing at, actually – it gives you an opportunity to see the other players in your area and see what the coaches are looking for, and be educated on the whole recruiting process … to bring these coaches together, it put a face on the school. You really get to see the personality of the coach.”
Now in their sixth year of existence, Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Soccer Camps are growing to new locations in Virginia and also offer boys’ sessions. Their roster of participating schools is an impressive one, including the likes of Maryland, Virginia, Rutgers, VCU, UMBC, Virginia Tech and UNC Charlotte.
But the camps remain capped at 40 players per session – and at $325 each, with a first-come, first-served format as mandated by the NCAA, MACSC spots tend to get snapped up quickly.
“We’re simply providing an opportunity for kids to come play in a setting that’s very intimate, very focused, and they get an opportunity to actually get to know the coach at the school that they have interest in, and some other schools at the same time,” said Casey. “We don’t have a horse in the race.
“Our motivation is simply to allow the participants and the coaches a chance to work with each other. And it’s a win-win for everybody.”