It takes a lot of effort to get noticed by a sports team, it also takes a lot of effort by the team to identify potential rookies to sign on. The whole process & its interconnections are referred to as an ‘athletic talent funnel’.
An athletic talent funnel includes the whole series of events, databases, conversations, etc. that lead potential athletes (from initial identification) to finally getting offered a roster spot.
Having your name mentioned somewhere in the funnel is also known as being ‘in the system’.
What are some typical elements (or events) of the talent funnel?
Typically, there are a few standouts for the talent funnel notably direct contact by game-attending scouts & Spring camps (which will be covered here); combines & other camps, as well as email & letter contacts, and more. Essentially any interaction between an athlete and team staff.
When any of these events take place there is usually some form of in-house documentation; in my case with scouting I upload field notes online as a scouting report for other team members to review.
How does an athlete get in the funnel to be ‘in the system’?
This is the million-dollar question… how the heck can a player get in the funnel? The most common way an athlete gets seen is by the attendance of a scout at a game. This is an important milestone for a player as the scouts are the ones who generally issue the invites. This can also be a crap shoot if you had a bad game, do not get as much play time as you need to show off your ability, etc. Be aware that most scouts are volunteer and do not make every league game.
For most athletes, this is the first foray into the world of high-performance athletics. Parents and players alike will often notice the scouts sitting off to the side or standing by the boards watching with notebook or roster sheet in hand. Usually this is part of the family conversation on the drive home.
In the early weeks of the hockey season (mid to end October) scouts will start to watch games overall to try to pick out the notables they like and want to follow for potential camp invites. Later in the season the scouts are usually watching particular players, no longer ‘blanket scouting’.
Scouts are necessary for a team and are very passionate about their sport. They perform a great & dedicated service to a team, however; they are often biased on what they consider a ‘top player’ is. This could work in your favor or against it, remember what I said earlier about this being a crap shoot.
Here is a real-life example; I attended a major camp to give my thoughts on a particular set of players. One player was high on the list coming into the camp. This player was sent out to fight another on the ice. I hate fighting in minor hockey & I thought his actions were disgusting so I suggested he be sent home after the game. Done. Finished.
Fortunately for this player the other scouts liked the fight & he stayed. My opinion of game play would have removed him, while others liked what they had seen. Personal bias affects the player’s entry to the talent funnel.
It is great to be followed by the scouting community, if you are in the top percentage of the skill level/talent pool you will get invites without question. If you are not in the top percentage however you cannot rely on a scout seeing you play and think that you will automatically get a camp invite.
I strongly suggest if you are aware of which scouts have been to your games, reach out to them directly. Put your information in front of their eyes! (This is one of the promotional techniques I can walk you through, visit my services page for more details.)
Seasonal scouting leads right into the next funnel component; the open Spring camp. These, like the name suggests are ones that anyone can pay the fee and attend. This is a definite part of the athletic talent funnel that you need to be a part of.
The Spring camp is near the top of the funnel (top is bulk, raw talent; the bottom of funnel is where the desired player makes it too & is the best place to be). These are also used as a fundraiser for the organization. Yes, sport is a business and revenue is necessary.
By the time of the Spring camp, team staff generally already have a list of players they are interested in. Importantly though is that by attending, YOU will be seen by the Coach and the top end staff directly. You will have a chance to play in front of him/her and even have a chance to talk with assistant coaches and staff during the camp weekend.
No matter what others may say to you against the business model of the Spring camp, if you want to get a chance to go toe-to-toe with a teams’ top player picks AND be seen direct by the team staff…. you absolutely NEED to be at the Spring Camp for your preferred team.
This is hands down the BEST way to get in front of the Coaches and be seen. While the open camp is at the top of the funnel there is another one called the ‘main’ camp near the end of the Summer. The realistic goal for any player attending the open camp is to get an invite to the coveted main camp as it brings you closer to a roster spot or getting signed as an affiliate player.
If you are not in the top percentage of the team, perhaps you know a scout was attending and you were not at your best, perhaps you have been hitting the gym and the extra ice throughout the season and want to show the world what you can do. You can showcase your developed ability when you have 3-4 ‘games’ at these Spring camps.
There are many other components of a sports team athletic talent funnel, truthfully most teams do not activate all available components. For you, the young under-the-radar athlete I want you to focus a little more on this Spring camp or combine (includes sports testing) avenue.
To get on this Spring camp invite list is key, as I mentioned before you bypass a potentially biased scout and you can directly get in front of the Coach by attending. In my Athletic Strategy™ process I work around this mantra consistently; it is essential that you get in front of the person(s) that actually make the decisions.
To conclude, the player identification process is visually represented by a funnel. Everything goes in the top and gets separated and sorted until a fine concentrate comes out the bottom to be seen by the eyes that matter.
I have read a lot of negative commentary about Spring camps, it is important to understand that they are as much a part of a business model as they are for player identification. Use them to your advantage, get in front of the Coach and be seen.
Contact me if you are stuck and have hit a wall. See you at the rink!