When most people hear the word “tryout”, they simply think of an event with the sole purpose of determining who makes the team and who gets cut. Over the past few years, many of the larger travel ball organizations have began to hold “tryout camps” or “instructional camps” in order to choose their teams. These have developed into a much larger production than a simple tryout, and often require a non-refundable fee per player. Under the simple definition of a tryout, it is no wonder why many players’ parents don’t understand why there are fees involved, especially if their son doesn’t make the team.
These tryout camps offer much more than just a tryout though, and have become a recruiting tool for college coaches as well. Knowing that the best travel teams will attract the best players to their tryouts, these events become somewhat of a showcase that gives college coaches the opportunity to easily evaluate talent. These coaches can even be directly involved in the “instruction” portion of the tryout camp, and part of the fee that is charged to the players who are trying out goes to compensating the coaches who do so. Being not only evaluated, but also receiving personal instruction from college coaches, is a rare opportunity that makes paying the small fee worth while even if you ultimately don’t make the team.
Also, these camps often occur during recruiting “dead periods”. Per NCAA rules, coaches are not permitted to contact or go out on the road recruiting players during this time. However, coaches are allowed to host/participate in camps, as long as they are providing instruction and are being paid for their services. Therefore these tryout camps put on by travel organizations are a way to kill many birds with one stone- the teams get to choose their rosters, college coaches get to see a large number of players at once, and players receive exposure and instruction.
In the Central Florida area, two of the premier travel ball organizations FTB Mizuno and the Orlando Scorpions hold such events yearly with great success. Scores of the best players in the area show up to tryout, and there are numerous college coaches in attendance, many from the Division I ranks. In fact, the most recent tryout for the Scorpions tryout camp was held at the University of Central Florida.
By simply looking at the fee that players are charged to attend these tryout camps and the number of players that show up, it’s easy to do the math and assume that they are only money-making events. While the organizations do make money, the fee is usually not substantial, and there are other valuable services being provided that make paying it worth it, even if you don’t ultimately make the team.