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It was a mass email!

Making sense of junior hockey camp invitation emails

Ah yes….the cry of salty parents everywhere…”It was a mass email!” as if the opportunity wasn’t real.  After every showcase or combine, coaches send out emails inviting players to camp, and after every showcase or combine, parents flood the forums saying the emails are meaningless.  I get it.  It starts to seem ridiculous when your inbox is flooded with them from all over the country, but let me offer another perspective.  I have even joked that the emails are really saying, “We have identified you as a player who has parents willing to pay for every possible camp so here is our invitation.”

First of all, you need to manage your expectations attending these events.  It is not often that a player gets signed from one of them,and some of these events are held before coaches are even allowed to sign players.  Second, have you ever gone to the big box store looking for a piece of furniture or home decor and thought, “Yes! That looks like it will be great in my living room!” only to get it home and find out it’s way too big or doesn’t really fit at all? It didn’t look that big in the store, or maybe the lighting was different, and that color really clashes once you bring it home.   It’s a lot like that for coaches, too.  They are often going from playoff hockey to watching a bunch of younger kids, good players, but they don’t really know how they will actually fit in with the team they are trying to build, so they have to invite them “home” (another camp) to see how they stack up against their veteran players.

Third, some of these teams have to cast a wider net due to where they are.  In some areas of the country, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a bunch of junior teams and colleges, but in others, long bus rides are the norm.  Some areas of the country are really expensive to live in and play hockey in, and some of them are downright cheap.  This makes recruiting different between those teams.  It’s a lot harder to attract players when you’re not in the middle of all the action, so a coach in a location like that has to work differently, and for some that means sending more emails.

Fourth, do you have some magical trick that gives you more than 24 hours in a day?  Time is the most valuable resource we have, and if you have to perform a task repeatedly, doesn’t it make sense to automate that as much as possible?  Also consider how many of those players they invite to camp actually accept. It’s not a high percentage, and coaches know they are competing with other teams in their own leagues as well as other leagues for players, and they want to see as many potential players as possible, so that means filling their camps and sending out emails.  It also means there simply isn’t time to craft individual emails for each potential player.  The return on investment for them simply isn’t there.

I also frequently hear that they sent those emails to “everyone.”  Maybe you know a few players who got invited to the same camps, but I can assure you they did not send them to “everyone.”  If a team is going to send them to everyone, why would they spend the money to travel to an event to watch players, paying for gas, maybe plane tickets, hotels, and meals, usually for at least one coach, if not more,  if they could just get the rosters from the events and send an email?  Junior teams aren’t usually swimming in cash.  They aren’t going to spend money unnecessarily.  Also, just because someone says they got the same emailed invitation doesn’t mean they actually did.  Johnny is in the locker room with his teammates and brings up a camp invite, and a couple other guys on the team also got the invite.  Do you think the kids who didn’t get that invite are going to admit that?  Do you think the kids who said they also got that invite are ALL telling the truth?

These big events are opportunities for you to show a whole bunch of scouts your hockey skills in one weekend, and they are opportunities for scouts to watch a whole bunch of hockey players in one weekend.  They are opportunities for you to network and begin forming relationships with coaches and other players.  You are very unlikely to leave an event with a signed contract or even tender, and very likely to get a bunch more opportunities in the form of camp invitations with individual teams. Make the most of those opportunities.

I think what parents are really saying is that they are overwhelmed with all of the emails.  They don’t know which opportunities they “should” take because the junior hockey landscape is unknown to them.  My advice is to say that if that’s what you mean because that invites positive and potentially useful dialogue whereas being dismissive about a team’s email might cost you an opportunity if you are wrong, especially if you say that on social media, and it might cost you more than one, depending on who sees that post.

Even if you don’t get signed at one of these events, they are still an opportunity for networking and should be used that way.