USA Preps Providing Unique Opportunities In Travel Ball
Under the heat of the Las Vegas sun in mid-July, high school–aged players took the field at Majestic Softball Park for a new type of national tournament.
The So Cal Choppers, coached by Gary and Dean Fausett, hosted the second annual USA Preps Summer Nationals, and both the 16U and 18U Choppers teams walked away with championship titles.
Price Hansen started USA Preps in 2011 after spending several years in the baseball market because of his son.
But it’s not the tournament that sets USA Preps apart in the tournament industry. It’s the events. With every tournament comes a camp at which players work almost one-on-one with college coaches from Division I, II, III, NAIA and junior colleges.
The first year of events saw less than 200 kids sign up, while in 2018, there were about 12,000 participants.
How did it grow so quickly? According to Hansen, there are several reasons why. The first being that college coaches are guaranteed to be at every single event.
“If you see 70 coaches on the website, you will actually see 70 coaches at the event,” Hansen said.
Another reason is that the tournaments are played at one or two locations, which makes it easier for parents and coaches to navigate the schedules.
Looking around in Las Vegas last weekend, Hansen had time to reflect on just how far USA Preps has come in just a few years.
“Our first event was in August at Long Beach State,” he said. “I personally wasn’t happy with the event. We had one field with 77 players and five college coaches on one field. The next event was in November in San Diego and we had 101 players and 30 coaches. It was a complete turnaround.”
The first year of operation strictly involved camps. The idea for tournaments came to Hansen a few months later, and he subsequently began hosting them in 2012.
Now, there are 12 to 15 events each year hosted by USA Preps and 90 percent of those events have a camp involving college coaches on the front end.
“The camper-to-coach ratio is really small. We try to keep it about four-to-one,” Hansen said. “There’s an hour of a meet and greet prior to the camp starting, and from there, there are two one-hour defensive sessions. The players have about 10 minutes to work at each station with a different set of coaches. Then, there is an offensive session.”
The entire camp is run by college coaches and there isn’t a single club coach involved on the field.
Once Hansen built his events business, he decided to start his organization, Easton Preps. He’s had a team for two years and every player on it has verbally committed to play college softball.
“There are too many players that get overlooked and I specifically put my teams together with players like that,” said Hansen.
His players come from all over North America, including places like Hawaii, California, Montana, Florida, Texas and Canada.
“I just want to provide these players with opportunities that they haven’t had,” he added.
Hansen expects his current group of players to all verbally commit and sign with colleges and universities, which will keep this short tradition moving toward the future.