Summer doesn't feel like a vacation.....

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Summer doesn't feel like a vacation.....

by #1 Granny » Sat Jul 09, 2011 1:16 pm

if you're a high school athlete.

By: Stan Olenik

“Summer isn’t summer any more if you play high school sports. In fact summer hasn’t been summer for a long time if you are an athlete. It is a romantic view of some long ago days when high school skids worked summer jobs or laid around by the lake. If you are a kid playing a high school sport the only thing you don‘t do during the summer is go to class. Everything else is pretty much the same.

We are just around the corner from the 4th of July holiday and maybe a few weight rooms will be closed but more than likely they will just have their hours adjusted. As uniquely American as the 4th of July holiday is the idea of a day without training for high school sports could be considered almost un-American.

The late legendary Woodruff football coach Willis Varner once told me the best thing high schools ever did for young athletes might also have been the worst thing. He thought adding coaches helped kids learn their game and play it better but he also knew that coaches wanted to coach and that meant they expected more commitment and time from their athletes.

Kids could play a couple of sports because the coaches couldn’t start the next sport till the last season ended. If you were a high school athlete you played the sport that was in season. The system produced kids who could play two, three or even four sports and more importantly it created some time off from sports that did not question a young athlete’s commitment.

Now there is no time during the entire year when that commitment is tested more than during the summer. The goals of a family for a little vacation or just a quick get-a-way to the beach or Disney World is held hostage by the athletic schedule of their teen or teens.

Make no mistake, the young athlete is doing the work on the field or in the gym, but the entire family is often held hostage by their kid’s sports schedule. Many families make a total commitment to support their young athlete but there are others who believe in some balance.

Every sport does some sort of training all year long. High School basketball may be the worst; it never stops because you only need a hoop and a ball. In fact it is basketball that football players have to thank for the extension of their season well into the summer.

It used to be high school football players did weight lifting during the summer and maybe went to a week of camp as a team. Now because many football teams play “basketball on grass” with the spread offense summers are filled with 7 on 7 tournaments.

You can go through almost every sport and find that taking a break only comes in minutes and not in days and almost never in weeks. It certainly is the reason so many young athletes are highly conditioned, excellent at their sport and create great competition in season.

It also may be the reason many others who might enjoy the opportunity presented by high school sports just don’t even try. Certainly the lessons that come from playing high school sports are valuable and make an impression that will last a lifetime. However the all-out commitment to the sport needs to be balanced with the fact that kids need to be with their family and get a break.

Northing is going to change as long as coaches can coach and by nature are competitive. If they see one coach getting an advantage with something they are going to do the same. Maybe parents and the high school league need to get together and make coaches take a timeout.

The High School League should come out with a hard and fast rule that tells schools and coaches that they have to take at least one week off. They cannot open the weight room for “voluntary” workouts. They cannot schedule camps, trips, tournaments or meetings for one week during the summer.

The best time for families would be now, around the 4th of July. It is time when many working parents get a day off. It is the celebration of the nation’s Independence and it wouldn’t hurt to help families, young athletes and even coaches to celebrate a little independence from the demands of their sports for just one week during the year.”


Thank you, Mr. Olenik, you put into words what I have been seeing and feeling about sports. But I feel that one week isn’t enough. Our high school does take a week off at the end of July. For people who work production, no last week of any month can be taken. Also for a kid trying to play more than one sport, in June, there is baseball, basketball and football all at the same time with schedules on the same days. So kids at a young age have to make tough decisions about which sports they will play, even if they like them all. They, the coaches, want kids to beef up and muscle up, but how can they if they are working and doing so much their bodies are melting not just fat, but also muscle. Looking at some athletes from the past, they were just as toned and conditioned as now, and they enjoyed and played 3 or 4 sports, plus they had a timeout from sports.

Parents need to rebel, but they feel they can’t because it will hurt their kid’s chance for playing time. But they and the coaches are hurting kids who can’t fully heal from their wounds, get needed rest, and a needed break. The only way things will change is if the High School League steps up and puts their foot down, and says enough is enough.
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