As a 17-year-old in the summer of 1962, my family went on a two-week trek across the U.S. to California. More than once during the trip, in the late afternoon, my dad would drop me off on the roadside of Route 66 (only where there was a wide shoulder and a long, straight stretch) and then ride behind me in our blue Buick with caution lights blinking on the shoulder while I did my distance run and my sprint workout.
Even on vacation, it was important to continue my training, something that paid dividends once football season rolled around again.
All these years later, it’s still a good practice for young athletes.
Yes, it’s the end of the school year. Vacation trips. Summer jobs. Lounging by the pool. Tanning on the beach. Later curfews. Parties. For many teenage high schoolers, it’s time away from the rigors of the academic world. A time to relax.
A word of caution, however, from the Old Coach: Don’t throw training rules out the window. Keep in mind that any undisciplined actions can have unintended consequences that could greatly impact your athletic success — and that of your team.
Wise teenagers see it as an opportunity to separate one’s self from the rest of the crowd. The six to eight weeks that you have off can either set you back or shoot you ahead, based on how wisely you use your time. Fortunately for Frederick County’s youth, there are a plethora of programs available to continue to grow academically in whichever subject you choose to participate, whether it be summer intern experiences, summer courses, STEM programs, or camps that specialize in specific academic areas.
Local athletes are particularly lucky to have sports camps available at most of the high schools and also with the county recreation department, as well as the Frederick County YMCA. Most of these camps are fundamentals-based and are fairly affordable. Those athletes who want to get exposure to college coaches will probably want to attend the sports camp that’s offered at the college in which they are interested. Athletes may also want to go the AAU route and play in summer leagues where they can continue to hone their skills. Of course, these camps and leagues are a bit more expensive.
The best bang for your buck is probably the conditioning, strength training, speed and flexibility workouts that every high school offers; these serve the purpose of developing athleticism, regardless of the sport. Not only do these workouts help individuals improve physically, they also provide an opportunity for team building. Athletes who share the same commitment and effort to improve share a common bond that will pay dividends in the following school year.
When I was coaching, back in the day, I always thought that a large part of our success was rooted in the offseason efforts of our football and track athletes. Here was an opportunity to gain ground over our opponents. We might not have had as much talent; you can’t control that. You can control how hard you work and prepare for the upcoming season. If we worked regularly on steady improvement throughout the year, including over the summer, we were giving ourselves the best opportunity to perform at our best when the season rolled around.
It is difficult, even for professional athletes, to maintain intense physical activity for an entire year. So it is also important that summer competition is geared more toward having fun while still working on your skills. That’s why, in football, seven-on-seven leagues have become so popular. The skilled players get to throw and catch the ball, run patterns and defend against the pass. All good things. Summer basketball and soccer leagues, to name a few, can accomplish the same thing. It’s always more fun to play a game.
The important thing for athletes to remember during the summer months is to be sure to make your athletic commitment part of your daily routine. Don’t be so motivated to be earning some spending money in a summer job that you neglect to prepare for the coming season. Once you finish your education, you will have a lifetime of earning a living ahead of you. In all likelihood, you will not be able to compete in the same way that you can on the high school or college level. Hopefully, you will be able to continue to at least find some way to maintain your physical fitness and to be able to compete in some active sport.
So, Coach, how do you deal with working out when you are on a family vacation or at the beach?
Sometimes, if you are going to make the most of a less-than-perfect training situation, you will need to be creative. Take advantage of what is available to you. I recall traveling with my family across the country by car when I was a teenager. The first items my brother and I put in the back of the station wagon were gloves, bats, baseballs and a football. When we stopped in the evening at a motel, out came the sports equipment. We hit fly balls and grounders to each other or we ran pass patterns until it got dark.
When I was playing football at Annapolis High, summers were spent running at a local beach. Running in sand offered good resistance. The area also had a long, evenly sloped hill that I used for the Russian sprint training drills developed by Valery Borzov, Olympic champion 100-meter dash gold medalist, who, at the time, was dubbed “the fastest man on earth.”
Every athlete has his or her own unique situations to deal with. But if you are committed to improving, you can find a way to make the best of a less-than-desirable set of circumstances.
So, to those athletes who are planning to participate in a sport this upcoming school year, make the most of your summer. Don’t miss an opportunity to become a better athlete and be a better team member.