Walkin the Sidelines-Summer Fun

By SCOTT BAKER

For The Express

School is out for summer. School is out forever.

Yeah, so the old song goes but let’s not get too carried away here. School is out, but surely not forever.

Yes, summer fun has definitely begun. Summer is a favorite time of year for many. Warm days, beach vacations, campfire evenings, barbeques, watermelon, days on the water and 4th of July fireworks…yes, many do love those summer days. Admittedly, I am certainly one of the many. However, the things mentioned are actually not what I love most about those summer days. Rather, it is the opportunities that I have to work with athletes who possess a strong desire to become a better athlete and player that I most enjoy.

School being out for the summer provides athletes with a great opportunity to improve. They have the opportunity to become a better athlete. They have the opportunity to become a better player.

Yes, the summer is what I feel is the single best time of the year for those two things to occur. The summer is the one time each year that all scholastic sports are out of season and players and coaches can focus solely on player development with no interference from games and competitions. Sure, there may be a summer league game or tournament to play in but still the focus during the summer is on player development.

At least it should be. All of that sounds great, Summer, three months to get better.

Yes, to get better. However, here comes the kicker.

An athlete will only get better if they work at it. Yep, indeed there is a catch to this summer stuff. It is during the three months of summer that athletes have the best opportunity that they will get each year to become a better version of themselves for their next scholastic season. Almost every coach that I know organizes some form of workouts for athletes who desire to get better.

The problem that I see however is that too many of those players who say that they want to get better fail to take advantage of the countless opportunities available for them to do so.

Why could this be?

Well, you see, getting better requires sacrifice. The summer months with all of the other things going on creates a dilemma for athletes. They must decide whether they will sacrifice and get better or whether they will skip the workouts and go have some fun doing the many other things that are available during this most enjoyable time of the year.

What getting better requires is getting out of bed when it would be much easier to sleep in a few extra hours. It requires going to bed a little earlier instead of staying out late with friends doing those things that probably shouldn’t be done anyway. It requires going to a workout when perhaps taking a swim would be more fun at the time. It requires work.

To be honest, sometimes work is just not fun. However, think about it this way. A job is work. People work because they need a job to earn money to pay bills and have some left over for the “fun” things in life. This is relative to athletes.

Athletes must work in order to be able to be rewarded with playing time and enjoy fun times like winning when the games and competitions roll around during the season. The playing time and winning is their payment for the work completed. The work will be like their bank account. The more that they put in, the more reward that they can expect to get in return. Likewise, if an athlete fails to put in the work, they should not expect to get much in return.

This brings us back to the summer months…the time of individual development, the time of opportunity. All players on all teams will or should have equal opportunity this time of year to become a better version of who they want to be. Fortunately, some will take advantage of those opportunities and will become the best player they can be. Others will take a half in, half out approach. This group will spend some time at workouts but not at the expense of missing other “fun” things. A third group will “work out alone.” The members of that group are the ones that don’t feel it is important to be around their coaches and teammates to get better. The last group is the group that just flat out has no time for workouts either because they have no desire to get better, think they don’t need the work or would rather just complain when they are not playing. Truthfully, if I can be blunt, the only group that is using the summer for what it can be is the first group. The others are taking the easy way out. Well, at least, they think it is the easy way out. It is the easy way until their next scholastic season rolls around and they are sitting on the sidelines.

For those who want to become a better athlete and player, please read carefully. Use the summer wisely. Don’t just play.

A beneficial summer program must be one that is designed not only to make you a better player but more importantly a better athlete. Yes, a better athlete. I strongly believe that those who use the summer to become better athletes will be paid handsomely by becoming better players. Athletes can play. Athleticism is key.

The summer is a great time to build or improve upon that athleticism. What does that mean? Work on quickness, speed, strength and agility are all necessary ingredients in helping a player become a better athlete. All of those things should be part of a well-designed program to foster athleticism. Simply put, the summer is a great time to become a better athlete. Some will take advantage of it and others will sit on the sideline and talk.

What will you do with the time and opportunities that you have? It’s an individual choice. However, my advice is this. If you want to get in the game, now is the time to get in the gym, weight room, pool, wherever and work to become the best athlete that you can be.

Yes, it will be hard. However, remember that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I assure you that this summer not everyone will be doing it. Will you?

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