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Athlete Opportunities and Goals: Part I

By SCOTT BAKER

sbaker@lockhaven.com

Offseason workouts began around the area last week as athletes work to become better versions of themselves in order to find increased success during the 2018-2019 sports seasons.

The summer months are the period of time that most consider to be the true “offseason,” because it’s the only time of the year where there’s no official interscholastic sports going on.

Therefore, it’s during this time that you usually find the largest number of athletes attempting to improve their bodies for their upcoming seasons.

However, just because the summer months are the offseason for all athletes, it doesn’t mean that everyone takes advantage of the opportunities that are offered for them.

Prospective athletes can use the summer months for strength training, skill development and other individual improvement needs. Many coaches also provide some opportunities for team development during this time.

What must be remembered about the opportunities offered to athletes during this all too important time is that they are just that, opportunities.

Nothing can be mandatory.

Nothing can be held against an athlete for not participating in offseason opportunities, officially, that is.

In other words, while coaches can’t mandate athlete participation in off-season activities, it is important to note that these opportunities do often separate athletes in terms of playing time once the season rolls around. Why? Because some choose to take the opportunities provided to get better while others choose to do other things.

As a coach, I’ve always had a strong interest in what happens in the offseason; therefore, I decided to take a swing around Central Mountain to discuss with some athletes and coaches what opportunities are being provided as well as what goals that they might have for improvement over the next ten weeks or so.

My first stop was Malinak Stadium on Friday morning where a group of approximately 25 football prospects were working out. I observed a group of quarterback and receiver hopefuls practicing some route running, along with passing and catching.

While this was happening a group of lineman hopefuls worked on some blocking techniques. This was followed up by a game of touch football.

After the workout, I spoke with some of the athletes and Wildcat head football coach Jim Renninger about the opportunities and goals that they have for the summer.

Rocco Stark, who’s strong candidate to see plenty of work at tailback this season, said that he is “looking to get better, bigger and stronger for the football season. As a team, I hope we bond a lot and get along with each other and hopefully that reflects on the football season and we win more games than last year.”

Senior Collin Jones, who’s planning to make a switch from soccer to football this fall, said his goal with summer workouts is “to get bigger and more explosive, and find out what I can and can’t do, other than basketball. [I want to] expand my horizon.”

When I asked Jones how football could help him with basketball, his primary sport, he commented, “lifting weights, conditioning and running everyday. Everything I do here with football will help on the basketball court.”

JT Pentz, who’s a teammate of Jones on the court as well, said that his goal is “To get bigger, faster, stronger and improve my vertical and to become a better all around athlete. These things will help in both basketball and football because it will allow me to get up and get balls as well as to grab rebounds.”

Caleb Shade missed all of last football season due to injury so he’s looking to use this offseason to “get stronger, faster and improve on my strength a lot.” Shade wants to work hard in the weight room, and out on the field. He also wants to try to improve “my technique, my agility, and working on catching passes as well.”

Teammate Zane Probst, who looks to be a three-sport athlete this year, said that his goal is “To get bigger and stronger and work on some of the things I struggled with last year. Make sure I keep my ball up, and legs underneath me.”

Because of his status, both as an upperclassmen as well as a prospective quarterback, I asked him what advice or message he would have for those who haven’t chosen to take advantage of summer opportunities yet. His comments were those of a leader as he said, “They are going to find themselves behind. All of us are out here working right now and if they want to have a spot on the team they need to get out here and work hard. We are working hard. You’ll see the difference when we get on the field. They need to just get out here and work hard and stop being lazy.”

Underclassmen Jake Welch said that his goal is “to slim down a bit but I still want to keep that ‘Big Jake’ thing going but just get the grind on and lift weights and get bigger and faster.”

The only senior in the group that I spoke to, Ethan Neff, was simple in his comment when he said his goal is “to improve as a team and hopefully we can get more than one win. My goal would be for us to have at least a .500 record.”

Head Coach Jim Renninger, who enters his third season as the CM boss, said that numerous opportunities are being offered to athletes and they focus little on football only.

“We offer the opportunity five days a week to get faster, stronger, to work on fitness and conditioning as well as skill development,” Renninger said. “In the weight room, we have a mixture of some power movements along with some core training as well as some plyometric explosiveness conditioning stuff.”

“Everything that we do aside from some very football specific techniques that are very few, works on fitness, quickness, explosiveness, lateral movement, hand eye coordination all of the skills you need in any sport,”Renninger added. “In today’s world, you can’t compete in any sport without getting bigger, faster and stronger. We provide kids an opportunity to do that. I’m a multi-sport advocate. Kids should play as many sports as they possibly can. I don’t believe in the specialization that’s taking place with a lot of the sports. So we incorporate most of our stuff to make kids better athletes not just football players.”

Renninger said that he is pleased so far by the commitment shown by roughly 45 athletes, but he recognized that it has been just one week so sustaining the work over the course of the summer will be key.

Finally, when asked what message that he would have for those athletes who have not shown for offseason workouts and or might not be considering doing so, the head coach said, “You’re making your opportunity harder. I understand there are sometimes things that are out of the athletes control, they have to work, their families traveling or on vacation but for the athlete that’s just sitting around, sleeping in, not doing anything productive, I certainly would love to see you in August but all you’re doing is making your chances harder because your not putting yourself in the best position to be successful.”

One thing for certain is that of the enthusiasm I witnessed on the Malinak turf on a Friday morning in early June translates to Friday night success in September and October. Neff’s goal of more than one win and hopefully at least a .500 record is a true reality. However, what is also certain is what Renninger knows and that is that the offseason is just 1-week-old.

Can the enthusiasm and work of this group of athletes be sustained?

Only time will tell.

For those athletes who have not attended thus far it is clear that you are welcome. Make the decision now to give yourself the best opportunity for success.

What do you have to lose other than a little bit of sweat? Stay tuned to see where the next stop is on my summer tour of Central Mountain athletic training opportunities and camps.

-This is the first article in a summer series on offseason workout opportunities and goals of various Central Mountain athletes and teams as well as camps offered at the local school.

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