But as I started compiling these reports, I was once again reminded of how different the world is from when I was a young athlete. Sure, someone could have written about offseason camps back then, but they would have been writing about something altogether different. There would have been reports on cruising State Street, avoiding the alligator in Lake Karankawa and trying to fit a whole Popsicle in one’s mouth.
In today’s modern athletic climate, just about every college or university that has a football (or basketball) program, has a summer camp. Generally speaking, high school players gather with their teams and coaches, travel on buses together and compete as teams in the various 7-on-7, light pads and full pads workouts and games.
Coaches are able to take advantage of bonus hours with their players, while the young athletes develop better fundamentals and bond as teammates.
The teams face each other, often at full strength, and compare what the next official season might be like. This has gone on for quite some time and has nearly become mandatory – for the teams to be able to compete and for the players to make the team and be one of the players that coaches can “count on.”
Some of the pitfalls of these camps include family conflicts, player burnout and sport specialization.
As far as the familial conflicts, most parents of football players have come to understand that a family vacation or other activity in June is pretty much impossible. Most of these camps take place in June and if their sons miss camp, they will be behind, especially in the minds of the coaches who ultimately decide who gets on the field when the real season begins.
Player burnout can be real, although most coaches give their players the entire month of July away from football. The other kind of player burnout could be the weather-related version. Attending a camp at Dixie State, UNLV or any other desert location in mid-June can be brutal.
Sport specialization isn’t necessarily a problem, but sometimes a player will lose favor with a coach because he chose a baseball or basketball camp over football (or the other way around). The truth of the matter is that these camps usually go head-to-head, forcing tough decisions.
Ofttimes this puts young players in awkward positions as they are faced with the question of which coach to disappoint. It may seem the athlete is choosing in June which sport he will be a starter in when the school year rolls around.
While there may be some of that politicization, coaches also know that the time players spend in the summer camps is very valuable in the development of the player. But just about every coach I’ve ever known, when it comes down to crunch time, wants his best players on the field or court, regardless of whether or not the young man was at a summer camp.
While these summer camps can be a hassle for families of players and coaches, there is no doubt they help the players, the teams and the coaches get better. That’s why the camps are so popular.
And as fans, the reward for us is a better product on the fields and courts during the school seasons. That is a good thing.
I just hope we leave enough time for these kids to still be kids.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.