What a difference a summer makes
It was a reoccurring topic -- one that transcended sports and even seasons.
To some, it was a comment of relief, to others, a voice of frustration.
To all, it was obvious -- the summer sports season was incredibly important.
Sports are officially conducted at De Soto High School from the middle of August to the beginning of June, but a number of coaches agreed the success any particular Wildcat team realizes during the year can often be linked directly to what the team's athletes do during the months they're not in school
"It's really hard if the only work you're getting is from the end of February to the middle of May, then you put your bat and ball away for the summer when baseball really should be played," former De Soto coach Steve Deghand said of high school baseball players. "It's really paramount they play during the summer."
Former De Soto volleyball coach Lori Brooks was the first to mention the advantages of summer dedication last season, and she had plenty of reason to trust in the theory.
Brooks, who turned the team over to Junelle Woolery in the offseason, said she saw a renewed offseason work ethic take De Soto's team from the dark days that followed the split with Mill Valley to last season's winning record.
The Cats complied a 22-16 record and improved 11 games in two years thanks in large part to a core of players who logged major minutes in summer club leagues.
Deghand, the new De Soto activities director, said he saw a similar metamorphoses with the Wildcat baseball team he coached until May.
While summer baseball games are by no means new, he said organizing a stable high school summer team in De Soto had a major effect.
"When I first got here we had to scrape together one 16-and-under team and now we have not only one 16-and-under team that's been growing and doing quite well, but an 18-and-under team," he said.
Just as happened with the volleyball team, the results were obvious on the field. The De Soto baseball team missed out on a chance to go to the Class 4A state baseball tournament, but fell in the regional championship to the eventual state champs, Bishop Ward.
The team improved 10 games in Deghand's time as coach. The Cats turned in a 5-14 record in 2003, an 8-13 record in 2004, a 13-8 record in 2005 and had their best season last spring, finishing at 15-8.
Michael Sullivan saw the advantages of summer regimens not once during the last school year, but twice. He led both the boys and girls tennis teams to their best seasons in the last five years, and he said the roots of that success were firmly planted in the warm days of summer.
"A lot of the players on both the boys and the girls side, they commit to tournaments and camps and programs," he said. "In tennis, that's where you're going to get better. The tennis season is so short there's not a whole lot you're going to be able to do. It takes their commitment in the offseason to really make them successful in the season."
The girls team finished third at the state tournament last fall and was led by Hana Lindbloom and Rebekah Gulley, who placed third.
The boys team qualified three players to the state tournament and Andy Edwards and Dan Hoschouer finished sixth.
All four -- along with a number of other Wildcat tennis players -- work extensively during the summer.
"The players that just play in the season might be OK, but as far as going to that next level, you have to play in the offseason," Sullivan said. "We've been successful because we have players that want to be successful and are willing to work on it for themselves."