Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2006

Summer schedule

July 20, 2006

Summer break has long been the time of sleeping in, summer vacations and a whole lot of nothing for the traditional high school athlete, but recently that has changed in many ways.

The rise of summer camps, the increased emphasis put on collegiate recruiting and the potential improvement that can be garnered from participation in a summer sports league has driven players and coaches both toward turning high school sports into a year-round activity.

Still, for some prep sports, things never change. That's the message De Soto football coach Brad Scott tried to get across Monday evening.

Even as he watched his football team taking advantage of the summer months in a relatively new way -- De Soto has only been participating in seven on seven workouts for six years -- Scott said his sport doesn't exert the summer crunch that squeezes other sports' stars.

"Our football success isn't really based on how good our seven-on-seven team does," Scott said. "Our success is going to be based upon the level of commitment our kids give to being a great athlete."

Summer dedication has become incredibly valuable in many sports. Baseball, basketball and volleyball coaches openly acknowledge that it's summer leagues that help fuel school-year success. But Scott said there's several things about football that have kept the uber-popular high school sport from getting wrapped up in the escalating summer madness.

The first and most basic reason involves the kind of skills it takes to be a successful football player.

"A sport like basketball takes fine motor skills. You have to shoot a lot of jump shots to be good. You have to dribble the basketball and play a lot to be good. Baseball and volleyball are very similar," Scott said. "Football is more of an athletic sport, where as long as you're making yourself a better athlete, you're going to be able to play."

A player who learned to jump at basketball camp could make a great wide receiver or a vicious cornerback. An athlete that molded his body for the rigors of wrestling can make an unstoppable tailback or a hard-hitting linebacker.

Scott said football doesn't require the same degree of offseason participation because almost no matter what a player is doing -- sitting out the couch and eating fast food aside -- he's improving.

"If a kid isn't at summer weightlifting because he's at a baseball tournament, we're not getting any worse because of that," Scott said. "As long as the kid is doing something athletic, he's doing the things we need him to do."

That's not to say football players take the summers off. The seven-on-seven drills conducted at De Soto High School are proof enough of that.

Scott first entered the Cats into a seven-on-seven league when he took over the football program in 2000, the year after coach George Radell and a large chunk of students left for Mill Valley.

The Cats' seven-on-seven team has bounced between locations and leagues ever since, and is hosting other schools for the first time this summer.

The drills aren't practice, Scott said. Coaches can't coach and the strategies and tactics that accompany a real game are packed away. But it still helps.

"It helps a lot because we can compare ourselves to who we play and it's another time to get competitive," he said. "I want our quarterbacks thinking about situations that will happen on a Friday night. I want them to see that third down and two and to have him thinking about what play we should be in. The more situations we can put him in that resemble a game, the better we're going to be."

Another staple of summer -- weightlifting -- has been the norm for far longer. It still plays an important role in preparing football players, but is a tool pushed by all of De Soto's coaches.

"The weight room can be competitive, too" Scott said. "You can put up records from the years past and guys can compare themselves to players that have gone before them. That really helps a lot."

But again, Scott stressed none of it is as critical to his sport as summer leagues and summer camps can be to other sports.

Coaches and players from all spectrums exalt the virtues of three-sport athletes, but Scott said today's reality -- especially in larger schools -- often make three-sport stardom a difficult goal to realize.

As for his stance on football players playing other sports, he again said he's all for it, so long as they're ready to run fast, hit hard and play with heart when fall comes.

"We do something that's a little unique," Scott said. "We ask a kid what their love is. If their No. 1 thing is baseball, we'll take them when we can get them. If they don't have a baseball game on a Monday, we want them here for seven-on-seven, but I want them to do what they want to do.

"We're such a small school that we have to share athletes. We can't be the type of school where we say if you're going to play football, you have to be here for this, this and this. We're not that type of school."

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