Viewpoint: Are summer offseason programs appropriate for high school sports?
High school sports have changed gradually over the last decade and one of the areas you see that the most today is during the offseason. Less than a decade ago, strength programs were just getting started and most (not all) sports maybe had a three-day camp during the summer. Today, every sport has some sort of summer strength program on top of summer leagues, holding their own camps and traveling to others.
Football has in-season and offseason strength programs as well as camps and 7-on-7 leagues; basketball has AAU, camps every week of the summer if you want and summer league games; baseball and softball you play a whole extra season of traveling or American Legion/VFW ball; volleyball has JO programs and camps galore. Even track and field now has summer events while cross country runners just never seem to stop.
While this seems natural, it also appears to fly in the face of a popular narrative throughout youth athletics in the U.S., that athletes today need to play less and practice/rest more. It has become popular to tout the existence of three-sport athletes, but that leads to a summer that is even more hectic than any of their seasons. An athlete could have a strength and conditioning program in the morning, a camp in the afternoon and then have to go play a game in the evening. While many coaches dislike having a player involved in another sport during their season, even if it is just practices or pickup games, this does not seem to apply to the summer where athletes are tugged in numerous directions.
This brings to question: should high school teams have such extensive summer offseason programs? High school leagues and associations do establish rules and limits regarding such activities, but a lot is still permitted. There are three basic (but complicated as well) answers—keep the status quo, institute more restrictions on offseason programs or eliminate all but the most basic offseason activities, giving the summer back to the kids—and none of those options are inherently right or wrong in my mind.
In my opinion, it should be up to the family and the athlete how involved they are outside of the organized season, especially if the child plays multiple sports. Coaches should be prepared to emphasize that some or all of the offseason work is optional, understanding that their athletes get two to three months away from the rigors of school and sports. If an athlete chooses to work out in the morning and play a game in the evening, but wants the time in between to rest, then that should be their right without repercussions. If the family decides that the summer is family time and wishes to take a vacation, they should not have to schedule it around several different seasons and activities. Both families and coaches can be considerate and do what is best for the athlete.
What is your opinion on the matter? The topic is far from black and white, but has many shades of gray.