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Dedicate time in the summer

Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

It’s official. The high school sports seasons have come to a close for the year.

It’s summer, so now our student athletes are free to while away the hours of the warm days ahead doing whatever they would like, right?


While summer time is a time for kids to relax and refresh, it is also a time for athletes who wish to excel in their sport or sports — and who have goals they wish to achieve as individuals or as a team — to put in the time to get better, faster, and stronger.

It’s a time to hone and refine the skills they need to level up.

When it comes to building a winning program, coaches know that there is more to it than just stepping on the court and putting together players and a game plan during the season. It takes dedication and commitment from athletes in the off season.

In my tenure here in Newcastle, I have watched schools like Douglas, year after year, crank out winning programs, and I often wonder what they are doing there to continue to succeed. Yes, they are a bigger school, however, other schools also have their fair share of athletes who are talented.

What I do know, is that schools like Douglas who have success year after year put in serious time in the summer. The kids hit the weight room, take advantage of open gyms, go to camps, and play a lot of their chosen sport in the two-and-a-half months between the end of the spring season and the beginning of the fall season.

We can see the success that dedication to off-season work has had here at Newcastle as well.

The class of 2023 is just the latest example of athletes who put in time all year round to hone their skills. Girls’ sports programs saw success from the time that group were freshmen to the time they were seniors. They did not bring home a state title in their tenure, but they made it to the state tournament in basketball every year, and brought home hardware from the Big Dance as well.

They aren’t the only group who have seen hard work pay off. Many have done so.

The common denominator in all of those groups is the amount of time they dedicate to their sport outside the season.

I know that there are legitimate arguments against kids spending time in the summer working on sports.

“Let kids be kids” is a valid objection to spending mornings in the weight room, afternoons at open gym and weekends attending summer camps. They need down time because childhood is fleeting and they will spend most of their lives taking on the responsibilities of adulthood.

Another good argument is that kids often work in the summer for spending money or to save up for college, so they don’t have time to dedicate to off-season workouts.

Families often want to take vacations in the summer when kids aren’t in school, and that is also really important for kids to do.

But, here is the thing: If you expect to be competitive in 3A sports, you must commit yourself to your sport, because all of the other schools are doing it. When we are already up against the challenge of playing against schools three times our size, we need every advantage we can create.

If going to post-season tournaments each year, and if bringing home state titles is your expectation for Newcastle High School teams, kids have to get better in the off season.

If any of the arguments against off-season training are more important, then you have to put those expectations of success on the back burner, because it’s not going to happen. If we want to compete with the big dogs, we have to work hard to get there, and that work needs to happen in the off season.

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