Edson: No Summer Vacation for High School Athletes

High school athletes are sometimes as busy in the summer as they are during the school year.

Actually, most students who are involved in extra-curricular activities, have a jam-packed summer schedule – from sports to band and everything in between.

I used to feel sorry for those students – thinking how free and easy we used to have it during the summer in the 1960s and 1970s.

But after talking to these student athletes, I don’t anymore.

Most of them are perfectly happy balancing a summer job, team camps and individual camps, not to mention going to family reunions and going on a summer vacation.

“It keeps us focused and out of trouble,” they tell me with a laugh.

But several of them have told me it took them a couple of years to learn “how to balance everything.”

Several mentioned how the first year or two of camps left them – and their parents – frustrated.

“I was trying to please everyone and I didn’t take the time to sit down with my folks and figure out how to please myself and them,” said one Traverse City West athlete.

They key that all of them told me was striking a happy balance. And none of them said it was easy.

Besides keeping the communication lines open with their parents, they also had to do the same with their coaches. And that can be the tough part, they said.

The coaches might have one set of expectations and the athlete and their parents another set of expectations.

“Once you get that figured out,” said a Traverse City St. Francis athlete, “the rest is fairly easy. It’s just sitting down with a calendar and planning out your summer.”

Of course, that is the athlete’s perspective.

Some of the parents have also added that the cost of some of these camps, along with getting their athletes there, is another obstacle.

“Believe me, the costs for all of these camps and traveling can add up quickly,” they said.

But most of these parents are proud of their student athletes for realizing that and picking up summer jobs that allow them plenty of flexibility.

That’s all part of the summer balancing act.

Luckily for me, we spent our summers working various job, shooting hoops some evenings and playing pickup baseball and football games. There were no camps to attend.

The first camp I ever heard of a high school athlete attending was my older brother Dan. In 1967, when he was a sophomore, he went to a basketball camp taught by future Chicago Bulls assistant coach Stan Albeck up at Northern Michigan University.

When he got back from the week-long camp and kept working on what he was taught, he turned himself from an average high school player to our conference’s leading scorer by his senior year.

So all that hard work is usually worth it.

It doesn’t always turn a player into a star. But the work habits and confidence that these camps help develop, can have lasting benefits long after a sports career is done.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.