Edson: There’s No Off-Season For Area Prep Athletes

The final at-bats of the season are finished. The starting blocks and soccer balls have been put away.

So summer is officially here for northern Michigan’s prep athletes, right?

Well, yes. But not if you think that means just soaking in the sun and working a part-time job this summer.

For many athletes that means the balancing act is just beginning. That is, juggling a variety of summer sports camps, that part-time job and maybe a family vacation.

We have several friends who are parents of high school athletes.

“I think we travel as much during the summer getting our kids to and from sports camps as we do during the school year,” one of them told me recently.

These camps vary from volleyball to basketball to football to wrestling. Some of them are held here in northern Michigan. But most of them are held either downstate or out-of-state.

Why do young teenage athletes need to go to summer camps?

“For the most part, just to keep up with everyone else,” said one of the parents. “If you aren’t learning the latest and improving your skills during the summer, the kids fall behind once the fall sports start.”

Is that such a bad thing? Apparently it is.

It’s amazing to an old-timer like myself the kind of commitments that prep athletes have to make these days. And it’s not just the athletes. Their entire family is affected, too.

In my day of playing high school sports we hit the “refresh” button during the summer. We got jobs, went swimming with our friends and just enjoyed being kids. They key is: All of us were doing that. No one was going to summer camps.

But once that wave started to roll in the 1970s and picked up steam in the 1980s, it washed everyone up on shore. There was no going back.

For the most part, it seems to be an accepted way of life for the modern high school athlete and their parents.

I really don’t hear much complaining, especially from the athletes. They seem to look forward to the summer camps and renewing the friendships they’ve built over the years. They also enjoy picking up new athletic skills that will make them better at their particular sports.

So with the final MHSAA championships behind us this past weekend, it’s official that summer can start. And that means that summer sports camps will soon be in full swing.

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.