Expectations are high during the season, and little changes during the summer.
Regardless of the sport, players are expected to enter the first day of practice each year ready to compete at a high level.
Although the months spent away from school are intended to give kids a break from their fast-paced lifestyles, some refuse the luxury.
Rather than lounge around, many athletes are already preparing for their upcoming opening days, and Copperas Cove head baseball coach Dusty Brittain believes that is exactly how it should be.
“After our last game is over,” he said, “I always ask the guys, ‘How much better are they going to get from this point until January?’
“If they think they’re going to just hang out all summer not doing anything and get better, then they are mistaken. So, I encourage them to play, and I don’t even care what team they play for.”
Like many other Copperas Cove athletes, a large number of the Bulldawgs baseball players are members of select teams, helping occupy a large amount of free time during the summer.
Some coaches, however, like Brittain, place their teams in summer leagues, giving players weekly opportunities to work on their skills.
The leagues have other advantages as well, though.
“It is a way for our kids to play together all summer long,” Brittain said. “A lot of the guys play on the same travel team, but I still just think it is better for all the kids to be together instead of getting broken up.”
In addition to summer leagues and select teams, Copperas Cove offers strength and conditioning programs to help athletes improve their abilities.
While most agree a summer filled with idleness can only deteriorate skills, Lady Bulldawgs head basketball coach Eldridge McAdams believes relaxation during the offseason is essential.
“I’ve always been an advocate of rest,” he said, “because these kids play all year around, and they don’t give their bodies enough time to rest.
“It’s a long year. Some of these kids will play all summer until August, and then they begin their training for the season. Next thing you know, the season is here, and it just becomes a repetitive cycle. That’s why kids get injured — not enough rest.”
Despite a coach’s individual preference regarding playing, all expect their athletes to be in good shape following the summer so valuable time is not wasted working on physical fitness rather than concepts, techniques or philosophies.
“Conditioning is what we talked about being a focus over the summer,” Copperas Cove head football coach Jack Welch said. “The guys really need to stay on the weights while away.
“If they work on that, then we’ll be in a lot better shape this fall.”
Although coaches offer multiple avenues for athletes to improve during the summer months, in the end, the time belongs to the players, and they must decide to take part in the various programs available.
“When I ask the guys if they want to play at the next level,” Brittain said, “every hand goes up. So, they shouldn’t need me to tell them that they need to work hard, because that should be their motivation.
“This is a competitive world, and we are playing in a competitive sport, and if someone isn’t physically capable, then that college coach will go right down the line and find somebody who is.”