Not every high school will have a summer conditioning program, but it’s important for student athletes to stay fit throughout the year. At Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Coach Smith oversees a fitness system that’s divided into “four quarters,” with a summer program noted as the third quarter and the fall sports season as the fourth quarter. The summer program offers weight training and general conditioning, which can include sport specific exercises such as strength, speed and power exercises for football players and volleyball players and endurance training for cross country runners. If a program is unavailable, a high school athlete can stay fit by working with a fitness professional from a local gym, in an organized summer league program or simply training with friends.
Although it may seem convenient to train alone, an athlete can progress much faster with a high school coach. Additionally, there are summer recreational sports programs to get involved with, or friends can start their own summer sports teams. There are numerous benefits for high school athletes in working with a coach, including observation of proper technique in training, having a guided training program with progressions, understanding strategies involved in a specific sport and most important of all, training in a safe environment and receiving positive and respectful communication. Coach Smith also says it’s important to have parents involved in their children’s sports activities for additional support, which may require respectful communication with a coach of any sport.
High school coaches are well versed in hydration and nutrition, and for high school athletes, it’s far more beneficial to have a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and good sources of protein than a diet laden with junk food. Coach Smith says one of the biggest challenges for a coach is to help athletes learn how to restrict their intake of sugar. Regardless of the level of ability, a high school athlete (and students in general) should be educated on the health effects of drinking soda, sugary energy drinks, sport drinks with high fructose corn syrup and consuming fast food. High school athletes and their parents should have at least a basic understanding of sports nutrition and know that proper athletic hydration includes not just water, but also a recommended sports drink with adequate amounts of carbohydrates, potassium, sodium and other nutrients.
At Saint Thomas Aquinas High School and many schools around the country, student may not participate in the school’s sports program, particularly freshmen and transfer students, until a Preparticipation Physical Evaluation form is completed. This consists of medical history, physical examination by a licensed physician or other designated medical professional, consent and release of liability and completion of the parent permission form. Coach Smith says anyone interested in getting on the football team or other high-risk contact sports such as soccer, field hockey or baseball, must have a concussion baseline test, including the measurement of verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time. Any other high school in the country should have a similar pre-participation program and information may by be found either through visiting, emailing or calling the school, or reviewing information on the school website.
Coach Smith believes his final tip is extremely valuable: interscholastic athletes should recognize past accomplishments of others who came before them, whether it’s in sports or academics. Respecting school tradition is, among other things, a way to build character, respect and leadership skills in a young student, which can go a long ways in life well after graduation. Past achievements from the school can help inspire student athletes to do more to excel in their sport of choice and their education. As a testament to the rich tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, 100 percent of the graduating class of 2012 matriculated to college, with 92 percent attending a four-year college. Of those graduates, many athletes are now currently competing at the collegiate level.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com.