By Celine Macura
Students rejoiced at the ring of the 2:33 bell on June 12; classes were over, the weather was warming, and summer vacation was finally in their grasp. For some, however, the hard work was just about to begin. With the heat of the summer sun beating down, some of South’s most dedicated athletes were on the field and in the gym to get in shape for the upcoming school year. Whether it was to move up in their personal rankings, make varsity placement, or try out for a new team, all athletes had one goal in mind: progress.
After her season-ending injury last year, sophomore Cara Becker made up for lost time by spending her summer days with a soccer ball. “I always played a lot of soccer. I would go to different clinics, including the clinics my club team offers, to work on my foot skills and agility.” While training can get tough, Becker is highly motivated: “I want to prove to myself and Coach that I deserve to be on the field, so I have to give it my all in training to get there.” Becker’s hard work paid off. She rejoined the team this year, reclaiming her varsity position.
Coach William Neville for the girls varsity soccer team said Becker’s efforts did not go unnoticed. He said, “Her experiences and training outside school ball have elevated her skills and pace of play to a high level.” Though there are many great players on the team, Coach Neville recognizes Becker’s efforts to improve. Her determination to excel, said Coach Neville, has improved Becker’s physical abilities and mental game.
Becker wasn’t the only one with a ball at her feet this summer. Senior Ryan Lang started yet another season on the boys varsity soccer team this year. With competitive tryouts in late August, he spent much of his summer maintaining his abilities off-season. Lang said he went on several runs and played gaelic football, a sport similar to rugby, to keep his head in the game. Overall, he claims working out “helped increase [his] physical and mental abilities, improving [his] stamina, speed, and agility.”
Coach Neville said it’s almost impossible to miss the difference in a player’s ability when he or she hasbeen training outside of school. He said, “They immediately stand out from the rest. Their skills and conditioning demonstrate that they are serious about playing and improving in the sport they love.” When a player who does not train steps on the field, practices move slowly, and the team’s performance level drops, said Coach Neville. There are two types of players: those who like the game and those who live the game. Although there are state regulations, he said he “encourages our students to improve over the summer. At the very least, I encourage them to stay active: running, swimming, hiking, etc. Be healthy, stay healthy.”
With a record breaking 50m freestyle time, senior swimmer Regina Chow is undoubtedly setting aside her free time to practice. Chow says, “I practice on an outside team over the summer. I practice in the mornings and evenings and do dry land one day per week.” When she’s out of the pool, she’s building up muscle—lifting weights and using cords.
Sophomore Ian Wolf also feels he improved his lacrosse game “tremendously.” For Wolf, however, the improvement wasn’t just being able to score more goals, run faster, and make more accurate passes. Though all these things are important to Wolf, his mental game was his priority this summer. “When it came to improvement in the non-physical aspects of lacrosse, such as my knowledge of the game, I played on my travel team,” Wolf said. He said that just being on the field and in the game heightened his skills.
It’s not only a player’s priority to be strong on the field—coaches want a strong team as well. Coach Neville said, “Athletes train all year long. They have high standards and are always looking to be challenged. Athletes find the inner strength to challenge themselves when no one else is looking.” He considers summertime the perfect opportunity for expanding on the training one does during the year. His ultimate goal is to have a team ready to play its fiercest game at the start of the season.
While these athletes spent some well-deserved time at the beach, the majority of their summer was spent breaking a sweat. All this hard work was worth it; players who practiced this summer saw improvement in both their physical and mental games. With high standards and a very competitive atmosphere, only the most motivated athletes come out on top.