When I coached at the college level, summertime was spent developing players usually in small groups or on an individual basis. However, now a first year high school coach, I am trying to learn how much is too much for our teams in the summer “live” period. I am not referring to AAU ball, but rather the time (in Kentucky, graduation day – June 24th) where you can practice and play outside competition.
We recently completed a Team Camp at The University of Findlay (OH) where our Freshman, Junior Varsity and Varsity teams all competed in their respective divisions. Our varsity team played nine game in two days, and the other teams played seven and nine games respectively. One of my goals for our program this summer was to physically and mentally take them to a place they haven’t been before. Having organized the largest team camp in Kentucky for years, I understand what a grind it can be.
I am on the way to achieving my goal for the program. Not only were our guys literally fatigued to a point beyond where they had been before, but play became ugly and winning resulted more from a game of attrition more so than skill. I only kept six guys on the Varsity team, seven on the Junior Varsity and five on the Freshman. Part of this was due to injuries suffered before and during camp. Yet, the result was our players having to learn to be comfortable being very uncomfortable. I believe we “clicked up” one notch on the toughness scale this week.
One thing that still worries me about playing 20+ games in a three-to-four week period is injuries. One major lesson that I’ve learned is that the period between the end of the season and the start of the summer is where teams’ conditioning slips. It is not very smart to ask a team to play an intense summer schedule when they haven’t maintained their conditioning for two months prior. I believe this is where injuries (pulled hamstrings, groins, backs, etc.) can stem from. The other fine line is how many games to play in one day (the thin line between toughness and dangerous). I believe three is the max for two or three consecutive days. Our Varsity and Junior Varsity teams playing nine in two days was fitting for the time, but I don’t want to repeat that again this summer mainly to avoid the risk of injury.
I’d love your thoughts on this. How much is too much?