Just because the Utah High School Activities Association handed out its final state championship trophies of the school year a couple weeks ago, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to relax.
Nowadays, the high school sports season never really ends. There are always offseason camps and scrimmages to keep student-athletes busy as they look to find that extra edge going into next year.
While baseball games won’t officially be won or lost again until March 2019, winning teams are being built right now in June — mere weeks after the 2018 season came to a close. The teams from Grantsville, Tooele and Stansbury are hard at work yet again playing games in a Salt Lake County-based summer league, trying to figure things out so they can hit the ground running when the season starts for real next spring.
The football season is considerably closer, with the first weekend of games looming a little more than two months away. Between now and the start of two-a-days, there will be seven-on-seven tournaments and lineman camps as teams try to build that all-important chemistry that could make the difference between an early postseason exit or a state title.
Basketball players aren’t exempt. Many of them will be making trips to Logan, Cedar City or Price to take part in summer tournaments of their own. The wins and losses won’t matter as much, but the opportunity to figure out new roles could prove invaluable when the season begins shortly after Thanksgiving.
Here’s the thing, though. A lot of kids play a sport in all three seasons. That means they have to pick which sport to worry about during the summer. They could be playing infield for the baseball team the day before suiting up as a wide receiver for the football squad in a seven-on-seven tourney, then trying to find a way across the state to be their basketball team’s starting point guard two days later. Sure, it helps the teams get better, but is it the best thing for the young student-athletes?
I went to my fair share of summer sports camps during my high school days. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t playing — the thought of two or three basketball games in a single day sounds exhausting, as does the idea of playing in 100-degree heat on the football field or baseball diamond. It definitely took away from time I would have rather spent at home, going camping with friends or spending much-needed time relaxing.
However, the ability to grow closer to your teammates is something you can’t get anywhere else. Those road trips allowed us to bond as a group. Did it translate to more wins when the season started for real? That’s debatable. Did it make us better friends? Absolutely. And many of those friendships that were forged while driving across southern Utah in the middle of June and July continue to live on almost 20 years later.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He remembers countless trips to summer basketball tournaments all over the Southwest. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.