Summer Sports: Then and NowPublished 8:38pm Friday, August 3, 2012
There’s always a few major changes when you look at one generation to the next, but the way a high school athlete spends his or her summer has changed about as much as anything in the past 20 years.oxygen
Brad Lukes, who graduated from Austin High School in 1985, played baseball, football and basketball while in high school, and he spent his summer doing one thing — playing baseball.
“You played baseball in the summer and that was the only thing you did,” Brad said. “During the school year, you played your sport and when that was done you forgot about it and moved on to the next one.”
A New Era
Brad’s son Bret, who will be a junior at AHS this fall, has much more busy than his dad was in high school this summer. Bret, who plays basketball and football for the Packers, spends four mornings a week at the strength and conditioning camp at AHS, he competed in basketball tournaments throughout the summer with his AAU team and his AHS teammates, he went to the AHS football camp twice per week and he attended a four-day football camp in Winona State.
“I’ve been going back and forth,” Bret said. “There was about a two to three week span where I was just going and going and going. But after the team football camp I had a little break. I’ll get a couple days off here and there.”
Brad, who encourages athletes to play three sports, said it’s getting tough for multi-sport athletes to keep up with demands of a busy summer. With every sport having a summer program, schedules can often conflict and athletes can even feel a little burnt out.
“It’s totally different (from when I played),” Brad said. “It’s great to be a two or three sport athlete, but it is getting harder to do that. Two sports keep (Bret) busy. If he was only doing one sport, he wouldn’t be busy enough.”
Bigger, Faster, Stronger
Steve Justice, who graduated from AHS in 1982 and played football, basketball and baseball for the Packers, knows first hand how much summers have changed for three-sport athletes. Steve’s son Nate, who graduated from AHS in 2009 was one of just two boys to play three sports in his class, according to Justice, and Steve’s daughter Steph, who will be a senior this fall, plays volleyball, basketball and golf. Steph also trains in the strength and conditioning program in the mornings.
“It’s really tough for kids to give up their summer, especially if they want to have a summer job or do fun things,” Justice said. “In June and July the high school coaches get them as much as they want and scheduling conflicts can be tough.”
Justice, who spent his summers playing baseball while growing up, said that the increased workloads in the summer has produced some better athletes. He said the summer strength and conditioning programs have had a big impact on increasing athleticism in student athletes.
“Kids are just better now. There’s more competition now,” he said. “I don’t care what community you go to, the athletes are bigger, faster and stronger. So many kids are specializing in one sport and it’s a great opportunity for them, because the busier you are, the better. For a one sport athlete, it’s awesome. If you’re a two or a three sport athlete, it’s tough.”
Preparation for College
Connor Gunderson, who now plays Division III basketball at St. Olaf, played golf and basketball before he graduated from AHS in 2010, but he mostly focused on basketball in the summer. Gunderson played AAU with the Minnesota Glory in the twin cities and competed in various tournaments with the high school team over the summer.
Gunderson said he didn’t mind logging in tournaments throughout the summer and he found that it made him a better player.
“I definitely don’t feel like I missed out on anything in the summer,” Gunderson said. “You’re there with your friends and we all worked together. The amount games you play over the summer helps. The more the merrier.”
Since moving on to college, Gunderson has found the weight room to be much more important as he lifts three times a week over the summer and puts in shooting sessions on the other two days. He said he’d encourage all high school athletes to get involved in a strength training program.
“I wasn’t aware of the weight room in high school, and now it’s a big thing for me in college,” Gunderson said. “Younger kids should take advantage of the summer programs they have and they should get in the weight room.”
A Bond Beyond Sports
Bret stays busy with his two sports over the summer and he also had the advantage of playing under his dad, who coached his AAU basketball team and is a volunteer assistant coach with the AHS football team. Bret’s AAU team included players from Owatonna, Albert Lea, Rochester John Marshall, Cedar Falls, Iowa and Fairmont.
“We always have fun (playing) and my dad makes it a lot more fun. He doesn’t really get down on anybody,” Bret said. “AAU is a little more physical and it helps you toughen up and handle some of the pressure.”
Besides helping Bret become a better basketball player, AAU has also given him a chance to make some better friends. Over the years, he’s gotten pretty close to some of his peers that he wouldn’t have even met if he didn’t play basketball in the summer.
“It started four years ago and it was just basketball,” Brad said. “It quickly changed to friendships and relationships with people from other towns. That’s just as important as the basketball part of it. He’s got friends from all over the place now.”
When Bret faces off against his AAU friends during the school year, he said the games are easier because there’s no hard feelings. But he still likes to win.
“It makes it easier, but it’s still competitive and it’s just a more fun way to do it,” Bret said.
Bret finds himself in a unique position this summer as he’s part of a football team that hasn’t won a game in two seasons and he was a key player on last year’s basketball team that made it to the state tournament for the first time in 30 years.
Still, the wins and losses don’t affect his love for either sport as he can’t pick one over the other.
“My favorite sport depends on what season I’m in. During basketball season, it’s basketball and during football season, it’s football,” he said.
Brad said the basketball team’s run to state could have an impact on all Packer sports in the upcoming seasons.
“I think it helped the whole community’s attitude towards sports,” Brad said. “It was a great thing and I think you’ll see a difference in the near future in other sports.”
THE THREE SPORT ATHLETE
A long summer training makes it harder to be a three sport athlete than it used to be, but there are still plenty of students who take on that task in Austin High School.
Here’s how the three-sport athletes break down:
Total at AHS last year: 68
Eighth graders competing at AHS: 2
Source: Austin High School