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Summer leagues too much?
Athletes participate year round in leagues and camps
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Students across Newton County have closed their lockers, put up their book bags, cease to worry about tests and no longer spend time thinking up excuses on why their homework is not finished.
However, for athletes, school is still in session.

A majority of Alcovy, Newton and Eastside athletes don't get a summer break as they participate in summer leagues, camps, AAU ball and various team events.

While summer break has gotten shorter over the years, it allows younger children to go to camp, learn how to play soccer, basketball, football, baseball or how to swim and often bring home a new camp T-shirt to well-rested mothers fresh off a coach-provided break.

But camps also extend to older athletes as well.

Eastside baseball may have finished its 2012 high school season, but the Eagles have been hard at work playing around the state in summer leagues. Area football teams have a couple of months before they chase a state championship but are still hard at work at passing leagues and participating in weight training and conditioning.

Basketball players are learning the intricacies of the 3-point shot or their low-post game at camps with the higher-skilled guards, forwards and centers playing in front of scouts at AAU tournaments, and Newton is in the midst of a six-week mini season to get ready for the 2012-13 basketball season.

That's how high school sports are played, well beyond the academic year. Sports, no matter which one, are year round activities. This leads to both positives and, sometimes, negatives in the development of young athlete.

The positives are obvious: more practice, experience and knowledge in the chosen sport, not to mention the benefits of staying active and being in shape.

"It's much better for a kid than being lazy, laying around the house and playing Xbox all the time," Newton boys' basketball coach Rick Rasmussen said.

The time spent on a court or field also keeps teenagers busy and out of troublesome situations.

"I believe it keeps them out of trouble," Alcovy baseball coach Casey Bates said. "Playing sports keeps them from doing things they shouldn't be doing."

Both a positive and a negative of out-of-season camps and summer leagues are the specialization that it leads to. With a sport going year round, it enables the athletes to focus more on one sport, without waiting for basketball season to begin again by playing around on the baseball diamond.

Specializing in just one sport enables an athlete to get more fine-tuned in his or her desired discipline.

"I would say they are more prepared depending on the kid," Eastside girls' soccer coach Joel Singleton said.

The practices become more fine-tuned and require more dedication and focus.

"I believe playing year round is very beneficial to the kid if he wants to do it. I don't think it is if he doesn't want to do it," Bates said. "If he wants to play other sports, he needs to play other sports. If he wants to play strictly baseball he should do that."

While playing one all year long helps in the development of that activity, playing other sports helps in the development of the overall athlete. For instance, taking time during the summer to play soccer rather than participate in another basketball camp helps develop stamina. Likewise, participating in a football camp helps develop strength for baseball season.

It is training some coaches fear is eroding.

"I think these kids honestly should experience a lot of different things," Alcovy boys' soccer coach Chris Edgar said. "I thing doing other sports translates to being better at other sports."
Participating in different activities throughout the year also helps keep things fresh. The mental and physical focus on doing one activity year round can cause fatigue like adults going into the same office five days a week, 52 weeks a year.

"Our best players play AAU basketball the whole month of July," Rasmussen said. "I kind of wonder how they ever get a vacation."
Even if a player doesn't get to change it up throughout the year with different sports, year round leagues and camps are helping to improve young athletes. The camps also help athletes get ready for the next level.

"The biggest thing, especially if they go away to a camp, it gives them some looks at other coaching philosophies," Singleton said. "What they should expect as far as college; it shows them what it's going to take to play at the next level."

Whether or not the athlete will continue to play sports in college, camps are a way to keep busy, stay active and improve in the individual sport. It's also a way to add memories to a summer, rather than just waiting for the next season to hang out with teammates.

"Not only does it help the physical aspect but helps with team camaraderie," Edgar said. "My guys that play soccer love soccer. They're happy any time they can play."