Prep athletes getting ready for summer ‘vacation’

What will you do on your summer vacation?

If you’re like thousands of other returning high school athletes in the area, you won’t have much of a vacation at all.

Though you’ve been grinding since the school year began, you also know the grind never ends. Not when you’re trying to become the best you can be on the field, court or wherever else you compete.

Summer is a critical time for athletic development. It’s when the elite work to stay on top and narrow their college choices. It’s when the motivated unknowns begin their ascent.

It’s when underclassmen make the leap to join the veterans, forming that delicate balance between classes that’s critical to team success. Those long days at basketball shootouts, team camps or 7-on-7 football tournaments … that’s when team bonding truly kicks in.

The summer will be over before you can say Lollapalooza, so please take some advice — try to strike a balance the next two months.

Take a lesson from some of the world’s top athletes — whether it’s Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka or many of the other famous examples — and think carefully about your mental well-being.

That grind we mentioned is real. Listen to your body. Listen to your mind. If they’re telling you to take a break, take it.

The pressure to compete is greater than ever, and so are the demands on teenage athletes. The lure of travel teams and individual camps is strong. The drive to garner that cherished college scholarship can be overwhelming.

You’ll hear many of the common sports cliches in the coming weeks. Like how there’s always someone out there working harder than you.

It’s a chase you can’t win. Push yourself, of course, but realize there are limits to what your body and mind can handle. Summer injuries are the worst, but don’t disregard the importance of entering next school year with the proper mindset.

To the multisport athletes, accept you can’t be everywhere. Respect your teams’ needs, but don’t spread yourself too thin.

Remember, sports are supposed to be fun. There’s obviously much work to be done, and that should be a focus of the summer. But it shouldn’t be the lone focus.

While sports are an integral part of the high school experience, being a well-rounded individual is even more important. Pay attention to social development and becoming better people, not just better athletes.

That being said, we know you’ll be out there working your tails off. And we’ll be keeping tabs. Whether it’s the Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball summer shootout or the West Aurora linemen challenge, the summer is a great opportunity for us to see a wide variety of events.

They won’t captivate an audience like a Friday night football game in September, but these are the days that lead to those memorable moments.

So, again, seek that balance as the spring sports draw to a close and we drift into the summer. Be safe, be competitive and be aware of your needs.

Recharge your batteries, but keep the engine running.

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