Those lazy summer days of yesteryear? They don’t happen for high school multi-sport athletes.
“I would say summer is probably my busiest time of year because I travel a lot,” said 16-year-old Ella Wilcox, who will be a senior at Windham High.
Wilcox is a member of his high school’s field hockey, swimming and softball teams and plays for his father Fred’s New England Elite softball team, who has already made trips this summer to Virginia and New Jersey.
“Every day of the week is different,” Ella Wilcox said, but almost every day includes some sort of athletic activity. She had two field hockey practices on Tuesday and another on Thursday, a softball club practice on Wednesday, regular trips to the batting cage to practice her batting and softball tournaments on weekends. Already verbally committed to playing softball at Colby College, Wilcox is also taking a college course.
For the multi-sport athlete, moving from field to field, field, gym or rink is how they choose to spend their summers.
“Oh, I love that,” Wilcox said.
“I love the sport and all my friends are on all my teams,” said Nick Laughlin, 17, who will be a senior in Cape Elizabeth where he plays football, hockey and lacrosse. “It doesn’t really feel like a chore. It’s more like having fun.
Kam Douin, who will be a senior at Cony High in Augusta, played four varsity sports last season: soccer, team kicker soccer, basketball and baseball. So the 6-foot-3 athlete — who excelled this spring as a left-handed pitcher and plays in both the American Legion and club baseball with the Maine Lightning — is also an excellent student. So he’s used to a busy schedule.
But there was a day this summer when squeezing everything inside tired even Douin.
His day started with Cony’s new fitness and strength training program open to all school athletes from 8-10 a.m.
“So one day I went there and then I drove (to the University of New England) to go to a football kicking clinic,” Douin said. “So it was an hour and 15 minute drive. I got there at about 1 p.m. and then drove to Oxford Hills for an American Legion game at 5 a.m. I’m came home and went to bed.
WHEN IS IT TOO MUCH?
Coaches fear asking too much of their athletes. But the high school coach knows that summer practices lead to in-season success and local athletes who don’t play club sports would lose their practice. Plus, summer is the perfect time to introduce new players to a program in a low-stress environment.
“Are we giving children enough breaks? I wonder about that,” said Deb Lebel, coach of the reigning Class A women’s soccer team at Windham High. “But you can try to do it, but the other schools won’t. That’s why I try to keep ours pretty light.
The keys to meeting the varied demands are communication between players and coaches when conflicts arise, and for athletes to prioritize their sports.
“The first week of summer only baseball plays. Then soccer starts. Then hockey starts. Then basketball starts twice a week,” Portland High baseball coach Mike Rutherford said. “And then you have AAU baseball and all the other club stuff. Kids are being pulled in multiple places.
Rutherford, also an assistant football coach, said he was deliberately building his summer baseball schedule to avoid conflicts with Portland High’s basketball and football practices. Still, players will inevitably have to make choices.
“Let me know. Are you going to basketball? That’s fine. Are you going to hockey? That’s fine. Going on vacation? Fine. I just need to know. I don’t want to show up to a (baseball) game and have eight players,” Rutherford said.
For Laughlin, an all-state wide receiver for the champion Class C football team in Cape, football comes first. His weekends have been filled with scouting camps at New England colleges and three days a week he joins the Cape Town team for summer training and 7v7 matches. He tries to sneak in as many hockey practices as possible. He also works as a cook at a local ice cream/burger restaurant. Lacrosse takes a back seat other than the occasional game with friends.
“I mean there’s definitely been days where I don’t want to get out of bed and go to (soccer) practice at 7 a.m., but just do it,” Laughlin said. “It’s always better in the long run. Plus, you feel somewhat accomplished at the end of the day.
A LOGISTICS CHALLENGE
For older athletes like Wilcox, Laughlin and Douin, being able to drive themselves helps ease the logistical burden.
Stella Jarvais, 15, doesn’t have that luxury. Jarvais will be a sophomore at Windham after a freshman year where she was an all-SMAA pick in football and softball and played college basketball. His summer also includes playing for the Maine Thunder club softball team.
“For races, I rely on my teammates just because I’m able to bond more with them,” Jarvais said.
This summer, Jarvais put softball at the top of the list. It occupies his weekends. Monday and Wednesday nights were all about football, Tuesdays and Thursdays were basketball practices and games which together usually ran from 2-7 p.m. camper.
“It keeps me active and staying active and obviously it’s important for me to stay active,” Jarvais said. “But sometimes it’s tough, especially mentally when I need a break, and physically when my body stops for a bit.”
Jarvais said she saw firsthand the value of putting high school teams together over the summer as an incoming freshman. By the time the school year rolled around, she was already feeling comfortable with her older teammates.
“It’s an opportunity to try new things, to build chemistry, without the added pressure of schoolwork and the stress of winning,” Jarvais said. “Lebel and (basketball) coach (Brody) Artes want us to get our skills back before the season, but they also want us to play together and build that bond.”
Getting a day off is important.
Chantelle Bouchard, 18, graduated from Biddeford High this spring where she played basketball and was University of Maine all-state catcher for the Class A state champion softball team. Last summer, she was playing or practicing softball five days a week, basketball a few days a week, and training and preparing to recover from two knee surgeries.
“Mondays are where I drew the line,” Bouchard said. “I would try to take a day completely off. But, it usually didn’t work very well.
Bouchard believes she benefited from the busy schedule, learning time management skills and understanding the need to balance sporting, social and academic interests. She is applying those skills this summer before attending St. Joseph’s College. Bouchard still plays club softball with New England Elite while working part-time as a certified nursing assistant at Maine Med.
All high school coaches are mandated by the Maine School Principals’ Association to halt their organized summer activities for two weeks prior to the start of fall preseason practices. The moratorium does not apply to club sports, but it does provide some much-needed relief on weekdays. For players and coaches.
“I think the two-week hands-off is good for everyone. I know it’s good for me,” said Cape Elizabeth football coach Sean Green. “But you know how it is, these kids are engaged. I guarantee our kids will get some captain practice for football and I wouldn’t be shocked if it was the same for every other sport.
Laughlin confirmed that, yes, Cape Town football will likely have low-key training for captains, but he is looking forward to relaxing a bit.
“Go somewhere with the family or something. It’s always nice.
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