High school teams get involved in a summer league for a variety of reasons why.
Some coaches use it to teach skills or a new system. Others use it to gain experience or to build camaraderie.
Regardless of the reasons, summer leagues for basketball and 7-on-7 football are as big a part of an offseason routine as a weight-lifting program. In fact, some schools take part in more than one league.
In addition to leagues, there are summer tournaments for both sports along with team camps.
“Monday and Tuesday we have games and then we play at Redemptorist, too,” Belaire boys basketball coach Michael Banks said. “This is the first year we’ve played in more than one. I guess you could say I’m following Scotlandville’s lead.
“The last couple of years, Scotlandville has played in more than one league and they’ve made it all the way to the state finals. Carlos (Sample, Scotlandville) says the more his team has played, the better they’ve gotten. I hope it works for us.”
Three boys basketball summer leagues wrap up with games this week. Belaire hosts East Feliciana, Jehovah-Jireh, Scotlandville, Denham Springs, Tara, Baker and Central.
Games start at 4:50 p.m. and teams at Belaire play four eight-minute quarters, just like the regular season. However, the clock runs continuously except for the final two minutes of each half.
Woodlawn hosts varsity and junior varsity teams from East Ascension, St. Amant, The Dunham School, St. Michael the Archangel and Hosanna Christian each Monday and Tuesday. Games begin at 4 p.m. with teams playing two 16-minute halves with a running clock.
“Because we didn’t get to have a spring practice this year, the summer is even more important,” Woodlawn coach Elmo Fernandez said, noting that the Louisiana High School Athletic Association did not allow spring basketball practice in 2011. “It helps you solidify what you’re doing next year. You get a good feel for what to expect. It’s a valuable tool.”
Redemptorist has the oldest summer league, one that has been in existence for more than 25 years. Teams play four days a week, starting at 4 p.m. Each game is two 20-minute halves with a continuous clock.
RHS coach Tim Waller has a group of 16 teams, 12 varsity and four junior varsity. The host Wolves, Southern Lab, Live Oak, Denham Springs, St. John-Plaquemine, Belaire, West Feliciana, Scotlandville, Northeast, Pointe Coupee Central and Central compete.
“Everyone seems to be getting a lot out of it,” Waller said. “We came in wanting to get better as a team defensively. That was one area where we felt we needed to improve after last year.
“One thing we also do is use three officials for every game, just like you have for the regular season. It’s something that helps the officials, too. Some of those guys are looking to improve their skills and maybe move to another level of certification.”
A number of girls basketball teams chose to attend team camps instead of playing in a league. Episcopal and Broadmoor High did offer summer leagues for girls teams.
Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said the Knights, Brusly, Runnels, Dunham, St. Michael, Live Oak, Doyle, Woodlawn, West Feliciana, St. Amant and Dutchtown are in a league.
While summer leagues for basketball are not new, the growth of 7-on-7 football over the past decade is a key development for Louisiana high schools.
Teams wear helmets, but no shoulder pads. There is no contact at the line as teams work specifically to hone passing and pass defense skills.
In addition to local leagues, teams compete in weekend tournaments, some hosted by colleges across the state, including LSU. Last weekend, University High won a 7-on-7 tourney at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Denham Springs High also hosted a Saturday tournament that attracted a large number of teams.
Dutchtown and East Ascension are among the teams competing in a league outside the Baton Rouge area. Most local teams are involved with a Wednesday league that features games at three sites with artificial turf fields, Denham Springs, Parkview Baptist and Zachary High. Games also rotate at a fourth site, which was Albany High last week.
In contrast to the summer basketball leagues that end this week, the 7-on-7 conglomerate plays through mid-July. Games are played in the morning with four teams participating at each site. For example, University, Plaquemine and Scotlandville played at Denham Springs on Wednesday.
“We run the ball more than most people,” DSHS coach Dru Nettles said. “So doing 7-on-7 gives us a chance to work more on our passing and to get in some quality defensive work against other teams who do pass the ball well.”
Parkview Baptist coach Kenny Guillot agrees.
“We don’t throw the ball often, but when we do we want to be able to complete a high percentage and this helps,” Guillot said. “Your receivers get a chance to work on running routes and you get to see how your defensive backs react to certain situations.
“The thing I like about our league is its as much or more about teaching than competition. We’ll stop in the middle of the game to do some teaching. You’re not just there to win a 7-on-7.”
Even schools who aren’t in a league find ways to get involved in 7-on-7. Tara and Northeast are part of this group, along with several teams involved in leagues. These teams often play in the late afternoon.
“With summer school and summer jobs, it (league) is not something we can do,” Tara coach Ron Lejeune said. “There’s always somebody out there you can get together with.
“We’re working on putting in a new offensive system and it helps. The kids like it and it’s a great way to get in some conditioning without them thinking it’s conditioning.”