Images of summer typically involve trips to a beach, weekends camping or days spent at an amusement part. Perhaps even a venture to some historical site.
The continuing evolution of high school sports puts a different spin on summer that evolves each year. Baseball and track were traditionally accepted as summer activities along with some team-based summer leagues.
Locally-based summer leagues and team camps now are everywhere on the high school sports landscape. Teams that are not in regular leagues often set up individual matchups with other area teams in basketball and football. Some schedule the individual competitions to complement summer leagues.
Is there more to it than the notion that your team will be left behind if you’re not out there?
“Some people coach it like they’re playing in the state championship game,” Belaire High boys basketball coach Chauncey Moore said. “I approach it differently. In the morning, we come in and the guys work hard on lifting weights and conditioning.
“Getting to play in games a couple of days a week is a reward. I get to see how they’ve improved and how they react in certain situations.”
Opinions on how/when to use or do summer leagues and camps differ. Moore ran a summer league two nights a week at Belaire that ended this week. Madison Prep and Woodlawn also operated boys basketball leagues on other nights.
Episcopal and Broadmoor hosted girls basketball summer leagues on different weekdays, while University High hosted the largest summer volleyball league. School-based baseball teams compete in the local Quad Parish league, though some teams and typically elite players are still part of the American Legion, Babe Ruth or some other organization.
What about football? Well, there’s plenty to it, as you might suspect.
The LHSAA has allowed summer leagues for basketball for years. Rules were amended approximately 10 years ago to accommodate schools interested in doing 7-on-7 football during the summer.
Interestingly, 7-on-7 competitions started in college-based camps since players were not supposed to participate in contact drills.
In recent years, state colleges not only hold camps, they host 7-on-7 competitions that attract large numbers of teams. The NFL has its own offshoot that crowns state and national champions. And while most 7-on-7 competitions are for school-based teams, the number of traveling 7-on-7 teams has grown each year.
The largest locally-based school football league consists of 16 schools. Teams play on Wednesday at designated sites. For example, next week, Denham Springs will close out its summer league by hosting Dunham, Catholic and University High.
First-year Dunham coach Neil Weiner notes that this summer’s 7-on-7 has been crucial for the Tigers because they are learning a new offensive system.
“A team that has a system in place is looking for different things,” Weiner said. “This is a chance for us to become more familiar with the things we want to do. Now that you don’t have as many days of spring practice, it’s made 7-on-7 even more important.”
Woodlawn High coach Brett Beard finds himself in a similar situation with the addition of new offensive coordinator Daniel Luquet. Beard and Luquet previously worked together as assistants at Destrehan High. Even though the Panthers will continue to be a spread team under Luquet’s guidance, the approach is different.
“Our quarterback (Charles Brooks) was the starter last year,” Beard said. “He’s having to learn a different way of doing reads. In some spread offenses, you read from the line of scrimmage going out, and in others it’s from down the field in.
“Daniel’s only been with us a couple of weeks and Charles has caught on very well to the changes we’re making. So from that standpoint, 7-on-7 has been very valuable for us.”
The approach for sports like basketball and volleyball is much different.
“We have girls who play multiple sports and may not play a lot of AAU basketball,” Episcopal girls basketball coach Michael Kuhn said. “To be able to get them to pick up a basketball and play 10 to 20 games during the summer helps us out.
“A lot of the girls are coming out of softball or track and haven’t touched a basketball since basketball season. It also gives us a chance to give incoming freshman an idea of what the speed of the game will be like and it gives them the opportunity to play with the girls they’ve been watching play.”
How can 10 to 20 morph to 40 or 50? That jump happens when boys and girls basketball teams head off to team camps at colleges, where they may play 15 to 20 games during a three or four-day period. Some schools also opt to play in multiple summer leagues. Scotlandville has played in leagues in New Orleans and Baton Rouge during its rise to boys basketball prominence.
Madison Prep boys basketball coach Jeffery Jones stressed the competition aspect and the chance to evaluate talent.
“I have a number of kids who’ll go off and play AAU for several weeks,” Jones said. “They won’t play in many summer league games. When they don’t play we look at other guys to see how they’re progressing.
“You can see whether a guy who’s coming up from the JV or freshman team fits in and how they handle certain game situations.”
Central volleyball coach Michele Lebouef said her team’s summer league games at U-High has provided a way to meld returning players and newcomers together.
“We have some players coming back and a group of new players who we expect to contribute for us,” Lebouef said. “During the summer we’ll try people at different positions to see what the best combinations are.
“We might play front row players on the back row and vice-versa. You see how the younger players fit in and you get an idea who steps up and takes on leadership roles.”