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Doug’s Dugout: The Inevitable Burnout

June 15, 2018 GMT

School is out! The bells rang on the last day of classes and students all over the nation ran out the door and straight into the Utopia known as summer vacation. As the song says, “No more books, no more rules, no more teacher’s dirty looks …. School’s out for summer.”

I love athletics, especially of the high school variety. Amateur sports have a different “feel” than their professional counterparts. They are refreshing. They are exciting. They are special in the sense that these young athletes are not playing for a paycheck, no, they are playing for the fun of the game.

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Allen Athlete began his school year with early and late football practices before he even had his new class schedule in hand. After a few days off the first classes of the year began and the practice sessions began in earnest. Two weeks of blood, sweat, and tears and then the first game of the season. Nine weeks later, if his team was fortunate enough, the season continued with the supreme thrill of the state playoffs.

It was already November. It came so fast he hardly had a chance to take a breath. He traded in those football cleats for a basketball uniform and a new pair of “Air Somethings.” The first snows of the early winter began to fall and he was lacing up those sneakers for game number one of the season. Two games a week … sometimes three … Finally, Christmas came and there was that short moratorium that was supposed to get him rejuvenated for the second semester. Then came the Holiday tournament. That fifteen day Christmas break seemed more like fifteen minutes. *Poof* Gone!

Two more months of round ball ensued. Two games a week … sometimes three … The practices, the bus rides, the late nights getting home, the cramming for an exam at 11:37 p.m. that was looming for the next day. What he wouldn’t give for a dinner with the family. Just one hot meal with everyone else in his clan would have been so heartwarming.

The blowing snow flakes finally came to a stop. The north winds of winter changed to the warm breezes of spring. Time to store up the hoops equipment in favor of a pair of track cleats. He had lost the spring he had in those steps of those days before football practices that seemed to be decades ago. But without a single complaint, he placed his feet in those starting blocks and sprinted his heart out for the next two months. Practices often resembled the motto of the United States Postal Service, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night could keep the athlete from their appointed athletic venue.”

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Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel. Graduation day! The end of another school year. “School’s out for summer.” “YAY!”

Summer camps. Team camps. Individual camps. The cycle continues and the beat goes on without skipping a beat. How do they do it? How do they keep going without taking any time to rest and relax before starting it all up again?

I admire the three-sport athletes who follow this routine for four years without a stop. It is like being a race car driver and speeding past the pit stops with bad tires and a gas tank containing only fumes. He wants to stop. But he doesn’t want to lose his spot in the race.

To the student athletes and their parents. “Thank you!” Thank you for all you do for the school and community pride. But please remember this; that tank does need filled before you run out of gas and those tires need to be changed before you suffer a blowout that leaves you stranded along the highway of life. Make some time for yourselves. Take some time for yourselves. You mean far too much to us to be burned out at age 18 for the next season of your lives!

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