SIKESTON -- The schools might be closed for the summer but athletic programs throughout the area are not dormant and are working hard for the upcoming 2006-2007 season.
Many programs are offering students the opportunity to train year-round with the availability of summer camps, weight training and summer scrimmages like football's 7-on-7 drills.
Summer is also a time for area coaches to recharge their batteries for an upcoming season. Rather it be a coach who had an extremely successful season or one who looks to erase the memory of last year, the common denominator is that area coaches are biting at the bit to get back out to their respective fields of play.
The Sikeston Bulldogs football team had a tough season last year and are looking to turn the tide this season. Back for his third year as head coach, Jerry Dement has his troops going through some summer drills to prepare for the upcoming football season.
Football teams can begin practice on August 7 and Dement can hardly wait for the month to pass by.
"I am real excited about the upcoming season," said Dement. "I wish we could start right now, but everything is going pretty smoothly over the summer and the kids are excited about the season ahead."
According to Dement, Sikeston has two weight training sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Athletes have the option to attend at 7 a.m. or 6 p.m. depending on the student's schedule.
"Between both morning and evening sessions we are averaging about 50 kids who attend weight training which is a little above normal," said Dement. "The main goal of a summer program is to have the kids maintain conditioning. We try our best to work around their schedules as much as possible and hopefully the kids will take advantage of the opportunity."
Sikeston football is also holding a weekly 7-on-7 drill on Thursday evenings. "This is a chance for the kids to learn the basics of pass offense and defense," said Dement. "We try to keep it fun for the kids and, hopefully at the same time, they will pick up some skills that will help us down the road."
Dement stated that he hopes to invite some area teams over to Sikeston for 7-on-7 play. According to Dement, this would take place in late July after Sikeston's team camp.
Sikeston will have team camp for high school students grade 9-12, July 17
-21. The junior high camp is scheduled for the upcoming week.
At New Madrid County Central, head football coach Arlen Pixley, who is in his eighth year at NMCC, is also busy preparing for the upcoming season.
"We have had weight training on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m.," said Pixley. "With our kids being bussed in from throughout the county, it is sometimes difficult to get everyone here. But we have had as many as 48 kids show up for weights and we are excited about the season."
Pixley also is running 7-on-7 drills at NMCC.
"The state puts some limits on what you can do with the drills," said Pixley. "We can't run set plays or officiate the action. But we can do the basics of teaching the kids proper routes to run, work with the linemen on blocking techniques and fine tune the quarterbacks. It is just free-play, but it is better than not having the kids out here. Like Bill Parcells, who is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, has stated, 'if you're not doing it, you are behind.' We have teams in our state that are doing football 365 days a year."
Pixley stressed that at NMCC, football is not the only program that can be positively affected by summer conditioning.
"Our summer program is not mandatory," said Pixley, "but we use the summer to sell other athletic programs at the school. We maintain and keep players moving forward in their conditioning program. We try to develop speed and leg drive. The weight training we provide also cuts down on injuries. If I am not mistaken, I don't think we have had a major injury at NMCC in the last six or seven years.
"I feel that our program in the summer helps our kids learn to move and play on all surfaces. Whether it be on the football field, basketball court or wrestling mats. Out here we don't stress just football."
NMCC will start its team camp the last two weeks in July from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Over at East Prairie, second-year football head coach Corey Adkisson is also hard at work during the summer months.
"We have already been through a week of team camp," said Adkisson, "to prepare for a camp down at Arkansas State University. I feel the experience at Arkansas State was a positive for our kids. We got to go against another team and play a full scrimmage in half pads. It was a good chance for us to evaluate our team in live action. We didn't do anything fancy, just used our base plays. Our goal is to have the kids active over the summer and team camps are something fun for the kids. Sometimes the kids get tired of playing against themselves. Nice to play another team."
Adkisson stated that between 30-35 kids attend weight training either in the mornings or evenings at East Prairie.
While many believe the summer months are time for rest and relaxation for most teachers, Adkisson explained that for coaches, the work has only just begun.
"I would say that I am busier in the summer than during the school year," said Adkisson. "As a coach, we run camps and the weight training. During the summer is when we game plan for the upcoming year. I am always going over old game tapes so that we will be prepared for the season. We definitely want to be prepared."
East Prairie will have the second week of team camp July 24-28 from 6-8 p.m.
Football is not the only sport gearing up for a new season. Girls softball is also on the horizon and third-year head coach Tiffany King at Sikeston is also working hard over the summer.
"Just like the boys," said King, "we have the girls in the weight room. We lift twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays usually in the mornings. We have some girls playing in some softball summer leagues, so it is an active time for softball players."
Sikeston will have a two-week softball camp starting on Monday from 8-10 a.m. Monday-Friday.
Even though basketball will not pick up again until November, many teams throughout the area are not slowing down for the summer.
Many teams are running camps, playing summer league games and attending team camps. Individual players have the option of playing AAU ball or playing with select teams.
East Prairie basketball head coach Matt Schonhoff is not wasting anytime in getting adjusted to his new position. Schonhoff was recently hired as head coach at East Prairie and this is Schonhoff first position as varsity head coach.
Like veteran coaches throughout the area, Schonhoff has his kids going through a team camp, but admits that with his hire so late in the school year, Schonhoff does not have every option that he would like this summer.
"SEMO has a team basketball camp at the end of the month," said Schonhoff, "but that time conflicts with our football team's camp. We do have a lot of kids that play football and I didn't feel that we had the numbers to field a team. So maybe next year we will have more time to plan and organize to attend a camp. I am looking at attending team camps at the University of Missouri and St. Louis University tentatively in June next year."
Schonhoff explained that with kids focusing on just one sport these days, it is imperative for kids who play multiple sports to attend camps during the summer.
"It seems to me that kids are selecting one sport to concentrate most of their time," said Schonhoff. "These kids that chose to play just basketball are playing AAU, playing with select teams and attending five-star camps over the summer. Schools like East Prairie that have the kids that play multiple sports have to attend team camps just to stay competitive with the other kids.
"Team camps are a good judge to see how you kids play against other competition. Will they raise their play against a larger school or do they play to the level of competition? It is just a good way to see how your kids will handle certain situation in a summer setting. Team camps also get your kids some college exposure because a lot of college recruiters are at these camps and you never know when a kid might catch their eye."
Even though the classrooms are silent, the weight rooms and practice fields throughout the area are screaming with usage through the summer.