Without question, summers can represent a very important period of time in the development of young athletes. Camps and clinics can provide vital instruction and coaching. High level competitions during the summer can be a climax to a season or year of hard work, and age appropriate summer conditioning can help provide a base upon which to build success during the seasons that follow. Youths that have a support system behind them to allow them access to these things have a decided advantage over youths that don't. It takes planning, time, money, and a willingness from the athlete and the supporters to put forth the needed effort.
For families of young athletes, often a major goal is, down the road, for the athlete to earn a full ride athletic scholarship to a college, and possibly go on to be a professional athlete. These are great targets to shoot for, but it is critical for the young athletes and their families to understand the role that academics plays in this. I go into great detail in my Academics and the Young Student-Athlete blog, but the main objective of this blog is to propose making use of the summer to nurture and help develop academic abilities and work ethic.
I don't believe there is anything wrong with taking a few weeks off from academics at the beginning of the summer vacation, but taking the whole summer off from academics not only is likely to result in summer learning loss, but is also a sign of a lack of academic commitment, and an unwillingness to prioritize and manage time appropriately, just as taking a whole summer off from athletics, except in the case of injury, shows a lack of athletic commitment.
A starting point is to refer to whatever summer packet or resources the athlete's school or school system provides. This should be easily found on the school's or school system's website. Plan B, just make a phone call. In the same way an athlete will use the summer to improve athletic skills, academic weaknesses should be aggressively addressed also. So just going through the motions, and hurriedly doing some assignments, won't cut it. For those that need some tutoring, if it can be arranged, it can make all the difference. This article also includes great suggestions for making use of the summer, but as much as anything, I believe it is important for the student-athlete and his/her family to commit to the process that is necessary to achieve academic success. Everyone can't be the school's Valedictorian, but everyone can apply him/herself toward academic excellence. The goal is to begin the upcoming school year ready to thrive and approach the academics with vigor and a desire and willingness to put in the work. Starting the school year, not having done any school work in the summer, having forgotten a sizeable percentage of what was learned the year before, results in, at best, fighting an uphill battle, and often surviving, rather than thriving.
Looking ahead to the time to select a college. It is those that have the academic part of their resume in place (so to speak), that will have the most attractive options. Many skilled athletes fail to make the minimum academic standards that many colleges require, and have limited options available. It is a mistake to assume that having good enough grades to be eligible to compete in high school, will suffice for college.
In addition to being eligible to being accepted to a wide variety of colleges, excellent students also are typically in line for academic scholarship money that can often times be combined with partial athletic scholarship money to make the various schools affordable. It also is a mistake for a student-athlete to settle for being a good student, when it is within their ability to be a great student. Not being an excellent student disqualifies the student-athlete from many of the most elite academic institutions.
So parents, in closing, if you haven't already done so, have your student-athlete utilize the summer for academic preparation. If it really is a struggle for your child to buckle down and regularly put in the time required to achieve academic success, then please realize that if that doesn't change, then the dream of having a lot of great choices of colleges to choose from is more than likely, just that, a dream. Although there are options for lower level students like Junior Colleges, and colleges whose academic standards are not very high, a student-athlete is much more likely to find that college that is a great fit if there are a lot of options to choose from.