Summer Ball is one of those things over the past 15 years that people aren’t really sure has had the intended benefit. It’s been evolving over that time to get to a point where it isn’t completely useless. From a player’s point of view growing up, it wasn’t really that beneficial, at least it felt that way. From a coach’s point of view, it was an incredibly important time for the season. Throughout the years, we’ve seen coaches not really understand how to approach it and now with the teams allowed to use pads in this time period has changed that approach. There has now been a change where teams are going to as many 7 on 7’s they can go to and joint practices are growing more and more every year.
As a coach, I loved the time period. We never had enough time during the off-season to work with the kids and with the regulations put into place inhibited the majority of any work that could be done. This was our first time to really get out and work, to get some time to actually throw a ball around, sounds really crazy right. I wasn’t terribly focused on 7 on 7 tournaments, they didn’t show a ton of benefit to me. We see teams that will run fake offenses and one defense that they will never run in the season. There are teams that will run those schemes but, in this state, they are far and few. The best tournaments we played at were the ones that had the same philosophy that we had with these tournaments. We found a ton of benefit when going to those.
The schematics during this time period was half essential schemes that we were going to run and the other half experimental. I wanted to make sure that we had our year in and year out base stuff in and worked on. These are the base foundations that everything would be built off of, and we found it a great time to really slow it down and teach it to the players. The experimental stuff was things that we wanted to try and see, try and blow holes into, and see if this would be something that we would want to try in the season. Installing the schematics in this time period was very important, especially those base foundations that we would carry over into the season.
Being able to coach the fundamentals is essential during this period too. There isn’t enough time in the world to coach the fundamentals of the game but during this slow period during the year, you can really get a chance to coach those techniques. Summer ball typically gave the most time to teach base fundamentals, as when you get into fall camp and the season, your time begins to get cut drastically in what you can fit in for these drills.
The freshman coming up usually have no idea how to practice, where to line up, how to buckle a helmet, understand right from left, and occasionally breathe on their own. Depending on the amount of freshman that would come up, we would break up practice into two different practices. The first practice was freshman and sophomores that would still play Junior Varsity. They would have their own practices, where the schematics was at its bare bones and just having them learn how to practice was the key essential. We would take the second group, which would be the varsity, and move along at a much faster pace.
Enjoy this time period the best you can, at times it can seem miserable and a waste of time, but it’s always a matter of perspective. If you look at it being miserable, it will be miserable, but if you look at it and want to enjoy it, you’ll love it. Keep it fresh, keep it light, and have fun with each and every practice that you have. Go have fun at 7 on 7’s and enjoy being around each other, because it’s going to be a long 6 months for the duration of the season.