As May hits and the school year ends, students start to head their separate ways for the summer. This time of year is not a break for some students, however. Student athletes at the University of Utah have to work constantly even when they aren’t at school to keep their bodies at peak performance level for their respective seasons.
The student athletes at the U are pushed to the limits all year round both physically and mentally as they have to be positive, in shape, and on top of their classes and grades year round. In some cases, Pac-12 sports continue on after the school year has ended. For students on the baseball, softball, men’s tennis, and track and field teams, the seasons will continue on for a couple more weeks, not including playoffs. This can be a challenge for some of the athletes, but they are able to overcome these obstacles.
“A lot of us take summer school, so it is kinda still the same thing,” said softball player and sophomore Alyssa Barrera. “It’s nice having a week or two off of school, but it doesn’t really phase us since a lot of us are still in school and sticking to the same routines.”
Each team has a strict workout routine that they follow during the school year, but when they go home for the summer, it is hard to regulate how much work each athlete puts into his or her individual sport. To help with this, athletic trainers step into the picture. There is a staff of trainers that works with each team during the season, but during the offseason and summer months, they put together workout routines specifically for each athlete so that they can come back in August ready to start working with their teams again.
“On our team, we don’t do any team workouts or anything, so it’s on you and you have to be accountable for yourself to get your work done and to do what you need to do,” said junior softball player Ally Dickman. “I think it’s mostly important because when we get back we get to see who was accountable for themselves and who is taking it seriously. It is pretty evident right when we get back.”
From the moment they return to campus, the team is back together and preparing for the next spring season, so they need to keep up over the summer. Some of the athletes, such as Dickman, have family members that workout and can help her get her reps in the offseason. This can help a lot with motivation and quality of work to stay in the best shape possible.
Some athletes don’t have family members that they can rely on, however, so they partner with a teammate to work together. This buddy system ensures that each athlete is sticking to their workout plan and is keeping themselves healthy. Each athlete has their own workout preferences and once they create a routine most of them are able to stick to it well.
In terms of preparing for the summer, there are a number of different steps players must go through to ensure that they can be productive while still enjoying their time off in the summer.
“We have meetings when the season ends to kind of go over how we thought they did during the season and what they need to have be a priority as far as their focus for the summer to improve on for the next season,” said softball head coach Amy Hogue. “Our strength trainer meets with them and makes sure they understand the areas they were good at and the areas they were lacking in and challenge them to come back on a roll moving forward rather than taking steps backward over their break.”
Everyone at the U wants these athletes to be successful both on and off the field and all of these efforts are meant to benefit them as much as possible. All of the athletes know what they are working towards and they all have their own motivators to help push them towards accomplishing those goals.
The Utes are students before anything else, but their individual health is also an important factor. By instilling this sense of responsibility for independent workouts for these athletes now, their future health will be benefited because they are learning how to stick to a schedule and follow through with a task.
“I think during the year they realize the talent around them and they know if they don’t do the work that they should in the summer then they will lose their position to one of their teammates,” Hogue said. “We just remind them of their role and their position and who’s on their tail and the competition for positions.”
In high-level athletics, there is always something on the line and this helps motivate players to work to earn their positions on the field. Everything is fair game, and regardless of seniority, anyone could take the starting spot. Most of the athletes are confident in themselves and know what they have to do to keep their bodies in the best shape possible. They know the consequences if they do not uphold their end of the deal, and they don’t want to take those risks.
“It is important to stay in shape and be ready to go,” Barrera said. “We don’t want anyone to be dragging and falling behind right when we get into it because we get into it fast, and you can’t start off behind.”
As long as each athlete individually holds up his or her end of the workout plan, they will be able to come back in the fall ready to work hard for both the names on their jerseys.