Dear Athletic Support: My son’s football team just started what his coach calls “Dead Weeks.” In other words, this is our two week break during the summer where there aren’t any football practices, workouts, camps or tournaments. However, my son’s coach has told the players that they should continue to work out during this time. Some of the other boys on the team are even going to the field house to lift weights and use the equipment (I guess they have a key?) The reason I’m writing is because my son was really looking forward to having these two weeks. At this point, he doesn’t even want to think about football, much less keep working out. I can tell he’s tired. This has been a long year for everybody. Don’t you think he deserves a break?
— Dead Tired
Dear Dead: Ah, Dead Weeks… The two glorious weeks over the summer where the Arkansas Activity Board (and most all other activity boards across the country) prohibit any and all high school athletic facilities from opening.
When I was a coach and a player, we used this time for a trip down to Pensacola Beach. Some of my fondest memories are a by-product of Dead Weeks, and no coach should try and take that from his players.
Okay, so maybe your son’s coach isn’t trying to “take” anything. Maybe he’s just trying to do everything he can to ensure that his team is ready come fall. And for the most part, that’s fine.
A coach can urge his players to continue working out from home. He can even share workouts with the team, a template of sorts that will keep the boys’ bodies in peak physical condition over the break.
What he can’t do, however, is open up any facilities, including the field house, or be present while the boys are working out. If we’re really following the letter of the law, the boys shouldn’t even be in the field house during this time. Period. How some of the players have garnered access to the field house (without adult supervision) is another question.
In regard to your son and his reluctance to continue working out over the break — I would say that’s completely up to him. Two weeks is just about the perfect amount of time to rest. Your son won’t lose any significant strength or speed gains over that time. Any longer, and yes, his muscles would start to atrophy.
If I were you, I’d let your son take the lead on this one. Sometimes rest can be just as important as work. Adults know this. That’s why we take the weekends off. That’s why we have vacations.
Young athletes are no different. Despite all the slogans printed on the backs of summer workout t-shirts (“Hard Work Pays Off,” “No Days Off,” etc…), taking time off is extremely important. At this point, the fall is still a good ways off, and when it comes, the football season can become long and grueling.
So, let your son’s body tell him whether or not he needs to continue pushing, or whether it’s best for him to enjoy a little time off.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org