Many a summer vacation is treated as pure relaxation. The end of a long year’s work walks students into the sunset of their attention spans, putting minds and bodies to rest until the first bell of mid-August.
Refugio Independent School District athletes aren’t like many students, however. A true year-long commitment to the athletic craft transitions from the spring sports season to the all-important summer training.
To boost RISD’s finest into “bigger, faster and stronger” athletes, the school district staff led by athletic director Jason Herring set up the district’s summer strength and conditioning program. The program brings together Bobcats and Lady Cats in all sports from grades 7-12, working out at and around Bobcat Stadium facilities.
Taking place four days a week throughout June and July before fall sports practices begin, the program’s attendance has jumped in Herring’s tenure. When he began in Refugio 15 years ago, he had less than 10 participants. Now, he regularly brings 140 students per day.
“It speaks volumes about our community, about our kids, how committed they are to being Bobcats and Lady Cats,” Herring said. “That’s the reason we’re successful in all of our athletics, the kids and coaches are willing to put in that extra work in the summer when a lot of kids aren’t willing to.”
Attendance has grown over the years, Herring says, due to the coaching staff “selling how important commitment is” during the off-season months. For someone that has won frequently on the football field, Herring stated that more success keeps himself motivated to coach in the heat.
“I don’t want (there) to ever be a reason why we can’t be as successful as we can be because of our coaching staff, or unwillingness or laziness ... the programs that win year in and year out, they have great summer programs.”
Creating greatness in June and July starts with the course’s general training, mostly staying away from sport-specific work. During the two-hour practice sessions Monday through Thursday, athletes will go through an injury-preventing flexibility program, a station focusing on agility and quickness, a “straight speed” station for running skills, and a strength station in the RHS weight room facility.
Herring noted he didn’t want to “build muscle men,” designing the program to “develop a good, overall athlete” for the wide variety of RISD sports. The coaching staff includes more “Olympic-style” lifting that is more applicable on an athlete’s chosen field.
“Endurance, being quicker, being explosive ... being able to jump and rebound, spike a volleyball, all of that is what we’re after. We’re after making better athletes.”
Not pushing his athletes with heavy weights is especially true for the lower grades at the junior high level.
“We’re not interested in lifting a lot of weight with those kids, we’re interested in teaching them the correct form, injury prevention, all that stuff,” Herring said. “As they progress and get all the technique parts down and get to where we feel they’re safe to lift and the technique is correct, then we’ll add a little bit (of weight).”
Besides the core strength and conditioning, what Herring calls the “backbone” of the RISD program, the summer camp’s lesson of commitment to the Bobcat and Lady Cat cause is a crucial cog of the off-season.
“For a kid to come up here in the summer when they’re not in school, and they’re not being made (to) ... to me, there’s nothing more important,” Herring said. “Obviously, we’re getting better, there’s no doubt. If you’re sitting at home doing nothing or you come up here doing something to help yourself athletically, you’re improving. That’s huge.”