Ventura’s high school sports are too intense without off seasons

Sports in high school can become very difficult with no break. Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press

Erin Maidman

Sports in high school can become very difficult with no break. Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press
Sports in high school can become very difficult with no break. Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press

If you look at any Ventura or Buena team, you’ll see that sports are very intense. Student-athletes at Foothill in particular juggle extremely heavy homework loads with strenuous practice times all year long. If a student wants to play a sport nowadays, they must become the best of the best, and be willing to sacrifice everything to get there.

Student athletes have more pressure to perform than ever before, and this degree of intensity needs to change. As of now, teenage athletes are playing too long and too hard to stay healthy. Many sports teams that I have had experience with in Ventura have crossed that competitive line from beneficial to debilitating in order to compete at the ever-increasing level of play.

Ask any coach why they make their players practice year-round and they’ll say, “Because that’s what we need to do to stay competitive in this league.” High school competition in Ventura is fierce and each team has to work harder and harder to compete at the constantly increasing standard. In theory, more playing time should benefit the technical and tactical skills of any athlete, but what about their health? Overuse injuries are abundant in high school sports with kids who never get to rest their bodies from fatigue. No longer is there a down period where athletes can recoup and prepare for the coming season. No athlete can be expected to push themselves so hard and remain energized day-in and day-out.

In addition, coaches are demanding more and more from their athletes, which, if contained in a set season, is exactly what they should do. Coaches want the best from their athletes, and the way to achieve that is through hard work and determination. But the fact that certain student-athletes never get a break from this pressure is too much! There are mandatory dead periods for most high school sports, which are a start, but in some sports those dead periods are filled up with club practices or tournaments.

In my experience with the Ventura girls volleyball team, I practiced five days a week from July to October, then had around three weeks of off season before starting the club season three days a week from November to late June. I only had four weeks off in the entire year, which, combined with another high intensity sport, led to overuse injuries such as very painful tendonitis in both knees and a partial patella tendon tear.

According to EducatedSportsParent.com, “Constant pressure to win, train and perform could lead to mental and physical exhaustion and stress, leading to burnout.” Burnout means that kids no longer want to play because they are too exhausted and don’t enjoy the sport anymore. This seems to be the price Ventura’s sports programs are going to have to pay if they continue to push student-athletes this hard, which is certainly not what they want. Athletes shouldn’t be in such a competitive environment that they lose their love for the game, because sports are so beneficial to the developing teenager. 

Sports teach commitment, work ethic, and determination; all crucial life skills. Participation in an organized sports program encourages kids to stay in school and create life goals for themselves. The constant exercise promotes better health in adolescents, in addition to creating lifelong active habits. And most importantly, sports are supposed to be fun to participate in! Yes, sports are an incredible resource to Ventura’s school system to better their students’ lives, but they can’t capitalize on this resource if the sports aren’t fun anymore. Ventura’s sports teams have the best of intentions to improve their athletes and their teams, but working athletes this hard is not right way to get there.

Ventura’s schools want their athletes to be the best of the best which requires a great level of commitment. That means that students will need to work longer and harder to achieve the high standards that are in place. I know what this commitment is like, and the rewards of this determination far outweigh the difficulties. If we want to compete at our best, then we must be willing to make some sacrifices, but our physical and emotional well-being should not be one of them.

Schools and coaches want their students to engage in positive sports programs and achieve their competitive goals, and the best way to do that is by giving ample amounts of time for rest and revitalization.

If Ventura’s sports programs want to prevent their athletes from quitting teams or losing their passion for the game, they need to tone down the amount of playtime. We as athletes need to take breaks to remind ourselves of why we play sports. Yes, breaks might seem wasteful, and some students may thrive on the constant stress and pressure, but let me say this: I guarantee that if Ventura and Buena start implementing real off-seasons in sports like volleyball or basketball and settling down on the competition, they will be met with revitalized and newly energetic athletes who are ready to achieve even greater goals. Who knows, maybe off-seasons will push Ventura and Buena’s sports teams to that next level.

What do you think?