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Prep sports: Twice the summer fun

Many Santa Clarita Valley players give up most of their free time in the summer to train for multipl

Posted: July 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Future Saugus senior Curtis Kahovec plans to play varsity football and baseball next season.

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It usually starts with a weight room session in the morning.

After a short break, it’s off to an afternoon practice, followed by a game or a camp in the evening.

Go home, go to bed and repeat the same process five to six times a week.

That basically describes the summer schedule of several multi-sport athletes in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“I have a good time with it. Sometimes it gets hard,” said Canyon High varsity football and basketball player Alex Vaughn. “Sometimes I have a hard time going, but I just try to stay positive about it. It’s a commitment I made and I’m going to stick with it.”

Some athletes, like Hart’s Nick Cruz and Davis Koppenhager, will play as many as 70 games combined at football and basketball summer leagues in addition to a Monday through Friday practice schedule and occasional weekend camps.

Their story is only a small slice of the double-layered pie.

Hart has several more multi-sport athletes at the junior varsity and freshman level, as do most of the local high schools.

It’s especially grueling for sports like football, basketball and baseball because they require intensive commitments throughout the year. Competing in more than one becomes more like a full-time job during the summer.

“When I have a basketball practice in the morning and then a passing camp later that day, that can get a little bit tough, but I always find a way,” said Canyon High basketball and football player Coley Apsay.

Apsay is going into his senior year and is playing football for the first time this year after his friends convinced him. Even with a rigorous summer schedule, he’s glad he decided to give himself a broader scope of the athletic world.

It’s a concept that seems lost on many prep athletes today according to Hart head basketball coach Tom Kelly.

“Any sport you’re playing, you can play year round exclusively and the other thing you’re seeing too is more and more kids becoming specialists,” Kelly said. “Instead of playing three or four sports, you have kids focused on just one thing.”

Players specializing in a single sport or a specific position isn’t what prep sports are about, said Kelly, who encourages his players to branch out to other sports.

Saugus head football coach Jason Bornn echoed his sentiments.

“I’m not going to paint a kid in a corner and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to pick one or the other,’ because that’s not fair for the kid and that’s not fair to the other sport,” Bornn said.

The odds are, Bornn argued, most high school athletes don’t get the chance to play a sport at the next level, so now is the time for them to make the most of the opportunity to play.

The multi-sport option has other benefits as well.

“Both coaches are totally supportive of me playing both sports and they make sure that we know everything they teach us will help us out later in life,” said Curtis Kahovec, a Saugus senior-to-be football and baseball player.

Over the years, coaches have come up with ways to collaborate in order to make it easier for athletes like Kahovec to juggle the schedules.

At West Ranch, for example, baseball head coach Casey Burrill gets together with football head coach Sean O’Brien every week to make sure dual-sport athletes can evenly distribute their time.

“It obviously takes a special athlete and family that’s got to commit to a crazy schedule,” Burrill said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Players like West Ranch football/baseball crossovers Gabe Peralta, Jake Miura and Tyler Woldanski will play eight to 10 Valley Invitational Baseball League games in addition to football passing camps early in the summer and fall football camp beginning in August.

All three are candidates to start for both varsity squads this season.

The seemingly endless string of practices, camps, clinics and games cut into the social lives and sleep time of players like Vaughn, but he finds ways to cope.

“Lots of naps mostly,” Vaughn said.

In the end, Vaughn added, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

One of the hidden benefits is the addition of time-management skills and work ethic, which Canyon football coach Rich Gutierrez said are critical tools for any student to leave high school with.

“Outside of academics, it helps them become solid young men and learn some of those things a lot earlier,” Gutierrez said.
No matter the sport or the school, the common response among coaches is substantial praise for the players willing to sacrifice their summers to better themselves athletically and otherwise.

And as the dog days of summer arrive, their work won’t go unappreciated by coaches.

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