The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 9, 2014

Athletes play summer sports for multiple reasons

FAIRMONT — Oh, the times, they are changing.

Gone are the days of a teenage athlete waking up with nothing to do in the months of June, July or early August. Now, if you’re an athlete, your summer months are filled with summer camps, personal workouts and a three-week period where it seems that breathing may be only a dream.

If you play a sport during the season in high school, there’s likely a summer league calling your name when the final school bell rings.

That’s the case for many Marion County athletes this summer.

But why would these teens rather spend their time lifting weights or playing an organized sport rather than spend their time playing video games or eating endless amounts of snacks?

There are many reasons.

For starters, summer is a time for fun, and what better way to have fun than to play a sport?

For a recent Fairmont Senior graduate, playing baseball has always been a way to relax and spend time with his friends. And summer baseball is just a better way of doing that, Gage Hannah said.

“It’s good because it’s relaxed and it’s fun. Sports are supposed to be fun, and it’s kind of the way baseball is meant to be played,” Hannah said of his decision to play for the Post 17 Fairmont American Legion baseball team. “But it’s still competitive, and it’s good because for some of us this is our last competitive thing.”

For an easy-go-lucky ballplayer like Hannah, who can be seen smiling and making all his teammates and fans laugh on the diamond, the idea of a summer sport offers something he can’t find in high school: a chance to play with other baseball players in the county.

“It’s a lot of fun. I get to play more baseball essentially and get to play with my friends more,” Hannah said. “Like my pals from North and East and Chris (Petrucci, from Notre Dame High School).”

But fun is just one reason to play a summer sport.

For Fairmont Senior soccer player Eviana Barnes, travel soccer is a way to keep up with, and even surpass, the competition.

“If you don’t keep practicing your touches during the off-season, it’s like you take a step backward,” said Barnes, who plays with a travel soccer team at Pro Performance called Fury Fire.

Barnes began playing soccer at a young age, beginning when she was just 4 years old. After playing soccer through recreational leagues until high school, Barnes knows the importance of a summer program now that she’s in high school.

“I definitely want to be stronger, more endured and have better touches for the upcoming high school season,” she said.

For players like Barnes, who are wanting to get a leg up on the high school competition, the summer months are spent bonding with teammates through travel teams, working out on your own with teammates and spending time with teammates.

But for others, the bar is raised even higher in the summer months.

One of the most intense forms of summer activity is AAU basketball.

The best way, according to most players, to get noticed by college scouts is to play AAU basketball.

Some AAU seasons can last from the springtime until the fall, but it’s the summer that counts the most.

“Our summer tournaments are the biggest because of the live periods,” Darhius Nunn, a Fairmont Senior basketball player, said. “College coaches are at the games.”

During a slew of tournaments last season, Nunn said coaches like Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim were in attendance.

In addition to being exposed to college coaches, the competition is fierce, too.

“It’s good exposure versus great players all around the U.S.,” East Fairmont’s Nick Greely said. “It’s just a fun way to keep a ball in your hands and play against great competition.”

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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