SPC Regulations force athletes to maintain fitness individually
Twice in the fall season, the Hockaday lacrosse team fell to major rival Ursuline in play day tournaments. Some players, such as junior Catherine, brushed off the losses as no big deal. But the games “frustrated” senior Mollie.
“I was really mad after the loss but it just makes me more excited to work hard and beat them during the spring season,” Mollie said.
Catherine justifies the loss because Ursuline had practiced for two hours per day, five days per week since September. On the other hand, Hockaday’s fall team, Hlax, practices for one hour every Sunday, with a minimal attendance level.
This is due to regulations from the Southewest Preparatory Conference which apply to Hockaday, but not to Ursuline Academy or other schools not part of the Conference. One regulation states that only two players can be with a coach at any time when they are practicing the specific sport in the offseason.
SPC President and Cistercian Athletic Director Dan Lee said that rules limiting offseason practices have been in place for “15 years or so.”
Hockaday Director of Athletics Tina Slinker said she understands the reasons for these regulations and believes they align with both Hockaday’s and SPC’s philosophies of athletics and competition in High School.
“We want to encourage our girls to play at least two sports instead of specializing,” she said.
Hockaday’s lack of off-season practices, however, causes many girls to join club sports in order to increase individual skills and practice time.
“I joined a club team because I wanted to play in the offseason so I could keep my skills up and could continue improvement instead of having to start over every season,” Catherine said.
Instead of playing a winter sport, Catherine trains in the wellness center almost every day.
“The trainers help if I have questions on how to improve whatever I want to work on,” she said. “But I do wish Hockaday had structured workouts for offseason athletes.”
Slinker said she hears the suggestions for offseason practices, but, as a coach, would prefer for her players to instead play an additional sport.
“I actually believe it’s better for you at your age, unless you’ve really crossed that path that you know you want to be seen for college for one particular sport,” she said.
In contrast, the St. Mark’s lacrosse team hosts practices every day after school for any athletes not involved in another sport. Senior Jay Park said that they work with their coach in the weight room on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and “play lacrosse and do stick work without Coach Lee” on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Slinker said she could envision offseason programs being added in the future if other schools begin to follow the same path. She recommended that girls who desire offseason training join Catherine and the Hockaday trainers in the Wellness Center.
“We don’t really support offseason programs right now,” Slinker said. “We could, and you guys could come in for it at anytime, but it’s not like we create it. You could come in and work with one of our fitness trainers, or six of you could. We have that option, but we don’t organize it as coaches.”
Slinker said, however, that she noticed a difference when Hockaday plays public schools, especially at the beginning of a season. In November, her varsity basketball team played Highland Park. The Hockaday team had held just six practices while Highland Park’s team had been together for months.
The cross country team also holds off campus practices for athletes. Hockaday track and cross country coach Laboris Bean hosts practices at SMU which are open to all of his runners. Sophomores Claudia and Harper attend once or twice a week for two hours each.
Claudia appreciates this program because of its flexibility, as the attendance level is generally low in the offseason.
“We tried it in summer but not many people do it. People just go to SMU or Flagpole Hill and we run together,” said Claudia. “Only about ten girls came every once in awhile but it was really helpful.”
But Slinker appreciates Hockaday’s and SPC’s philosophy because it decreases athlete burnout.
“You may be behind, but you won’t be burnt out, and you won’t be as injured compared to teams who play year round,” she said.
Catherine agreed, adding that she believes Hockaday teams catch up quickly when it comes time to play teams such as Highland Park High School, Ursuline Academy and other non-SPC schools during the regular season.
Eight months of daily practice can take a toll on single sport athletes, while Catherine and other Hockaday athletes maintain a balance between fitness training and one to two other sports.
“I guess it somehow always works out that we are where we need to be when it counts,” Catherine said. “It can boost their confidence if they win in the offseason, but those games don’t really matter so it doesn’t bother me.”