Athletes stand in for coaches for summer practice

NCAA regulations regarding off season practice force athletes to hold voluntary workouts during the summer.

While Minnesota athletes take a break from competitions during the summer, they are still working hard with their teammates to prepare for the upcoming season. Teams such as menâÄôs and womenâÄôs gymnastics are holding voluntary practices all summer long, and the hockey team trains with Minnesota strength coaches and team captains. The soccer team has also found a way to keep the team together during the summer by holding captainâÄôs practices. “I think they’re a good way to make sure we’re out there playing still, and I think they serve as a way to keep us playing without breaking any rules,” senior forward Sara Clancy said. Under the NCAA bylaw âÄúTime Limits for Athletically Related Activities,âÄù programs cannot hold mandatory practices with program specific coaches during the summer when athletes are out of season. Workouts can, however, be turned over to strength and conditioning coaches provided they are considered voluntary. Despite the fact that these practices are not mandatory, the athletes have no problem staying motivated to show up and work hard. “For the most part everyone is there almost every day because guys want to get better and improve for next season,âÄù menâÄôs hockey captain Tony Lucia said. âÄúIf you’re not in there getting better, then somebody’s going to pass you, but so far we’re very excited about the guysâÄô work ethic.âÄù Lucia and Clancy both said their workouts vary a lot during the summer to keep them interesting. Clancy said practices are less structured without a coach on the field, but the girls are working to push each other harder every practice. Though the NCAA does permit programs to put strength and conditioning coaches in charge of practices during the breaks, soccer head coach Mikki Wright said they prefer to leave it up to the players to organize workouts. Wright said she doesnâÄôt think the NCAA regulations are restricting on the program. âÄúI want them to go out and play by themselves,” Wright said. âÄúI wouldn’t want to control them all summer. I trust our players, and they’ll be ready.” Strength coaches have been put in charge of the hockey workouts, but captains Lucia and senior Ryan Flynn play a large role in keeping the athletes on track. The practices are vital for developing leadership and keeping players responsible for themselves, so there is no need to be coaching the athletes all summer, menâÄôs hockey head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúItâÄôs not something you can mandate, and you canâÄôt oversee it and thatâÄôs fine,âÄù he said. âÄúI donâÄôt think everything an athlete does has to be in the direction of a coach.âÄù While Wright and Don Lucia are prohibited from attending the summer workouts, both menâÄôs and womenâÄôs gymnastics coaches are granted a safety exception so that they can attend the voluntary practices. However, the coaches cannot require athletes to do anything during the time they are in the gym. Men’s gymnastics head coach Mike Burns said the NCAA restrictions can be limiting in the sense that coaches canâÄôt tell their athletes what to do during their workout, but he also sees the benefits they bring. âÄúIt forces these guys to be a little more independent and plan ahead and figure out what exactly they feel they need to get done that day,” Burns said. During the season, NCAA regulations limit practice time to four hours per day and 20 hours per week. Student-athletes are also required to receive one day off per week, unless they are participating in a conference or championship. Wright and Lucia both said their teams donâÄôt come close to going over the 20-hour limit during the season, and neither coaches nor athletes said they saw voluntary practices as a way to bypass the NCAA regulations. Instead, the coaches see them as a necessary way to make progress to compete better in the upcoming season. âÄúIf you want to retain some competitiveness with the rest of the world you have to stay on top of your game,âÄù Burns said. âÄúIf these guys took the whole summer off we would be spending all next year trying to get back to where we left off last year.âÄù