With less than two months to go before the start of fall sports practices, SSHS athletes will be working this summer to get the edge

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

June 8, 2008 - Sulphur Springs won three district championships last school year and finished as runner-up in four other sports. Athletic director Greg Owens attributes much of that success to what happens in the summer.

SSHS athletes, boys and girls, are encouraged to attend The Edge summer strength and conditioning program overseen by the coaching staff. Athletes in all sports, from incoming freshmen to seniors, can participate.

The Edge runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday beginning June 9 at the SSHS field house and weight room. It will run for seven weeks, as allowed by the UIL.

Last year, the varsity football team had 90 percent of its players attend 90 percent of the sessions. Their season culminated in a District 11-4A championship.

"If they want to invest and get the most out of their summer - if they want to come back bigger and faster and stronger - they need to come and be a part of it," said Owens. "A lot of stuff we do is a mental thing. When the body gets tired, the mind starts to shut down. We train their mind to keep going and fight through that fatigue."

The two-hour session consists of a variety of weight training, conditioning and speed work.

And, this isn't just for football players. Owens hopes that about 40 girls will be in the program as well as athletes from basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer and other sports.

SSHS has just one Edge session per day, so that all the athletes can work out together, helping to build camaraderie and team spirit. While some youngsters will miss some workouts for personal reasons like camps and vacations, Owens said it is beneficial for them to be at as many sessions as possible.

"They need time to be kids, and I understand that. That's why we do it one time, in the morning, in one session," Owens explained. "Everybody's there together, everybody's rah-rahhing together and they get through it. I think kids need to get going, I think they need to get up out of bed in the summer and get going.

"At the same time, if you need to go on vacation, go. If you need to go to camp, go. But, get here as much as you can."

The athletes will see and feel a difference if they make the effort. They will also get the much-needed mental edge it takes to compete against the likes of Texas High, Longview and Marshall.

"They learn to develop a work ethic in this program," Owens said. "I don't know that there's a tougher program anywhere that you go through. It's not abusive, but it's a challenge physically. We take them to the max every day. Their bodies at this age will recover. You see their bodies transform, their endurance increases.

"I think the biggest thing in athletics is mental - thinking you can. We're going to play some Goliaths, too, so I think it helps with our mental edge to know we're prepared for this."

Not only that, but it's free of charge, too.

"The advantages of having it are unbelievable," Owens said. "This is the most important thing, in my opinion, that a kid can do to prepare themselves for next year's high school athletics because they're going to be in that much better shape. It's a good thing."

Being in shape allows coaches to work more on teaching and less on conditioning. Being in shape also leads to fewer injuries.

Athletes in The Edge cannot work on any sport specific activities, so there are no footballs or soccer balls being kicked around. Everything is geared solely for strength, speed and conditioning, which is an advantage in all sports.

Team, tennis, football, volleyball and cross country workouts all start on Aug. 4, so the beginning of a new school year is less than two months away.

"We've got to get ready," Owens said. "It's going to a short summer, but an intense one, I hope, if the kids commit to it like they did last year."

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