Beginning summer 2018 Bethany Christian Schools will be doubling the amount of time athletes have free from organized athletic activities, adding one week to the week already mandated by the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) for all member schools. Bethany’s moratorium week will be June 24-July 1, followed by the IHSAA moratorium week July 2-July 8.
Bethany athletic director Gary Chupp states that several factors led to the decision including Bethany’s emphasis on helping athletes lead balanced lives that include time not only for sport but also for academics, church, and family.
In recent years as the school calendar has incorporated longer breaks throughout the school year and a shorter break during the summer, athletes are finding less time available in the summer to participate in family vacations and youth group trips while still participating in team events. Chupp hopes that adding this extra week free of athletics will make it easier for athletes and their families to make this happen. He says, “All of us need a break from our work, including our coaches and athletes.”
Chupp also feels this will actually help from a competitive standpoint. He says, “We do athletes a disservice when requiring so many structured events at the expense of allowing time for individual work. We send a wrong message that to get better we need to provide more structure, more games with coaches and referees. Sometimes less is more.”
When Chupp first floated this idea during a parent meeting last fall, he received overwhelming positive feedback. He received more than a dozen emails affirming this direction. Parent Conrad Brenneman says, “Great idea. I think something like this sends a message of how Bethany supports other values (such as family) and tries to work that in along with balancing athletics and everything else.”
Chupp points out that the decision is also rooted in Bethany’s counter-cultural athletic philosophy of encouraging athletes to play multiple sports rather than follow the national trend of specialization that produces one-sport athletes devoted to a program 24-7-365. High school coaches have been allowed nearly year-round access to their athletes that in the summer can include contact six days per week plus weekend tournaments.
Bethany tries to balance providing a less demanding summer schedule than what is allowed while still offering some opportunities for athletes to work out and remain competitive with schools whose coaches demand specialization and year-round dedication to their sport. Typically Bethany teams offer two 2-hour weekly open gym/field or conditioning sessions over 4-6 weeks, one week-long team camp (2 hours daily), and a couple of tournaments for competition. However, Chupp sees a need for even more time off, especially for multi-sport athletes.
Since Bethany encourages athletes to participate in multiple sports and not specialize, that also means individual athletes may have several coaches/teams desiring their time during the summer. Chupp does not want to put unrealistic demands on athletes in offseason, so voluntarily moving to a two-week moratorium helps athletes and parents feel less pressure to choose between their commitment to athletic teams and family or church. Parent Chris Frey concurs and praises Chupp’s decision, “We feel very strongly that our kids have a break from school over the summer and can enjoy other good things that are available too. Thanks for being bold and leading.”
Chupp feels fortunate that his coaches are all behind him--not only on the extra moratorium week, but on working together to share athletes. Krysten Parson, a multi-sport coach says, “Proud to be a part of this community and their commitment to care for our students in a holistic way.”
Boys soccer coach Hank Willems was skeptical at first, but now is one of Chupp’s more vocal supporters. Despite a track record of post-season success, including a sectional championship this year, Willems’ initial reaction was how could he sustain a competitive program if giving up time to work with his team when other schools’ teams are practicing more?
But as a coach of more than 25 years he also continues to see many talented athletes stop playing due to burnout or injury and believes that taking extra time off to heal physically and mentally will help alleviate some of those issues. Willems says, “I may have less time with my players during the summer, but I feel the time that we do have will be of higher quality and allow us to achieve more in the end. And they should be rested physically and mentally to start the season. which will allow us to get better during the season and hopefully playing our best ball at the end. Now as my son enters 9th grade as a three-sport athlete, I also see the need for that time away as a parent.”
Willems is also one who encourages his players to play other sports for the same reasons--to avoid burnout and injury and become more well-rounded players. “The skills an athlete develops playing basketball or other sports will help on the soccer field.”
Former Bruin soccer standout Femi Hollinger-Janzen (‘12), now playing soccer professionally for the New England Revolution, agrees with his former coach. While at Bethany he recalls Willems pushing him to play basketball. He also played baseball his senior year. During a school assembly earlier this year, he encouraged students to do the same as he now realizes even more the wisdom in Willems’ advice. Looking back he recognizes that playing other sports helped him develop skills he could use on the soccer field and helped make him into a more well-rounded person, not someone totally consumed by his passion for soccer.