Taking a look at what summer is like for OSU student-athletes

Kaitlyn Yanish competing in the all-around at Gill Coliseum in 2018, when OSU defeated Michigan State 196.800-191.350. Yanish likes to see her family and spend time with them over the summer, but strives to also make time for training.

Thomas Salgado De Almeida Leme, Sports Contributor

For many Oregon State students, summer is a time to relax. They go home to see friends and family, maybe go on a couple of vacation trips and rest their minds in preparation for the upcoming school year. 

Students might also take a few summer classes here and there or pick up a summer job or internship. Most don’t have to worry about keeping their body in top physical condition, nor about practicing sports in order to stay at the top of their craft as well as all the other stuff, though. But for student-athletes, that is their reality over the summer. 

“I definitely think that my summers are impacted by being an athlete,” said fifth-year senior gymnast Kaitlyn Yanish over email. “I like to take the time to see my family and spend a lot of time with them, because I don’t get a lot of time during the year but also I make sure to get in the gym, do training and try to stay on track. It’s important to have fun and relax but having a good balance is just as important!”

Yanish, who does vault, balance beam and floor exercises for the Beavers Gymnastics team, is going into her fifth season with the team, so she has had a lot of experience practicing over the summer already. She sees this as something that helps her in comparison to younger players, leading to her taking up a bit of a veteran leadership role even over the summer when all the team members are away. 

“I definitely think that my training style can be a little bit different compared to a lot of the incoming athletes,” Yanish said. “I know exactly what I need to work on and how I need to work on it just because I have a lot more experience compared to the other girls. I also feel like I can help out the team by giving advice and sharing what I do to prepare over the summer. So personally I have a routine for the summer which is nice, and I feel like a lot of the incoming gymnasts don’t have that yet.” 

These individual routines over the summer is something that is more applicable to gymnastics, however, with it being a solo sport. For team sports, such as softball and soccer, student-athletes tend to have to find a way to get together with other players at home to practice and stay in game shape. 

“Over the summer I play soccer on a Women’s Premier Soccer League team with my old club so that I don’t lose the conditioning and my touches on the ball,” said junior forward Brianna McReynolds over email. “It’s a great way to keep your feel for the game, and playing against new opponents is always a fun challenge.”

In addition to these sport-specific practices, athletes also have to stay in shape, often by following training regimens built for them by their athletic trainers. This was consistent through players of every sport. 

Yanish and McReynolds both mentioned their team’s athletic trainers sending the team workout schedules to follow to stay in shape. Additionally, Frankie Hammoude, a junior infielder on the softball team, had workouts sent to her through an app while also taking individual batting practices and practicing other softball specific plays with her younger sister Nicole, who also plays the sport as a member of the conference rival, California Golden Bears.

Hammoude’s busy athletic schedule to stay in top shape both physically and technically doesn’t stop her from trying to enjoy her summer with friends and family back home in Oakland as well, as most college students try to do over break. 

“I love the summertime because I love being able to go outside all the time (since it rains in Oregon all the time) and hang out with my friends and family back home,” said Hammoude over email. “Being an athlete, I do always miss Oregon and being back with the team, so I feel like I itch to go back sometimes.” 

The ability for Hammoude to enjoy her summer may be aided by the fact that softball is a spring sport, and thus summer comes right after her season concludes and over half a year before her next begins. This isn’t to say that Hammoude doesn’t put in a lot of work over the summer as well.

“I think summer is a rest period to an extent,” said Hammoude. “Yes, we wouldn’t train as hard as we would in the fall, winter and spring, but we do not just take the summer off. Our competition is so hard, we don’t have time to just rest all summer because we need to be getting better like everyone else is. It is also a nice period to work on your personal abilities and flaws during the offseason. 

Soccer, meanwhile, is a fall sport, and thus starts just after summer ends, making summer training even more important for soccer players and members of other fall sports such as football and volleyball.

“Summer is really crucial for us and especially as a fall sport, because we really have to jump right into the season,” said McReynolds. “We usually only have a few weeks to prepare, and if you don’t come back after summer in good shape, it is going to be especially difficult for you to keep up. 

Gymnastics, meanwhile, is a winter sport, meaning its season is right in the middle of the academic year which Yanish thinks is the sweet spot.

“I definitely think that winter sports get an advantage [over] all the other sports, because we get the summer and the fall to prepare individually and as a team,” Yanish said. “It’s fun coming back from summer and seeing where everybody’s at and then in the fall we get to prepare as a whole. It’s definitely different but, you know, I’ve gotten used to it, and I think that it works well for our team and it helps us prepare well!”

The summer is also a good time for athletes to recover from any injuries sustained during their seasons. Hammoude is one of those athletes, as she injured her arm over her freshman season and had to recover over that summer.

“I would say my [last] summer was definitely filled with more recovery in addition to my training,” Hammoude said. “I was still doing a lot of batting practice with the uninjured arm and then I was also working back into a full two-armed swing. I’d say I was very adamant about getting my arm rehab done, because I wanted to come back an even better player than I was. I definitely owe our team athletic trainer some credit for getting me back where I need to be.”

It’s safe to say that the recovery worked well, as Hammoude gained All-PAC-12 first team honors this past season after recovering from her injury.

All of this is about the athlete part of the student-athlete title though. The student part is still well in play for many student-athletes who use the break to get a leg ahead academically and help lighten their busy schedules on campus where games and practices take up so much of their time in addition to classes.

“Taking summer classes has most definitely proven beneficial to me, because I like to take some more challenging courses over the summer to lighten the load during soccer season,” McReynolds said.  

Yanish echoed those same sentiments, although as a fifth-year senior, her current summer is much more relaxed academically, as she did the academic heavy lifting in the past already.

“My first two years of school I decided to do a few summer classes just to make it a little bit easier on myself during the season,” Yanish said. “Right now, I’m not taking summer classes, because I’ve completed most of my degree, and for the most part, my classes will just be spread out throughout the season, but I typically like to do a lighter load during the season and then take a heavier amount of classes before and after just to make it a little bit easier on myself.” 

In addition to often taking summer classes to lighten their load for the rest of the year, another way in which student-athletes and non-athlete students can relate to each other is in how they dealt with the summer of 2020. As in, they also didn’t have a clue as to what was going on or what to do while the global COVID-19 pandemic raged on.

“Last summer was a lot different, because we weren’t sure if we were preparing for another season or not, so getting back into shape was a little bit delayed, but I think we all did a great job jumping back to it when we all got back on campus for the first time again,” McReynolds said.

In addition to not knowing if they even were going to have a season or not, student-athletes also had to struggle to find a way to complete their ever-important summer conditioning. 

 “We were pretty much forced to find ways to work out with gyms or equipment unless we owned some ourselves, and we just had to be more adamant about staying healthy,” Hammoude said. “Unfortunately, that meant not hanging out with a lot of my friends and family, but it was worth being healthy all summer.”

Just like everyone else, student-athletes and coaches found a way to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic using Zoom to help their summer preparations.

“Last summer was significantly different than any summer I had experienced,” Yanish said. “It was definitely a lot longer and more challenging. Just finding a place to lift weights or use equipment was nearly impossible for a little bit. Tanya [Chaplin, head coach] and Michael [Johnson, assistant sports performance coordinator] shifted our focus to team building over Zoom, and we were able to take a mindfulness course as a team too. We had to prepare differently than we usually would, but I think considering the circumstances, we bonded well as a team, and I’m super proud of everything we accomplished.”

But now that the pandemic has abated a bit, teams are sure of their participation in their next season, gyms and summer leagues are open and a lot of team-building can be done in person. The hope is that this will leave student-athletes much more prepared for what’s to come.

“Taking advantage of your off time in the summer is crucial, and this year for me, I think it is going to be the most effective, because I am working on all aspects of my game right now, and I know I am going to come back stronger and ready for my best year yet,” McReynolds said.