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Prose and Kohn

Lakewood Ranch, East County coaches regroup and recover during the summer break

Sometimes relaxation is the best play when it comes to planning for the next season.

ODA Coach Rob Hollway pats Michael Luedeke on the head. Hollway led the Thunder to a 9-1 record in 2022.
ODA Coach Rob Hollway pats Michael Luedeke on the head. Hollway led the Thunder to a 9-1 record in 2022.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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Sometimes, work means rest.

High school coaches know that producing successful programs often means putting in the work when no one is watching, such as during the summer break.

Even though no formal practices can begin until July 31, the coaches find ways to improve their programs, their players and themselves. Sometimes that means attending clinics or camps, or spending countless hours preparing for the next season.

However, the work can reach the point of diminishing returns, a fact not lost on Out-of-Door Academy Head Football Coach Rob Hollway, who said he will put his coaching hat on the shelf for the next couple of months to recharge his coaching batteries.

Hollway, who led the Thunder to an undefeated regular season in his first year with the program, is showing his face around voluntary player workouts, he said, but he's not leading them.

That's the job of ODA strength and conditioning coach Chris Cecere, who previously worked as a performance coach with the MLB's Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Hollway said Cecere will put ODA athletes through traditional workouts, but also things like testing their verticals or improving their shuttle drill times in preparation for college camps.

It's a lot easier to relax when you have good help.

"Our kids take football seriously," Hollway said. "They want to get ready for these summer camps, so at this point in the year, we're helping them get to their goal numbers and supporting them however we can."

If Hollway takes a short break in the summer, it is because he goes full speed the rest of the year. 

Not one to pass up an opportunity to improve himself, Hollway and his staff took a trip to Orlando in February to attend the 2023 Nike Coach of the Year Clinics, which featured University of Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart as a featured speaker.

Hollway said Smart spoke about the importance of knowing not just your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, but how your opponent plans to exploit your own team's weaknesses.

"(Smart said) during the offseason, he researches what teams were trying to do to beat them," Hollway said. "That is how they create their practice schedules. They focus on measuring what actually matters." 

Hollway said he's been using that advice when thinking about what ODA's practices may look like once the 2023 season begins. But since the team cannot hold a real practice until July 31, more planning can wait.

The team is too spread out anyway, Hollway said, with some players taking visits to various colleges and camps, and other players going on trips with club teams in different sports.

ODA football Head Coach Rob Hollway said he attended the 2023 Nike Coach of the Year Clinics in Orlando in February and learned from Kirby Smart.
File photo

After a bit of rest, Hollway said he's excited to get the team back together so he can see the full scope of the talent he has, including transfer quarterback Jackson Roth, a 6-foot-1 rising junior coming to the Thunder from Iroquois Ridge High in Ontario, Canada. 

Away from his football coaches duties, Hollway still has plenty on his plate. He serves as the school's assistant athletic director and said ODA has been busy installing a new floor in its gym, among other projects.

Away from school, he's enjoying his free evenings with his Liz Hollway, and twin boys Bo and Lou Hollway, who will start attending ODA this fall. In the summer, his family is his top priority. He tries not to bring his work home at this time of year.

That doesn't mean he doesn't continue to nudge his sons, who are going into pre-K, toward football. 

"They'll be 2037 state champs here," Hollway said.

Coaches in all sports can have a hard time putting their coaching hat on the shelf during the summer. Providing colleges all the recruiting information they need on the school's top athletes can be time consuming. All the camps and clinics can make for a non-stop schedule. 

Lakewood Ranch boys soccer Head Coach Vito Bavaro said he encourages his players to take the month of July off to do other things.
File photo

Lakewood Ranch High boys soccer Head Coach Vito Bavaro is, like Hollway, taking it easy in June and July, though not as easy as he would like. A planned summer vacation to Italy was put on hold because Bavaro is recovering from a toe injury. Even so, he said he is taking a break from anything soccer-related.

He also encourages his athletes, most of whom finished their club soccer seasons in June, to do the same in July. He wants his players to have memories other than just non-stop training.

Bavaro said his best memories of soccer all are from when he was a high schooler himself, traveling to Canada for travel tournaments or piling 20 of his friends in a pickup truck and driving around town. "This was before seatbelt laws," Bavaro said with a laugh.

"It's important for these kids to be kids," Bavaro said. "Soccer can be a 12-month sport here. It's important to take time off. Go out on a boat, go play golf, go hang with your friends. Do normal kid stuff. Have fun. We ask so much of these kids now and they burn out, and burnout is terrible."

Last year, his players held optional conditioning workouts once a week during the break. While the workouts were popular, Bavaro said those summer workouts led to his team being tired at the end of the 2022-2023 season, part of the reason he's adamant on his players taking a break this summer.

That advice goes for coaches as well.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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