Champions are made in the summer

CLEMSON — When exams are over at Clemson next week, most students will award themselves a nice three-month break from all the lectures, papers written and test taking from the last nine months.

Some will choose to get summer time jobs, while others will take a trip somewhere over seas or across the country. Others will choose to take summer classes in hopes of speeding up their graduation, while others will do nothing.

However, for those who play football, their choice for summer active really isn't a choice as much as it is necessity. See to even have a chance to compete at the major college level or any level for that matter, the football players must stay at school, not choose to, in hopes of building a championship team.

National Championships may be won in January, but champions are made in the weight room and on the practice fields during the hot summer months.

"This when you find out what kind of team you have," Clemson strength and conditioning director Joey Batson said. "How is your leadership?"

Leadership is everything to a football program, especially one that has been starving for any kind of championship since the 1991 Tigers won the program's last ACC Title. But leadership is never more important than in the summer when players voluntarily come in and workout and then compete in seven-on-seven drills out on the practice fields.

This is strictly there choice. There are no coaches and there is no way they can get punished by their coaches if they choose not to participate.

However, the punishment will come when the game is tied late in fourth quarter this fall and the other team had a few more guys that were willing to put in the extra summer workouts in order to compete for a championship.

"I hate to say that we are at their mercy, but it can be a tough summer if you don't have good leadership," Batson said. "You have guys that are inconsistent. If you have guys that come Monday and Wednesday and then the next week show up four days and the next three days, I cannot discipline then.

"There is nothing I can do. I can encourage them, but I can't call coaches and tell them their guys are missing everything and are not showing up. I have to go by the rules."

Batson hopes those rules will change some today.

"I think if a kid is in summer school and we're paying for his school, I think they need to be held accountable and maybe that will change one day, but it is what it is."

And right now it is all about voluntary participation, which for the most part has been good at Clemson during Batson's time.

"We have been blessed with some good leadership," he said.

Batson understands voluntary workouts are tough on players, who have very little time off from the time summer session one starts in May until preseason camp begins in August.

"When they come back in May, they train for five weeks then get a few days off and then they will train the second summer session, which is another five weeks," he said. "It's not like they get to go on vacation or all of that before camp.

"They are in summer school and it bumps up against the time they report. Even though you say they have five to seven days off before camp, they are still here and are in school, they just are not actively lifting."

From that point, all the way through the season and then into the bowl season, it is work, work and work for the football players.

"If they are lucky, they might get one week off and then they start the winter program and the cycle starts back over again," Batson said. "It's high pace. It goes year around. It is very structured, it is very organized and it is well planned out."

But it is all geared to do one thing — win a championship.

"A lot of times people think we bring these kids in here and kill them every single day, and that isn't how it works," Batson said. "There are certain times that you really press and then there are times when you have to back down.

"You can't be training for the Georgia Tech game on Wednesday like you did in the summer." Top Stories