No such thing as ‘lazy days of summer’

Thursday, July 13, 2006


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Bryan Haynes⁄the gazette
DeMatha rising junior Kenny Tate has had a busy summer, splitting his time between preparing for the upcoming football season (left) and playing for the Hyattsville school’s summer league basketball team (right). Tate shares the details of a week of his summer schedule with The Gazette.






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DeMatha High School junior Kenny Tate did not log many minutes in the Stags’ Rock Summer League basketball game against St. John’s (D.C.) July 3.

Stags coach Mike Jones sent in Tate for a couple of short shifts, often pulling Tate to the side and talking to him face to face when Tate would return to the bench.

Tate has much on his mind nowadays. Before he takes to the court to help DeMatha try to win a third straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title next winter, he’ll suit up for the Stags’ football team this fall, aiming for a third consecutive conference title as well.

Being a two-sport athlete in a time when training for virtually every sports season goes year-round is difficult.

But those around him stand confident that Tate is built for the grind.

‘‘Kenny is a good kid and phenomenal athlete,” DeMatha football coach Bill McGregor said. ‘‘He understands the rigors of being a two-sport athlete at DeMatha. He is a very bright kid and actually does all of the sports because he has fun doing them.”

For anyone who thinks that summer vacation for athletes involves neighborhood pickup games and spending time ‘‘just chilling” should think again.

Tate’s days begin early and end late and he often spends more time dealing with school sports and academics than many adults spend at their jobs.

Here’s a day-by-day look at a week in the life of a two-sport athlete:

Friday, June 30

Tate’s typical wakeup time is 9:30 a.m. After checking out what’s on TV over breakfast, he’s off to school. Tate is a summer student at DeMatha and is in class weekdays from noon to 1:45 p.m. Tate’s grandfather picks him up from DeMatha about 2 p.m. Tate did not have any summer basketball league games or 7 on 7 games in DeMatha’s summer football league. So Tate returned home, got in some calisthenics to further chisel an ideal 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. Tate went to catch some of the girls’ basketball playoff action at the Elite Summer League at McNamara High before spending the rest of the night hanging out with a few of his basketball teammates and turning in around midnight.

Saturday, July 1

A rare day with nothing to do finds Tate catching up on a few Saturday morning cartoons before spending the day with his family.

Sunday, July 2

A busy day for Tate as his day started with breakfast at around 9 a.m. In the afternoon, Tate joined his basketball teammates for a game against WCAC rival Gonzaga (D.C.) at the Pro City Summer League at Georgetown University in the District. After the game, Tate hung around to catch a few more Pro City League contests before leaving around 7 p.m. to return home to have dinner and wind down. Winding down for Tate involves catching some new DVDs and chatting with friends on the Internet before going to sleep after midnight.

Monday, July 3

After attending classes in the early afternoon, Tate found time to take a nap before arriving at High Point High in Beltsville for DeMatha’s Rock Summer League contest at 6:15 p.m. After the game, Tate hung out with a few of his football teammates, grabbing dinner at a restaurant before turning in shortly before midnight.

Tuesday, July 4

Independence Day gave Tate a chance to hang out with his good friend and DeMatha basketball teammate Chris Wright at a cookout at Wright’s house in Bowie all day before catching the Bowie fireworks display at Allen Pond Park.

Wednesday, July 5

Tate got a pleasant surprise, as classes at DeMatha were cancelled after intense thunder storms knocked out power in Hyattsville. Tate spent the time in the morning studying, getting in a light home workout and lounging. He and his football teammates were due to close out their 7 on 7 season against Northwestern that evening, but when Tate arrived at the field, storms cancelled the contest. He returned home to do some further studying and relaxing.

Thursday, July 6

Class was back on at DeMatha and took up Tate’s early afternoon. Tate and his grandfather return home after class, where he catches some lunch and a nap. The cancelled 7 on 7 game from the day before was played at 5 p.m. at Riverdale Park. After the game, Tate returns home to settle down and catch up on some more of his movies and Internet chatting.

Friday, July 7

It’s another day off for football and basketball activities, so after class Tate goes over to teammate Corey Smith’s house to hang out for the day. Later on, a few of the Stags’ football players and parents went to a birthday party for DeMatha rising senior quarterback Chester Stewart’s sister before turning in later that night.

Balance

With all that’s going on for Tate in the summer — even without a full schedule of classes and long afternoons of practice that punctuate the regular school year — one would think that the chances for burnout loom.

DeMatha’s doors to the weight room open weekdays at 6 p.m. If Tate has no basketball games, he’s there at least three times a week.

But Tate’s mother, Michelle Fields, an employee for the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, said her son is on the right track with his progress in life.

‘‘Sometimes I am concerned that he will burn out,” Fields said. ‘‘But the thing about Kenny is that he has been playing sports since he started out with basketball at the age of 6. A little later, he began football and has been playing multiple sports at the Boys and Girls Club level since then, so he’s used to it. He also has fun doing it, so it’s not like a chore or a nuisance.”

Tate turned 16 in May and still has much maturing to do. But he is a natural athlete and appears capable of handling the grind. Tate admits that things are not always easy.

‘‘Sometimes I get tired after I play a game or something,” Tate said. ‘‘But when I have the chance to rest, I’m fine for the next day. I just like the fun and competitiveness with sports.”

Tate said he thinks being a two-sport athlete is good because he has less idle time to go astray.

Tate will take the SAT for the first time this coming school year and will start seeing his mailbox flood with scholarship offers, as he is an all-conference tight end in football. Tate plans to only play football at college and has received questionnaires from Virginia Tech, Connecticut and Kansas State.

Tate’s father, Kenneth Fields, said Tate will be able to continue to thrive as an athlete for years to come.

‘‘I just want him to go to college,” said Fields, a two-sport standout at Fairmont Heights in the early 1980s. ‘‘I have no fears of him burning out. For one, he’s a tough kid and he lives to compete. He’s been doing it since he was six. He understands the games he plays.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.