With the 7-on-7 football tournament at Waterville’s Drummond Field complete on July 29, Lawrence High School head coach John Hersom spoke briefly to his team. His message was simple. Good job, and see you in two weeks.

July 30 was the first day of the Maine Principals’ Association’s mandated two week hands-off period. It ends August 13, the first day fall sports teams may practice for the upcoming season (schools in northern Maine which take a break for the fall harvest were allowed to begin practices July 23).

During these two weeks, high school coaches are forbidden from having contact with their teams. The policy is spelled out in the bulletin for each sport.

“To provide a window of personal time like the time available prior to the winter and spring sports seasons, summer recess is defined as the time between the last day of the spring sport season to July 30 or fourteen (14) days prior to the beginning of the fall sport season. This does not exclude individual students from attending camps during this two-week period of personal time if all other Sport Season Policy requirements are met. Individuals choosing to attend camps during this two-week period may use school protective gear or track and field implements,” reads the policy as written in the Maine Principals’ Association soccer bulletin. “The only contact a coach may have with athletes during this time is to continue the supervision of an off-season conditioning program that they had been involved with prior to the start of the hands-off period. Sport-specific drills used in any off-season conditioning program are not appropriate.”

If that’s not clear enough, the one sentence next paragraph boils the rule down to its basic elements.

“Please note — Coaches (sic) may not organize, or be involved with, team activities during the hands-off period,” it reads.

With the growth of organized summer teams in many sports, coaches and training staff say the hands-off period is necessary to keep high school athletes from spreading themselves too thin.

“I think people get carried away. I think it’s a good idea to give kids a break,” Troy Kendrick, who is entering his 30th season as girls soccer coach at Richmond High School, said. “Obviously you want kids to hone their skills. Having my parent’s hat on, it can be too busy at times.”

High school athletes often have to juggle work and family commitments with time spent competing with summer teams. Many athletes take compete with two or more summer teams.

“The basketball coach has them playing. I have them playing,” Kendrick said.

Added Hersom: “We try to be careful with how much we do over the summer, because we don’t want to wear these kids down. They’re doing a lot. They’re doing a lot away from school, too, with their work and helping at home. Their plates are pretty full. We do have some multisport kids that will leave the basketball gym and then come right into our weight room.”

Chris Sementelli, program director for MaineGeneral Sports Medicine, said a commonly overlooked component of training is rest and recovery. In that regard, the two week hand-off period is essential for high school athletes, Sementelli said.

“The hands-off period is an excellent time for athletes to allow their bodies to recover from the summer programs as many of the athletes participate in multiple summer programs and have not had much of a break,” Sementelli said in an email. “We encourage this time to have athletes step away from the intense training and conditioning aspect and focus more on maintaining their level of conditioning and recover from the high intensity levels of participation. This would be the time for rehab, light cardio, stretching/flexibility, light weight training, specific skill development, and cognitive rest.”

Football coaches are in a unique position, in that their summer program does not include playing the game. Teams get together for weight training sessions, and 7-on-7 games allow quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs the opportunity to do some things in a competitive atmosphere. But it’s different than field hockey, soccer, basketball and other sports that play actual games. Still, the summer time is valuable, Hersom said.

“We’re not getting much contact, but it is good to work on the skills that pertain to both offense and defense. We feel it’s pretty valuable to get guys together and work on those aspects of our game. We do the physical part in the weight room. We do the physical part in our conditioning. The only thing we’re missing as far as game-wise goes is the contact,” Hersom said.

During the hands-off period, Lawrence seniors will organize football team workouts.

“The seniors have been in touch with a lot of their teammates, and we’ve got that coordinated where they’ll kind of take things over. Nothing like it’s full preseason mode, but they’re kind of continuing what we established over the summer,” Hersom said.

Kendrick said he remembered when the hand-off period wasn’t necessary, when fewer teams had organized summer participation. When he was a high school soccer player, Kendrick and his teammates might get together a few times over the summer and just kick the ball around. As a coach and a parent, Kendrick said he wouldn’t mind seeing the hand-off period extended to three weeks.

“If it’s put in place by the MPA, it’s a level playing field,” Kendrick said of increasing the hands-off period. “It doesn’t matter if you like it. You have to do it.”

Sementelli said it’s important for athletes to rest, but also stay moderately active.

“We do encourage athletes to try to maintain a certain level of conditioning during these two weeks so that their bodies stay accommodated to the summer weather and help reduce the accommodation/acclimatization period with pre-season,” Sementelli said.

Kendrick had his summer soccer team over for a pool party when the season ended in late July.

“I had some positive words for them. We talked about conditioning. That’s on them,” Kendrick said. “I’d like them to show up to preseason in some shape, but enjoy the rest of the summer.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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