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May 04, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

It’s time for families to start finalizing their summer vacation plans. And those with high school football players had better ask one specific question of their coach: “When does my son get time off?”

In the Southern Section, every school must declare when it will take a mandatory summer dead period of 21 consecutive days, in which there’s no practicing or coaching and the only allowable contact is opening the weight room for voluntary workouts.

The dead period has somehow survived for decades despite some dinosaur coaches’ thinking teenagers should never get a break. And, in fact, coaches expect their players to stay in shape during their three weeks off.

Many players won’t be taking vacations. They are using the time to attend camps or finish summer school.

What makes this summer different is that the football season has been moved up a week to make way for state regional playoff games, so coaches have been debating when to take their summer break. Some are taking it starting June 1. Others are sticking with the traditional start of the second or third week in July.

Coach Dave White of Huntington Beach Edison is one of the few coaches who doesn’t fear sending off his players for a real summer vacation. He gives them four weeks off beginning July 16.

“That’s how important I think it is,” White said. “We’re dead after our passing tournament. Our kids are playing basketball and soccer. They need to be rejuvenated. I’m 56, and I need to be rejuvenated.”

Thank goodness Edison players have a coach who sees the benefit of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Not that White is expecting his players to sit on the couch all day. They know they could lose their starting spot if they come back looking like a lineman.

“I tell the kids, ‘Go body surf, have some fun, ride a bike, play basketball,’” he said.

Standout linebacker JJ Muno of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame has a small problem. His father, Larry, is the coach at Playa del Rey St. Bernard. He also has a sister who plays soccer and volleyball. Everyone’s dead period is different. That means there can be no exotic family vacations for the Munos.

But Muno intends to go hunting for pigs with his father at a Santa Barbara ranch when he begins his 21 days off in July. He’ll bring along his .308 Savage rifle. And when he’s home in Hermosa Beach, he’ll go running on the beach or hang out with friends.

“That’s my vacation,” Muno said. “No Hawaii, no Cabo. No time for that. You just want to be completely healthy when you come back.”

Chad Kanoff, the quarterback at Studio City Harvard-Westlake, won’t be taking a vacation, because he has camps to attend. But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try to relax.

“The dream would be wake up at noon, go surfing, play beach volleyball and do it for a week,” he said.

The City Section has no mandatory dead period, but Harbor City Narbonne Coach Manuel Douglas gives his players two weeks off when school lets out in mid-June.

“Their bodies need to recover,” he said. “We need a break mentally and physically.

“They can’t even find me.”

West Hills Chaminade Coach Ed Croson will put up the sign, “Gone fishin’” beginning the last week of June.

“I think it’s great,” he said of his players’ taking a break. “Send me pictures.”

Not that he wants them to completely forget about football.

“Find a tree so you can do pull-ups,” he said.

Croson plans to go fishing for bass at a lake.

“I bring my computer with me,” he said.

Sports psychologist Andrew Yellen said it’s important for athletes to take a break.

“You don’t want kids burning out,” he said. “Downtime doesn’t mean nothing time. Take your foot off the accelerator and enjoy. You lose the level of intensity if you keep pushing and pushing.”

So good luck to everyone on their 21-day dead period this summer. Turn off the phone, pull out the plug on the alarm clock and heal up those aching muscles, because it could be a long football season ahead, especially for the players who end up playing a 16-game schedule.

You’ll thank me in December for my words of wisdom.

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