It is easy to spot Andrew Fields among the other Miami Norland Senior High School marching band players — he is the smallest drummer, playing one of the bigger drums.
Indeed, the 12-year-old Miami Gardens student is still in middle school. After he saw the high school band play in the spring, he volunteered to join.
“They gave me a chance during the summer to play drums,” said Andrew, a seventh-grader. “And I used that chance.”
Along with 75 Miami Norland high and middle school students, Andrew has been showing up for marching band practice throughout the summer — for several weeks in June for band camp and then for two weeks before school began. Throughout the county, students involved in sports and activities have begun practicing at least two weeks before the first day of school on Monday. Cheerleading squads are conducting tryouts, football players are getting up at sunrise for practice and dance groups are rehearsing.
“When school starts we don’t have enough time to devote to this kind of stuff,” said Darryl Baker, band director at Miami Norland. “We can really work on the details right now. Especially team building. They don’t have to worry about classes right now.”
At Miami Beach Senior High School, summer football practice begins at about 7:15 a.m.
“It’s like waking up for school,” said 17-year-old Dimitri Gardner, a receiver and a running back. “I don’t want to do it. But I got to do what I got to do. I want to go to college to play football and that’s the only way to get there — if I come to practice at the time coach wants me to.”
Here is a glimpse of four groups and their summertime training.
‘Stretching all summer’
About 35 girls, clad in shorts and T-shirts, pack a square room lined with lockers. They move, clap and scream in unison. The majority are incoming freshmen to Coral Reef Senior High in South Miami-Dade. They hope to make it in the school’s cheerleading squad. It is a day before tryouts and only eight to 10 spots are open on the squad.
“It’s very competitive because there’s a lot of girls and they are only picking about nine,” said freshman Michelle Rivero, 14, of Kendall. “I want to be in it really bad. I’ve been stretching all summer. Flexibility is a big part of cheering.”
Soon the hopefuls take their practice to a field outside and it is Michelle’s turn to do a stunt. She does an extension, a move where four other girls pick her up in the air and she extends her hands up upward.
“I like stunting a lot,” she said. “The feeling it brings. It makes you stand out. I just like flying when they throw you up.”
A handful of the girls already have made it into the squad and came to summer practice to help the hopefuls.
“I was there so I understand what they are going through,” said 17-year-old Raphaelle Kernisant, a squad captain. “They are scared. So I thought why not be there for them since someone was there for me.”
When the squad is complete after the tryouts, the girls will come back for a three-day intense practice before school begins.
Raphaelle said she does not mind spending her summer at cheerleading practice.
“When I am doing it, I enjoy it. So it is not tough,” said Raphaelle, of South Miami-Dade. “These are my friends, too. And it’s productive. So I look at it as a positive instead of a negative.”