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Sweat Equity

Dripping with improvement

UNC Photo by Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

It is hot, y’all.

I know this isn’t groundbreaking—it’s mid-July in the South. If you never lived here for the summer, or you’ve been somewhere else long enough to forget, imagine walking through a very thin soup. This heat, beaming down from on high and bouncing off of the pavement, is a fact of life in the southern part of heaven. It’s an oppressive heat, made heavy by the humidity, that pushes down on your head and shoulders until you give up and go inside. The soaring temperatures are a curse for folks who have to work in it, but a blessing for strangers without anything but the weather to talk about.

A few months ago, my apartment complex installed a basketball goal in a spot where there used to be a tennis court. It’s a lovely little half court area, framed by trees to allow for better sight lines to the basket, and mere steps from my front door. It’s a dream come true, and when it opened in late April I found spots in my schedule to get shots up a few times a week, relishing the chance to get out of the house and move around.

When I got a puppy, however, things changed. Suddenly the few hours I had set aside to get out and enjoy the process of reminding myself how to play basketball were eaten up (in some cases literally) by the four-legged roommate that needed constant attention. I wouldn’t change a thing, of course, but I say all that to say this:

Good Lord, it is hot out there, y’all.

After about a month of fetch, bathroom breaks, and accident cleanup, I found myself yesterday with a few precious hours to dispense of on my own. Almost as soon as I realized that the time was mine, I was at the free throw line. Even sooner than that, though, I was drenched. Somehow, over the preceding month, it had switched from a pleasant, bearable heat to the kind of nearly-tangible heat that sends folks flocking to neighborhood pools. A few shots in, I was wondering how I ever made it through summer practices in high school; two-a-days under the August sun, broken up by afternoons spent playing pickup ball on asphalt that may as well have been the flat-top grill in the kitchen that used to be Breadmen’s.

My coaches always used to tell me that the sweat was good, that the salt blinding me when it dripped into my eyes was hard work, and all would be rewarded when the season came. I would regularly come home five pounds lighter than when I woke up, the water weight dripping into the grass, or the court. The summer, I was often told, is when the real work happens. If you waited to start working until the season started, brother, you’d be a whole season behind. That sweat that drips into the eyes and stings like seven hells is how you know you’re improving, and that’s good to the last drop.

Tar Heels of all disciplines are using these hot months to prepare their bodies and minds for their upcoming seasons. I can only imagine that Coach Brian Hess, the Head of Strength and Conditioning for the Tar Heel football team, relishes these hot months. There’s a chance buried somewhere beneath this humidity to see exactly what a team is made of, and how much a player is willing to go through to prepare for the upcoming season. There’s a reason that work put into a property is called sweat equity; it’s often a labor of love to get a house (or a football team) right where you want it.

The sweat that is expended now will pay off in the future; that’s the light at the end of a hot, close tunnel for Carolina athletes, and it’s what I told myself as I practiced my geriatric step-back jumper over and over in a heat that had somehow snuck up on me. Across sports, Tar Heels will benefit from having this summer to work together after the weirdness of last summer. It’s a great opportunity to get better (as my coaches would say).

But y’all, for real, it is hot out there.