A story out of Tallmadge made several of us in the newsroom smile recently.

Apparently, after viewing the marquee outside of Tallmadge Middle School, which read "School returns August 17," a local citizen felt it was so much of a buzzkill, they took action.

They produced two homemade signs with "Have A Great Summer" written on them and stuck them right over the marquee.

It was a laugh-inducing moment, but also a little profound as well.

I'm officially middle-aged now, because it's been 20 years since "Summer Vacation" was a big deal to me.

That said, I'm not so old to forget how much summer was looked forward to and cherished.

For me as a kid, summer meant baseball, riding my bike everywhere I could, walking in the woods behind my house and many, many hours at the Bedford Municipal Pool.

You know you've spent too much time around pools growing up when smell of chlorine turns from "pungent" to "endearing."

July continues to be my favorite month because, in many ways, it's still the month where recreation is my prime focus.

These days, instead of putting on swimsuit, I find myself putting on fencing armor to have fun.

I don't know of too many better stress relievers than getting in sword fights with my friends. If anyone has considered fencing for recreation, do yourself a favor and go for it.

However, it seems to obstacles to enjoyable summers are multiplying like dandelions these days.

This year, of course, there's the weather.

After an interminably cold and wet winter, followed by an interminably cool and wet spring, we Northeast Ohioans have been hit with … one of the rainiest Junes on record.

Hey Mother Nature, why don't you do us all a favor and take this precipitation party to the West Coast? I've heard they need some rain out there.

It's a bit hard to justify trips to local pools when smaller ones are forming in the back yard.

Also, the constant intrusion of technology seems to be wreaking havoc on summer sports, as it does in all seasons.

Many of my high school coaches have bemoaned the fact their primary competition for athletes these days isn't schoolwork or jobs, but Xbox and PlayStation.

Unfortunately, economic pressures continue to play a major role in youth sports as well.

Every week, I see ads for leagues or travel teams. It seems like $200 is the standard cost these days for a solid travel team.

Whatever happened to paying $30 for a summer full of baseball games at the local recreation department?

If people wonder why the three-sport high school athlete is an endangered species, there's a big reason why. It hard to justify spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on youth sports when many family budgets are struggling to cover basic needs.

Not being able to play organized sports in July for economic reasons is a shame.

Then, however, I get hit by a contradictory thought.

What are kids doing playing organized sports in July?

July is supposed to be the heart of summer. Summer is supposed to be blessedly disorganized and (gasp!) fun.

For high school athletes, July is supposed to be about catching your breath before the grind starts. (Darn you, "conditioning" and seven-on-seven camps!)

Football two-a-days are right around the corner.

Opening day for coaching for all OHSAA sports is Aug. 1.

That gets going and, before you know it, the school bell starts ringing again.

So, if there are any kids reading this, do me favor: Go walk in the woods, hop on your bike, play catch with your dad (or mom) or just go find the nearest Slip-N-Slide -- if it ever stops raining.

Summer is a precious commodity, so go play.

There will be plenty of time for organization in September.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

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