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Hot weather cooling practices
Bradwell Tigers take a water break during practice Wednesday evening. The team is practicing late in the day and will only wear full gear when the weather permits. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon


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Practice in full uniforms began for Liberty and Bradwell on Monday and an issue more troubling than the condition of their players was the heat. With temperatures and heat indexes hitting record highs all week, the coaches had to change standard practice procedures.
“We practiced in the gym for most of the week,” Liberty County High School head coach Kirk Warner said. “We plan on trying to get them outside as soon as possible but if the heat is the same we will practice in helmets and shorts and a little later in the day. We hope the weather will allow us to get the players practicing in full gear by next week so we can get them ready.
“But we have to be safe”
Adjusting the location or time of the practice was necessary because of the heat index being anywhere from 110-120.
“First thing we did was we dropped our practices back about two-and-a-half hours,” Bradwell’s athletic director and head coach Jim Walsh said. “We normally would start our practice around 3:40 p.m. and right now we are starting around 5:30 p.m.”
Walsh said the county has a heat policy in place and schools all follow the guidelines of the county and the Georgia High School Association. He said Bradwell also took steps in educating the kids about the hazard of heat related injuries by showing a video produced by Gatorade. Walsh also got permission from the administration to allow student athletes competing in outside sports to carry water bottles with them and hydrate throughout the day.
Bradwell’s football team was out on Olvey field Wednesday evening but, because of the high heat, the team practiced without helmets and pads.
“When they are out here on the practice field we make sure they get plenty of fluid breaks and we have ice towels,” Walsh said. “They have to take things slowly. Whatever we can get done without shoulder pads, we will do. Weather permitting, the pads will come on when we do drills that need a certain amount of contact,” he said.
The coach said taking it slow will allow the athletes to get acclimated to the weather but also said most of the kids are used to playing in the heat.
“If you live in South Georgia, you are going to start playing football in the heat,” he said. “Luckily for most of these kids they are used to it.”
Liberty and Bradwell are about three weeks from their first games. Both play away games for their openers. And the coaches say getting accustomed to the weather is only one factors they are working toward.
“When they play an actual game, everything is at a quicker pace and in full gear,” Walsh said. “We need to make sure they are prepared for that if we face another safety issue. We always think of the kids’ best interest but in the same token we have to prepare these kids for the full contact, full equipment game. You take the precautions that you can to ensure their safety,” he said.
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