Local high-school football teams spent last week running drills and working outside to get acclimated to the heat following the new guidelines implemented by the Georgia High School Association.
According to the GHSA, Georgia had the most heat-related deaths among high-school and college football players between 1994 and 2009.
The GHSA’s new policy, which was adopted in March, requires football players to work out in shorts and helmets for a full week before suiting up in pads. It also requires that schools use an instrument to measure wet bulb globe temperature to determine the heat and humidity index and revise practice schedules accordingly.
The coaching staffs at Liberty County High School, First Presbyterian Christian Academy and Bradwell Institute monitored their acclimation-period workouts and conducted them in early mornings, managing to squeeze in some workouts and drills in the two-hour time frames mandated by the GHSA. Gone are the three-a-day workouts; the GHSA also implemented conditions on the two-a day practices that some schools started Wednesday during their first day in full pads, gear and helmets.
Two-a-day practices must follow the GHSA stipulations that: (a) a student must have participated in five conditioning practices wearing no other protective football equipment except helmets and mouthpieces before being allowed to
practice in full pads; (b) if two workouts are held in a single calendar day, no single session may last longer than three hours, the total amount of time in the two practices shall not exceed five hours, and there must be at least a three-hour time of rest between sessions. Also, there may not be consecutive days of two-a-day practice sessions. All double-session days must be followed by a single-session day or a day off.
Before practice begins, the WBGT reading must be taken. Depending on the reading, practice times and water breaks may be altered or terminated as necessary.
During the past few years, football practice typically started right after school, but as recent as last year, the constant heat and humidity forced coaching staffs to move practice time closer to 7 p.m. or after.
Tiger defensive coordinator Jeff Miller said they have their players’ safety in mind and started building depth at each position in order to minimize players having to play on both sides of the ball.
“We are looking at trying not to play kids both ways … We know some kids are going to have to be on both sides of the ball but … due to the new rules and the practice times and to get the most out of our kids, we are trying not to do too many crossovers,” he said. “Due to the time restrictions they put on us now and all of this, we are trying to keep it where you have your starting 11 on offense, your starting 11 on defense.”
The Tigers just finished their two-a-day camp (read Sunday’s Courier for more details) and didn’t start practice until 8 p.m. Tuesday due to the heat and some lightning near their practice field. FPCA also started full gear practice on Tuesday, gearing up after 7p.m.
According to the GHSA, rest time should involve both unlimited hydration intake (water or electrolyte drinks) and rest without any activity involved. Helmets should be removed during rest time, and the site of the rest time should not be in direct sunlight.
Schools violating the heat policy could face fines that range from $500 to $1,000.
WBGT readings and guidelines
Lower than 82.0
Normal activities — Provide at least three separate rest breaks each hour of minimum duration of three minutes each during workout
Use discretion for intense or prolonged exercise; watch at-risk players carefully; provide at least three separate rest breaks each hour of a minimum of four minutes each in duration.
87.0 – 89.9
Maximum practice time is two hours. For football: players restricted to helmets, shoulder pads and shorts during practice. All protective equipment must be removed for conditioning activities. For all sports: Provide at least four separate rest breaks each hour of a minimum of four minutes each
Maximum length of practice is one hour, no protective equipment may be worn during practice and there may be no conditioning activities. There must be 20 minutes of rest breaks provided during the hour of practice.
Higher than 92
No outdoor workouts; cancel exercise; delay practices until a cooler WBGT reading occurs