High school football teams are about halfway through new mandatory conditioning periods to get their players accustomed to the summer heat.
Teams can start practicing in full pads starting Wednesday – if their players have been through a required five-day acclimation period where they’re only practicing in shorts. The new heat rules come after two Georgia players died last August.
The Georgia High School Association’s new rules also prohibit two-a-day practices on consecutive days and end three-a-day practices.
Valdosta High School football coach and athletic director Rance Gillespie said he has traditionally done a week-long camp of morning, afternoon and evening practices to get his players ready.
“Teams are not going to have the same number of reps and teams will be a little less prepared,” Gillespie said. “So I think the older football teams that maybe don’t need those reps as much are going to have a huge advantage, especially early in the season.”
Gillespie says it is important for kids to get used to the heat. And he said his players run track and workout in the spring and summer, so they’re out in the heat year round.
He also stressed the importance of proper nutrition, a sentiment echoed by other coaches.
Clarke Central High School head coach Leroy Ryals said the key to dealing with the heat is nutrition – teaching players and their parents the importance of starting with a good breakfast and staying hydrated long before practice.
“You can’t wait to come to practice and start sucking down water and think you’re hydrated,” Ryals said. “Our kids should’ve been hydrating all weekend long. Hopefully they’re hydrating right now at home. Because that is just as important as keeping them cool.”
Ryals said the rules have changed his schedule but haven’t cut back much on his practice time.