Local football and softball players will return to the practice field for the first time this week in preparation for the 2007 season. As always, the heat will be there to greet them.
"It's something you've always got to consider," Greenbrier athletics director and football coach Scott Chadwick said. "I'll have a heat index monitor, and we'll just keep checking it."
The Georgia High School Association permits noncontact practices beginning Wednesday for local football teams. However, the Columbia County school system implemented a rule last year that won't allow any practices if the heat index reaches higher than 100 degrees.
That policy change burned many football and softball practicing plans last year.
"Sometimes we had to wait till 7 (p.m.) or 7:30 before we could start. We even had to cancel one day," Harlem athletics director and football coach Jimmie Lewis said. "I imagine it'll be the same deal this year."
Lewis and Lakeside first-year coach Jody Grooms avoided the heat problem on their first day of full contact practice next week by scheduling Midnight Madness. The rest of the month will be spent dealing with the August sun.
"What we talk about is getting the kids plenty of breaks," Grooms said. "We want to get them water every 15 minutes. It does break the momentum or the flow of practice a little, but it's better to err on the side of caution."
Most coaches said they'll try to avoid the heat this year by scheduling morning practices. That's a luxury the coaches didn't have last season when an early start to the school year kept teams from practicing in the morning. This season local teams will have a full week of full-contact practice before school starts on Aug. 13.
"That does help," Chadwick said. "The biggest thing with school starting later is you have more flexibility with scheduling practice."
Greenbrier also started a new strategy to further combat the heat. During the hot summer months, every football player who participated in summer workouts was required to bring a milk jug filled with water. The idea was to make each player drink a gallon of water a day.
"That's something (strength) coach Kevin Hunt came up with," Chadwick said. "He checks to make sure they've got it when they check in."
A later start to the school year isn't the only help coaches will get this week. Weather forecasters on Thursday were expecting a mild week with high temperatures in the high 80s.
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