Monday is the beginning of a four-month journey for high school football teams around the state.
While temperatures are not expected to be as soul destroying as they were two weeks ago, no one can deny temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90 degrees is not hot, especially when you are sprinting around a football field in a helmet.
Two-a-days in Texas high school football are for the most part a thing of the past as University Interscholastic League passed more and more stringent rules since the mid 2000s to limit pre-season practices. This followed the trend at all levels of limiting football practices, from pro and college as well, in the names of player safety.
The main concern during this time is protecting players from heat stroke which can be fatal. Gone are the days where coaches held water from their players to “toughen them up.” Science shows this is a dangerous game to play and no player performs better when they are dehydrated.
Coaches and organizations know now athletes almost cannot drink enough water. Every 15 minutes is a required water break by UIL. Some schools have trainers with water bottles at every drill constantly filled with water.
At Saint Jo, they are monitoring how much water each player is drinking throughout practice to make sure they are drinking enough.
“We take a page out of the Louisiana State University manual,” Saint Jo Coach Derek Schlieve said. “They have each player bring a gallon jug of water and mark it off with different lines throughout the day so we can gauge where our athletes are at in the hydration process.”
Other schools hope educating their athletes on the importance of staying hydrated while also always having it on hand will let players take care of it themselves.
Still, every year there are reports around the country of players dying due to heat stroke. Players not conditioning themselves physically and getting used to working in the heat are more susceptible. Also, getting plenty of hydration in the days leading up to the first day and not just on the day is important.
A lot of teams do their best to avoid the summer heat as much as possible by scheduling their practices earlier or later in the day.
“I like to get the guys used to practicing early and with athletics being the first period of the day, it just works out for us,” Forestburg Coach Kyler Roach said.
“As much as we can, we are going to try to practice early,” Bowie Coach Dylan Stark said. “We have a trainer and we make sure we always have plenty of water available.”
Along with changes over the years, amount of days players practice in full pads has cut down to help players bodies stand up to the months of hitting. Teams this year cannot have their first full contact practice until after Friday, making Bowie move its Midnight Madness practice from Thursday to Friday.
This has been the trend at all levels to try to help cull injuries as much as possible. Opponents of this trend have argued this has led to what is perceived to be a decrease in tackling fundamentals due to less full contact practices, but coaches know they have no choice but to adjust their practicing habits as new rules are put into place.
“I think the good coaches take it in stride and they can adjust,” Schlieve said. “There is a lot of things you can do without hitting. It forces a coach to focus on things like the fundamentals instead of just lining up and scrimmaging. It can be a challenge, but we like to look at it as glass half full and gives us an opportunity to work on other things with our athletes.”
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the weekend edition of the Bowie News.