It’s a known fact that summer heat, especially in Georgia, can lead to exhaustion, fatigue and/or dehydration— even more so for teenage football players practicing outside in high temperatures.
To combat any issues that may be caused by heat, Newton County coaches and athletic trainers take precaution when dealing with their student-athletes.
“Hydration is always the No. 1 concern,” Terrance Banks, Newton head football coach, said. “We like to [practice] in the mornings to try to beat the heat, and we go from 8:00 to 11:30 to try to do all [we can] to beat the heat. Of course every school has an athletic trainer and we have student trainers who assist in our hydration.”
“In the summer time we go outside for no more than an hour and a half doing drills. We’ll lift weights and run in the morning and things of that nature to try to beat the heat, but definitely we make sure our kids get several water breaks during the summer time,” Banks said.
Alcovy head football coach Kirk Hoffman has his own ways of beating the heat. Instead of early morning practices, Hoffman and his team practice later in the evening when it's cooler outside.
“We go in the evenings and try to make it a little bit cooler,” Hoffman said. “We bring the upcoming ninth graders in at six o’clock and work with just them. We work with them until about 7:15 and that’s weight room and some field work, and then the older kids, 10th, 11th and 12th graders come in at about 7 and we go until about 9:30.”
“We spend the first part of it, about 7 to about 8, maybe 8:15, in the weight room, because that’s still kind of hot. Then we go out in the field and then of course we take a break between every 10 and 15 minutes all the way through that time that we’re outside,” Hoffman said.
Newton County’s athletic trainer program has had a significant impact on keeping kids hydrated and football-ready this summer.
“One of the things that I think Newton County does well is the athletic trainer,” Hoffman said. “Our athletic trainer sits down with the kids and harps on what she feels like needs to be done, and we always talk to them about [how] you can’t come out here and give us a great two, two-and-a-half hours if there’s no fuel in the system. And that fuel is eating breakfast and eating lunch every day. We tell them there’s no excuse for not coming [to practice] on a full stomach.”
“It’s important because the kids that usually go down are the ones that haven’t eaten that day, and we need to know that. With the athletic trainer there at the school and the coaching staff, we really harp on that,” Hoffman said.
All three schools — Eastside, Newton and Alcovy — have been practicing and/or competing in 7-on-7 tournaments throughout the summer. Eastside's coach Rick Hurst says that making sure his kids eat is just as a big a concern as keeping them hydrated, if not bigger.
“We always have water available. We have two or three managers here a day when we’re practicing. They’re always making sure the guys stay hydrated,” Hurst said. “The biggest thing for us is making sure our guys eat. That’s what seems to be a problem. These guys stay up all hours of the night and then they sleep in, because we don’t work out until 4. They come in sometimes and haven’t eaten anything and those are the ones it’s really quick for us to tell. We know who that is. That seems to be more of a problem than anything. Once they do that one time, they get sick and they just can’t make it through. They realize they gotta eat something before they come.”
“That is a huge concern for me and my kids. We definitely try to make sure that our kids eat. We try to keep things like granola bars or even jelly sandwiches; we have some peanut butter — not a lot because of food allergies. We try to keep something for kids to give them something to eat while they’re there,” Banks added. “The first sign of kids that haven’t eaten, we pull them out immediately because that is a humongous concern, especially because we are a Title-1 school. During the school year the majority of the kids that go to Newton High School rely on free and reduced lunch and breakfast, because we’re a Title-1 school and that’s what that means. If that’s a concern during the school year it’s definitely a concern for me and all of our sports in the summer time.”
With Newton practicing early in the day and Alcovy practicing late in the evening, Hurst and the Eagles have taken a different approach. Hurst wants to get his team acclimated to the summer heat and used to the schedule they’ll have in the fall when school starts back.
“We go at four o’clock in the afternoon. We go at the hottest part of the day. Because we gotta get used to it and that’s when we practice when school starts,” Hurst said. “We looked at going in the morning time. I think four o’clock is a great time to go because that’s what time we go during school.”
Hoffman and his Tigers have been practicing three days a week, including visits to Henry County for 7-on-7 tournaments. Hoffman said that although he keeps his team aware of the possibilities, he hasn’t had any issues with his players and heat-related illnesses.
Hoffman said, “Even when we went to some 7-on-7 tournaments back in June and it was right in the middle of the day, our kids did an outstanding job with battling the heat and preparing themselves before they got there.”