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State bans three-a-day football practices
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Every year the southern heat is stifling to Georgia residents across the state.

That same heat pounding down on high school football players turns deadly.

On Monday the Georgia High School Association passed new rules to limit student-athletes from succumbing to the heat.

The guidelines were welcomed by high school football coaches across Newton County, who have been making sure their players have remained safe throughout their time here.

Rick Hurst of Eastside and Cortez Allen of Newton said the rules won't change how they do things much.

Hurst had put his players through some three-a-day practices, with a light special teams session in the middle of the day, but said he doesn't mind changing that aspect. That was the only change needed by local teams.

"I think it's warranted," Hurst said of the new rules. "It's unfortunate that it takes a few deaths for people to take notice."
Along with prohibiting three-a-day practices, the new guidelines also say that teams cannot have back-to-back days of two-a-day practices.

Again, that is a rule coaches are in agreement with. The NCAA went to that policy a couple of years ago.

"I think if your out there with two practices in one day and you can't get enough done, than maybe you're scheduling is not what it needs to be," Hurst said. "I think that's a good rule. I think we're following the NCAA in that. I've been waiting for that to come."

Another rule that is added is players having to go five days before putting on full pads. It's a rule that coaches have no problem abiding, if anything, wanting it to be improved on.

"I wish they would give us 15 days where they would make it mandatory," Hurst said. "You can't get a kid ready in five days to get ready for the summer heat. If they allow us to make summer workouts mandatory I think that would cut down on the number of kids that start out in pads."

Allen agreed that starting kids out before the summer is the way to go. He has done so at Newton, working the kids who don't get out before summer practices, slowly into the flow of practice.

"For the most part these kids have been working throughout the summer, they're bodies have been acclimated to the heat," Allen said. "If a kid comes out at the beginning of school or the beginning of the season we make them walk for two weeks; walking the track so they get used to the heat.

"We implement that to make sure they're able to sustain that heat."

At Eastside, players also can't jump right into things if they miss out on preseason conditioning.

"Here if you come out and have not been here in the summer, we make you go through three or four days in shorts and helmets and another three four days in helmets and shoulder pads," Hurst said. "It's a good week and a half before they go full pads."

The GHSA developed the new guidelines after University of Georgia researchers reported that heat-related deaths among football players nearly tripled between 1994 and 2009, and that Georgia led the nation with seven fatalities.

Two of those players died in August.

Those reasons keep local coaches on top of hydrating players and making sure they don't Hurst is adding his own extra precautions separate from the GHSA's mandates in the form of making players take a mandatory physical.

"This year we're going to require everybody has a physical on file," Hurst said.

All the area coaches will continue to keep the players from suffering heat damage.

"We've done a good job of making sure we monitor our kids and monitor the weather," Allen said. "We initiated a cool zone, we'll have tents up and we blow mist on our kids, and keep them in shade as much as possible when not practicing.

"For us it's just some extra mandates and rules to help high school football overall and maintain some safety precautions."